Tag Archives: Esme Kenney Memorial Sculpture Project

Diggin Deep

A number of weeks ago I promised to post some more pictures of our adventures in Montana.  So here goes!  I think there is general agreement among all of us that although the entire time was breathtakingly beautiful and overwhelming in so many ways, the highlight of our time there was the chance to go on a dinosaur dig.  A real one.

Thanks to a good friend of ours here in Cincinnati who does exciting work on museums and theme parks all around the world (and happens to be well connected), we were invited to The Redding Field Station just outside of Rudyard Montana to hang out with some really cool scientists and participate in an ongoing dig. This field station is part of the dinosaur research happening at Montana State University and is led by world famous paleontologist Jack Horner.

So we drove and drove to what felt like the middle of nowhere and arrived at the Redding Farm.  It looks at first glance like all wheat fields for miles and miles.  Until you reach the edge of the coulee.  Suddenly the ground drops off and this is where one goes to look for dinosaur remains.

These are the tipis we slept in.  They were cozier than you might imagine!

There are two types of work in which we took part.  First is that of the actual current dig where paleontologists have discovered a number of hadrosaur (duckbill) skeletons and are diligently and painstakingly working to catalog and remove them for study.

The other part of our our work while there is called ‘prospecting’.  This is where we drove around looking for potential dig sites elsewhere.  This was done on ATV’s with our host and farmer, Dan and his dog Cracker.  Awhile back on this blog I talked about maybe creating a children’s book about a working blue heeler.  I think I have found the dog with the perfect job….. and I have already started drawing….

Life at the dig can be rough for those who stay for weeks at a time or for the summer.  The climate can be cold or hot, wet or dry, all to extremes.  But these talented scientists seemed tireless.  They are enthusiastic about their passion for dinosaur research and it was infectious.  My 13 year old daughter is already talking grad school with her paleo-hero, Liz, the lead field scientist at Redding Field Station.

Cracker Jack.  (get it?)

Below is one of my favorite shots from the dig.  This is Adam prospecting in the coulee.  If I were his mom I’d yell at him to be careful.  But he was like a mountain goat.  Sure footed and finding all kinds of treasures….

such as a vertebra from a champsosaur (looks a bit like an alligator)…

or a tyrannosaur tooth.

Below are Liz and Maddie chatting it up.  It was so refreshing to see Maddie so engaged and excited as she was missing our usual time in Maine.  In the end she admitted that she had a blast out west and was thrilled that she had the opportunity to do everything we did… especially the dig!

I think this is a rib bone…

See that little blue garden knee pad?  That is where I spent the bulk of the afternoon digging.  I found it to be extremely meditative and was able to lose myself in the hours.  Sort of like a good day of art making.

A couple of days after our trip to the dig site, we visited the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, MT. where we had the opportunity for a back stage tour of the paleo lab there from none other than Jack Horner himself.  Little did he know how inspiring this would be to a 13 year old kid.

Now summer’s adventures have drifted into fall, which seems to have just arrived in our area in recent days. It’s tea and soup season.  Time for introspection and needle work.  It is my favorite time of year.  In a matter of days I head to Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky for my residency there during the month of October.  The connection between this summer’s geologically themed travels out west and this fall’s opportunity to go underground, both literally and figuratively, are not lost on me.  I have some deep work to do down there.  Some deep healing and recuperation from the past months.

This weekend sees the culmination of two huge labors of love.  First, a quilt show, in memory of Esme.  We began the installation yesterday and below are a few of the works involved, including my own.  First, the massive community quilt that was made by friends and family of Esme’s from around the world.  It’s 20 feet long and 7 feet tall.  Stunning.

This is Tina Westerkamp’s work, Persephone’s Veil (Descending), the most sculptural piece in the show.  She is haunting and lovely, as so much of Tina’s work is.

Denise Burge made this quilt using powerful words spoken by Patricia Crawford, grandmother of one of the other young women murdered by the same man who took Esme’s life.  Until Esme was killed, no one knew what had happened to Casonya Crawford who was killed 2 years prior to Es.  She was 14.  Patricia Crawford says there is some peace in at least knowing justice was done.

My work for this show is entitled The Call.  It is a meditation on the notion of community.  How community has provided concentric circles of support for the grieving and also how a strong community might be able to prevent future violence through connections between people.  All we have is each other.

I appreciate the unexpected shadow line below the quilt.  Like mountains.

The doilies also cast interesting shadows off of this work.  I have dozens more doilies collected and think their fractal quality along with their inherent theme of ‘women’s work’ will make for interesting installation work in the future.

