The McAbee Summer Studio Sale was July 17 (thank you to everyone who made that a great day). After the sale ended at 5:00 pm, we raced to put the art away and return the furniture to its designated places. Later that night I tried to pack tools and clothes for a week-long stay at 701 Center for Contemporary Art in Columbia. Sunday morning I was up at 6:00 am to run and to pack up the truck for two conjoined adventures. The house was a little less topsy but still a little turvy when I left. This is also an accurate description of my brain at the time.
I’ve been lucky to have so many great opportunities this summer and I don’t mind being busy. The constant adventures have required me to compartmentalize things pretty tightly. Leading up to the sale, I tried to only think about the sale and all that was related to that. Once the sale ended, I focused on the week-long Artist In Residence stay at 701 CCA. I tried not to think about the weekend adventure in Summerville, SC that was stacked on to the end of that week.
The first adventure was painting a mural and leading a summer camp for the Boys and Girls Club. This was planned back in the spring and I requested an assistant because, well, I’ve worked with kids before and I knew it would be a full time job just doing the camp. They hired Katherine to be my assistant for the week. She’s worked for me for a few years now and I knew I could trust her artistically, that she’d do a good job with the kids, and that she could tolerate my nonsense for a week. She also has tools and that became a very handy thing pretty quickly. We arrived Sunday just after noon and got to work prepping the wood panels for the week. My circular saw and belt sander both died fast and permanent deaths. They were cheap tools that I bought 25 years ago so it wasn’t a major loss, just inconvenient timing. Katherine walked to the trunk of her car and popped out a saw and a sander and we were back in business. We spent the entire afternoon cutting and sanding a few hundred square feet of wood panels. We got some take-out food from across the street and then primed all the wood before quitting for the day.
Tuesday was more of the same. A good run through the mill villages helped me gather more ideas and feel a sense of the place where my mural is designed to go. A couple of bananas and some coffee had us ready for the kids at 9:00 am. We both spent all day working with the group trying to get everyone ready to start painting. Most of Tuesday was spent getting students to think about composition and how to fill the entire space with images or words. We broke the Elements of Design down into bite sized chunks and talked about balance a good bit. Most of them seemed to understand quickly, which was cool for a group with an age range from 5-13. We may have had an orange and a granola bar for lunch. At 2:30 the kids boarded their bus and we took a quick break before spending several more hours getting paint ready for the next day. The clean-up and prep work was a killer. I spent a little more late night time on my mural before turning in exhausted.
Once the boys and girls were painting on Wednesday, I slipped back to my mural and let Katherine take over. She advised, encouraged, and directed each student while also providing paint and clean up instructions. Most of this was individual and the kids worked pretty diligently. They seemed to enjoy the process. I helped out in a couple of the busier times, but I was able to get a lot more done on this day. After the bus left, I continued to work on the mural while Katherine handled the clean-up and prep for the final day. By midnight on Wednesday my mural was looking more and more finished.
Thursday was the final day for the camp and that meant we had to get everyone to a finish line with their mural by the end of the day. Some students were “finished” as soon as they started. Some took their time and could have worked another month. Art teachers will understand this. It’s a delicate balance and you have to have things prepared for students to do during down times. Some had to wait for paint to dry, some actually finished, and some just got bored and wanted to do something different. We had cleaning sessions and we had helpers to do all sorts of tasks during these times. We also had a community mural on extra wood panels that students worked on during these times. After lunch on Thursday, several of the ones who were finished helped transfer the community mural over to the panels before it was time to go. We ended up finishing on time and we somehow managed to keep the paint from becoming a permanent part of the building we were in. It took a lot of plastic and so many hours of scrubbing, but we did it.
We found a restaurant across the street and decided to just grab a dessert there. I opened the menu and to my delight I saw that they had cremé brulé. I almost forgot about the cookie. The waitress came over and I ordered. She looked at me like I had said something in a foreign language. “Umm, I don’t think we serve that”, she said. I showed her the menu. She said she’d go ask. Guess what? They didn’t serve it. No dessert for me. I finished my water and headed back to my room to eat peanut butter M&Ms mixed with disappointment.