View of the Isabel Lewando Estuary – In Memoriam to Mentors

View of the Isabel Lewando Estuary

For my friend and mentor Isabel Lewando.

My colorful watercolor depicts an autumn view of the Isabel Lewando Estuary, a special spot where the Ogunquit River flows along the beach dunes connecting with the open sea. Tranquil and rich with life, it is the southern point of our local Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge and after a recent community ceremony in her honor, is now marked by a granite stone in memory of my friend and mentor, Isabel Lewando (1928-2011). It’s no small feat to have conservation land that bears your name adjacent to the legendary environmentalist Rachel Carson. Isabel was an Ogunquit legend in her idiosyncratic way. The artist was a classic beauty and famed artist model who enjoyed a lively creative presence in the Ogunquit arts scene during the 1940’s until her death. A genuine citizen scientist who loved her community and the local beach ecology, she is fondly remembered as an informed conservationist and activist for betterment.

Isabel told stories with an artist’s eye and a poet’s heart. She used her camera to illustrate her gift to observe beauty and natural things, and had an intuitive talent for writing about her simple philosophies related to nature, art, sustainability, and community. Locally, Isabel was a maternal influence to younger artists and knew the importance of mentoring. When she took you under her wing you could always count on her creative nurturing and enthusiasm for you and life. Young in spirit she remained curious to learn and try new things, even through her final years and longterm illness. There are many stories and memories of this remarkable woman that would fill volumes and hearts. Along with her iconic black artist beret, Isabel wore a necklace with beads that spelled, “art loves you”. She would jiggle them and smile as she offered her cure-all blessing and a hug.

For me, Isabel mentored the strong interests we shared in conservation and community arts. During the years I coordinated the piping plover endangered species project on Ogunquit Beach she helped me learn to be an activist and the value of being well-informed on what matters to me and our community. When I first began Art HOPE she was in cancer treatment and would attend our programs at York Hospital. She was an early participant in the project and my grassroots steps to establish the non-profit organization. The youth interns at our programs loved her artful antics and origami folding. Most of all, my mentor Isabel taught me to believe in myself and to stand up for what I believe and speak for out for change in a way that educates and brings people together.

Mentors are the friends, teachers and nurturing relationships that help us be ourselves at our best. They promote learning and the development of our talents, brilliant ideas, and dreams. November 1st is All Saint’s Day, when we remember those loved who have passed. This is a wonderful moment to remember a loved mentor and to do something that makes the world a better place in their honor. Every visit to the Isabel Lewando Estuary at the Footbridge Beach in Ogunquit reminds me of my friend and I am once again inspired.

Art HOPE 1000 Healing Cranes

Art HOPE at the Ogunquit Museum of American Art

Art HOPE 1000 Healing Cranes at the Ogunquit Museum of American Art

There is magic in the metamorphic process of folding a 1-dimensional square piece of paper into a 3-dimensional work of art. The origami paper crane is feathered in the universal symbolism of health and well-being. Cranes are strong and graceful birds that mate for life, and over many centuries of origami lore and tradition these elegant creatures have come to represent hope. In Japanese culture the origami paper crane is used to celebrate and honor births, weddings, and deaths, and is a cradle to grave artistic symbol that brings good luck and wishes. Senbazuru is 1000 origami paper cranes strung together as a symbol of hope, which is created and given as a gift to uplift others. Hope is our strongest belief and most desired wish. It keeps us looking forward to things and moving toward good outcomes for our expectations and needs. The charming paper crane is a great illuminator of the art of hope.

The magic of the origami crane is its healing qualities. It has informed and enriched my expressive arts practice, and those familiar with the transformative process of folding paper into an animated shape have felt the hands-on alchemy of creative healing. Every origami experience I teach with intergenerational community groups engenders wonderfully animated stories about art and life. Participants learn the technique easily and some demonstrate amazing paper folding skills, usually the youngest in our programs. We often decorate blank white origami paper with our hopes and wishes for wellness, then fold it into a unique symbol of personal creative healing that empowers the maker. Therapeutic benefits of making origami include improved agility and motor skills, the confidence of learning a creative skill, and stress reduction through mindfulness. The cranes inspire smiles which is a positive symptom of well-being.

Share a few smiles at our annual Art HOPE 1000 Healing Cranes Community Origami Gathering at the Ogunquit Museum of American Art on Sunday, October 19th,10:00 to 4:00. Join volunteer origami artists at this beautiful seaside venue and learn classic folding techniques in the spirit of health and well-being. This project is part of the Art HOPE Youth Service in Health Care Program and our student volunteers are already folding 1000 cranes that will benefit York Hospital Oncology Care and community members living with cancer. I am proud of our young origami mentors who have learned to fold and are now using that skill to make art and teach others to make art. In one of our first Art HOPE workshops a 4-H teen volunteer taught the class how to fold a paper crane. A friend who was there made her first crane, and has since endeavored to make 1000 of her own numbered, loved-filled cranes that she gives to others in our community. She almost has her flock complete and will fold her 1000th crane at our origami gathering. It will be an day of art, hope, wellness wishes, and magic by the sea.

Head, Hands, Heart, Health: Learn by Doing in 4-H

4-H Happy Art

Art HOPE “Happy Art” created by 4-H volunteers

Art HOPE is proud to announce we have a 4-H Club, and are part of the nation’s largest youth development and empowerment organization, reaching more than 6 million 4-H youth in urban neighborhoods, suburban schoolyards and rural farming communities. For over 100 years 4-H programs have engaged young people in hands-on learning activities that help them reach their full potential, working in their communities with peers and adult mentors. The 4-H motto is to “make the best, better” and members pledge, “my HEAD to clearer thinking, my HEART to greater loyalty, my HANDS to larger service, and my HEALTH to better living, for my club, my community and my world.” These values inspire how 4-H’ers learn by doing, supported by university-backed curriculum and our nation’s Cooperative Extension System in the areas of science, healthy living, and sustainability.

In 2005 Art HOPE first developed a youth service learning collaboration with the York County 4-H, launching our “Happy Art” project and an origami curriculum which became a model for the “Taking Flight” program being launched at the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital this fall. The Art HOPE Youth Service in Healthcare Program in partnership with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension York County 4-H is on-going, with educational outreach at area schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and community-based events. Continue Reading →