There are many more quilts to be installed and I will try to get photos of them to post before I leave for Mammoth Cave. The opening for this show is friday October 1, 2010, from 6-8 pm.  Please RSVP to the YWCA if you would like to attend.

We will also be officially dedicating Esme’s Sculpture at the School for Creative and Performing Arts this Saturday, October 2nd.  Anyone wanting to stop by and visit the sculpture is welcome as it will be available for public viewing from 3-5 pm.  Those of us who worked so hard to get this inspirational work of art made and installed would love to meet all of the donors who made it financially possible.  We could not have done it without you!!  A few folks have asked whether we are still accepting donations for the Esme Kenney Memorial Fund and what that money might be used for.  The answer is yes!  Donations are still very welcome.  Esme’s family is hoping to set up a scholarship fund in Esme’s memory that might provide tuition to SCPA for a student who may be out of district but full of talent and unable to afford it otherwise. Sharing the gift of music was always one of Esme’s strong suits and it is our hope to continue sharing in that spirit.

I apologize for this being an impossibly long blog post.  I have wanted to get caught up from summer for weeks, especially as I prepare for my residency.  But alas, there was a quilt to be made, and other stuff to be done, that did not involve a computer.

It is my hope that in the coming weeks I can use this blog as a place to work out my thinking a bit while down at the Cave.  Writing is a good way to grease the skids for art making.  So stay tuned dear readers.  I’ll keep you posted.  Meanwhile, I hope to see you this weekend as we remember a young life cut short and as we embrace the healing power of art.


“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

– Margaret Mead.

There is not a whole lot I can write about the photos you see here.  These are images of Jessie Henson’s magical work of art, aptly named Stardust, installed this summer at Cincinnati’s new School for the Creative and Performing Arts building in honor and memory of Esme Kenney.

Not quite a year ago, a very small group of us gathered to try and figure out how we might possibly go about honoring Esme’s memory, while attempting to begin the healing process among her close knit community of family and friends.  Over coffee, we threw out some ideas.  About the kind of art we were thinking about.  About the ways we might raise the type of money we might need (it turned out to be double our estimate!).  About how to maintain Esme’s spirit and light throughout the process.

Everything from Jessie’s heartfelt, gorgeous proposal and artist’s statement, to a series of amazing concerts which carried the bulk of the fundraising seemed to be laced with a synchronicity completely beyond our control.  We simply woke up each day and got it done. (I say that from a fundraiser’s perspective!)  As an artist, I am honored to have watched Jessie navigate the process of creating such a large scale public work of art.  I know it has not been easy.  But it’s done.  And it’s stunning.  Congratulations Jessie, Lisa, Elaine, Randy, Jen, Kim… everyone involved in making this sculpture a reality.

Below is my favorite shot from Jessie’s pictures.  In a matter of days, these halls will be bustling with the student body of SCPA.  Esme’s friends often wondered how they could leave the old building and head to the new one without their dear friend.  This is how.  Her light and spirit are now part of this spectacular new facility.  For that I am grateful.


When it rains it pours, so the old saying goes, and it’s been pouring here.  I am in the midst of what I knew would be a busy, active time and I am just riding the waves as they come.  Last weekend was the Esme Kenney Memorial Benefit Concert.  It was, for lack of a more descriptive or colorful word, amazing.  Musicians Kim Taylor, Over-the-Rhine, Ric Hordinski, The Hiders, Jay Bolotin, and a few Riley School of Irish Music folks combined their talents to create an evening of fundraising, community, memorial and love, the likes of which I have never seen.  Artists from all genres donated items and gift certificates to outfit a spectacular silent auction.  Our committee, working so hard to make this incredible installation a reality, is now helping artist Jessie Henson get all of the pieces in place to get glass blown and steel fabricated to get the work built.  It’s a wild ride and it is giving all of us grieving for Esme a place to put our energies.  Something positive to hang onto and work for in the midst of the upcoming 1 year anniversary and impending criminal trial.  The night was full of magic and tears and special moments.  Jack not only played with Jeni and Simone from Riley School, but was invited by Kim to play a song with her.  I cried.

Meanwhile, the project I am proud to be a part of down at ArtWorks is now underway.  Below is a 3-d model that tina built to indicate all of the various pieces that will be incorporated into this huge relief mural (22 feet wide, 13 feet tall – ginormous!)  We have been handed what seems to be a dream team of teenagers who are our apprentice artists.  They are brilliant and are already working together to put their talents to work on Tina’s design.  Tina and I are working together to formulate further development of the overall design and to get the kids prepared for their in-process presentation to the folks at the Convention Center next week.  I think they will do a great job.

