By Kris Rodolico
If you tell me the sky’s the limit, I will say I prefer the sky peeking through those seven tree branches.
In college, my painting teacher took us to a defunct arboretum just off campus on the Genesee Valley for plein air painting. While other aspiring artists bravely engaged the expanse of the valley on their canvases, I focused my energy on a small, brambly bush with one bud, O’Keefe style.
I like limits.
I like having people over for dinner with dietary restrictions. I like calling on my inner MacGyver mid-project when something is missing. I like the place where boundaries are set, to challenge myself to stretch those boundaries to just about their breaking point, thereby creating a new shape.
As a visual artist, the medium I enjoy working with the most is stone, which, at its essence, is all about limits. I choose a stone because the color, size and shape pulls at me. Carving is a conversation, full of give and take within the limits offered by the stone. I can only subtract. Veins and weak spots must be worked with. A clear image can present itself to me, however if a piece breaks off while working, I’ve got to deal…and get creative.
The idea of starting a nonprofit community arts center is an overwhelming one. Yet over the last 18 months that has slowly but surely become a brand new, fledgling reality. We did not get here by saying the sky’s the limit. We looked around our feet for the next solid step, knowing the path would meander, and we’d need help to create steps along the way.
COVID-19 is a global pandemic. It surrounds us all with a squishy yet immovable force. Growing our little center is not the priority anymore. Survival is, not just for FYACS, but for All Of Us.
For us at FYACS, here are the limits: No classes. No workshops. No events. No open door for all. No school visits. No volunteers. No progress on our front yard and sign, or our Donor Appreciation installation. No concerts, or creativity festivals.
Here’s our response: Let’s provide daily online creative challenges, designed for everyone, with minimal materials. Let’s make take home care packages and creative assignments for artists in our current classes.
We’ve made virtual connections through a partnership with Riverside Community Care, to bring a creative diversion to a community who needs it most. And so we’ll go on.
Here’s the thing: When a global pandemic closes around us and every direction seems blocked, someone who likes limits might look up. And see a small circle of sky.
Kris Rodolico is the executive director of Follow Your Art Community Studios.