There are parts of this design that will involve painted portraits of historical figures from Cincinnati, while other parts will be made up of mixed media techniques to create more textural areas of interest.  Below are some “bricks” that will comprise a wall area in one part.

This is a rendering of Jennie Davis Porter, known for spearheading educational opportunities for african american children in the 1800’s.  As we explore Cincinnati’s history through this project, I’ll keep you posted and introduce you to our team of artists.  Busy as we will likely be, it’s already proving to be a tremendous amount of fun!

The ArtWorks project is not my only iron in the fire.  I am also continuing my work in the world of keeping a sketchbook.  Tonight is what we hope will be the final home-based pilot workshop for Drawing Down the Vision. We have polished our process enough to take it live to companies who are looking to inject some creativity into their work place.  Workshop participants will arrive to find their supplies wrapped up in cool little pods that I built.  They’ll get some fun pens, a small sketchbook to start collecting ideas in a new way, along with the “Atlas” which will guide them through the various exercises we have developed.  Adam and I are looking forward to a fun evening of drawing and looking at communication and productivity from a different perspective.

Next week I will be the visiting artist at UC’s Clermont campus in their Art Department.  I’ll be lecturing and then providing a workshop for a group of students in a drawing class.  This is such a tremendous opportunity and I am really looking forward to sharing my approach to the documentation of life and work via the sketchbook.  In a few weeks, I am back to where I essentially began to go public with all of this sketchy-ness in the first place, the Art Academy of Cincinnati.  Bookmaker Cody Calhoun and I will be co-teaching the “Make a Book/ Fill a Book” course which essentially combines my class with hers.  This will be new to both of us and we are really excited to get started!  The class is apparently full with a wait list so our students appear to be as excited as we are.

All of this is really extroverted and it’s good exercise for someone who generally likes to keep things fairly quiet.  But shy as I am, I do love people.  And I am currently working with some amazing people and getting the chance to present to lots of others who are interested in what I do.  It’s humbling and fabulous.  And I am grateful for it.

I’ll keep you posted in the weeks to come.


Today is the Winter Solstice, a day when the pendulum of time comes to a still point.  When the days which have gradually grown darker and darker make the switch, ever so quietly, to become lighter and lighter.  It is a time of hope, and renewal.  And only weeks away from the quickening of the earth which will indicate the coming of spring.

Last week saw the culmination of weeks of work by everyone in our household.  The kids finished up final exams at school, my husband left town for the week to meet with others in his company in order to get everyone on a similar page at work, and I hosted a pilot workshop for Drawing Down the Vision.  The week before, Adam and I had attempted a dry run, the results of which were a bit of a train wreck.  But we needed to learn the lessons from the dry run in order to be prepared for the actual pilot, which was, thankfully, a complete success.  We had 5 participants at the pilot, all of which were prepared to give us critical feedback at the end of the workshop.  Everyone involved seemed to get a lot out of the class and gave us some things to tweak as we develop the next pilot…. all leading us to eventually offer the class to the business sphere.  It’s been so much work and research but worth every minute.  I am looking forward to honing this process into something that people in all realms of work can utilize to enhance their creativity. Stay tuned in 2010!

With DDtV successfully piloted, and our schedules a little more fluid for the next couple of weeks, I am back in the studio, bundled up against the cold working on the last few pieces slated for showing at Pleasant Perk Coffee Shop in the month of January.  I am excited to show the work outside my usual comfort zone and see what makes people take notice.  One of the paintings from this show (not quite sure yet which) will go into a silent auction, part of a benefit concert being put together for the Esme Kenney Memorial Sculpture Project.  This concert is scheduled for January 30 and will showcase an incredible array of musical talent… plus some art!  I will keep you posted as things progress on this project.

For now, here are a few “works in progress” snap shots to whet your whistle before January’s show.  I hope this post finds you surrounded by loved ones and able to find some warmth in this the coldest time of year.  I for one am intensely grateful for the opportunity to update this blog now and then and to be doing the work I love.  Peace to you this holiday….

I’ve been doing some drawing here and there prior to the wax application…..

… and some print making as well!

Art Heals

This lovely drawing was created by Jessie Henson, the artist chosen unanimously by a group of us who are working to have a large scale sculpture installed in the new School for the Creative and Performing Arts building nearly complete in downtown Cincinnati.  We have been hard at work getting publicity and raising money for what should be an amazing glass installation.  We had a donation’s table at Fame and held a dance party to raise some of the money needed to make this project a reality by spring.  In January, my friend Kim Taylor will put on a concert with many of her talented friends in the music business and there will be silent auction as well.  On the Esme Memorial Sculpture Project website, you can read Jessie’s full statement for the work, as well as make a donation to the project.

But why make a donation?  Well, in other posts here on this lowly little blog, I have written time and again about the healing power of art.  Whether it’s to get myself out of a low place where I can sometimes get fogged in, or if it’s to trudge through a tragedy like we have faced this year, the making of, talking about, viewing, exploring, writing about ART is what gets us through to another day.  To me it is something to have faith in.  I am not a religious person at all, for a variety of reasons I don’t need or want to go into here.  But I do know there is a God-Spirit that resides in all of us and that when I am making art, or music, or poetry – or witnessing the making of it by others – I sense that God-Spirit most of all at these times.  And maybe that is part of why I personally get up and make art every day?

The sculpture Jessie is creating in honor and memory of Esme will include the work of students who want to be involved at SCPA.  It is also intended to honor the memory of anyone whose life is lost too soon, as Esme would want it to be so inclusive.  Jessie will be working with students on the broader topic of memorials as well, for students who may have another loss to process.  In so doing, students, and probably some teachers, will have a chance to peel another onion layer of grief and continue to heal, through the making of art.  The fruition of this project is near and dear to my heart and so I am spending a good deal of time and energy to make it happen.  I urge you to check out the website dedicated to this project and stop back often for more information about upcoming events.  Through music, dancing, making art, writing, we continue the healing process.  We’ll never get over the shock of this event and the loss of our friend, but we can bond together to move through it together.

It’s December, a giving season, and I urge you to consider donating to this project (and check with your employer about matching grants).  It’s not just a sculpture.  It’s an avenue of hope and healing for a community still grappling with loss.  And it will be beautiful.

I’ll keep you posted.

A month of hard work

It’s been about a month since my last post as there has been a lot happening around here, not allowing too many blocks of time to sit down and update.  So I’ll catch things up here now, as best I can.  Early in November, my son Jack was in the pit orchestra for the School for Creative and Performing Arts’ performance of the musical Fame. (pardon the pixelated photo).  In this production there is a wonderful song, done in a series of rounds that talks about what “hard work” the arts are, each discipline convinced that theirs is the “hardest profession in the world”.  Our lives have been a lot like this song recently with music, dance and in our case, the visual arts, occupying much of our time and energy.  It’s been wonderful!  Jack’s weeks leading up to Fame meant long hours after school and tons of make up work for the days missed at school for tech-week.  But being part of the major musical at school has been something he’s wanted to do since he began school there.  I think it was worth the wait for him.

Another big event that came to fruition this month is the Mid-America Irish Dance Championships, the Oireachtas, (pron. or-rock-tus).  My daughter Maddie and her teammates at McGing Irish Dancers have worked for months to get to this and they were met with success.  One of her ceili teams (somewhat like Irish square dancing yet judged on precision of the steps of the team) placed third in the Midwest out of over 30 teams!  The girls were overjoyed at how months of hard work and time and effort paid off.  As a parent it was heartwarming to witness.

The kids’ activities have had us running around town quite a bit and it’s important to take a step back now and then and steal away for some quietude just the two of us.  So on Tony’s birthday, we did just that and played hookie for the day to head out for a paddle up the Licking River, one of the Ohio River tributaries.  It was a pretty cold day but once we were bundled into our boats it wasn’t bad.  Luckily we did not get wet, though we were prepared if necessary of course.  It was a wonderful day…

On Thanksgiving, on top of a house full for dinner, my 7 year old nephew decided that it would be fun to make a movie.  And he had it all worked out in his head as to how he wanted it to go.  And so, Indianapolis Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Turkey was born via the group artistic effort of most everyone available.  This might look like goofy non-sense to most folks, but when we showed the movie over pie that evening, we all laughed so hard we cried.  Even Tony tapped into his inner actor and played the evil “Mobile Commander” who was attempting to steal the crystal turkey (foam, packing tape, and rhinestones from the craft box).  I think it’s pretty cool that we can make a movie in a day nowadays.

These are just a few of the things keeping me in “busy” mode.  Often when I get in that mode, artfulness is more fleeting and I let the “busy-ness” take over.  But lately, that is not so much the case.  In spite of a hectic month, work is getting done (ok, so I didn’t blog for a month…but…).  Drawing Down the Vision, the visual communication class I have co-developed with my former student Adam will be unveiled at a home based pilot here on December 17.  We have asked a few friends of Adam’s and Tony’s from the corporate set, and my friend, fellow artist, writer and workshop facilitator Diane Debevec to join us so we can get used to presenting what we have gathered and in turn get some critical feedback before we attempt to offer this workshop in the real world.  It is tremendously exciting to be at this point.  Nerve-racking, but exciting.

My fall semester at the Art Academy of Cincinnati has come to an end.  I taught my six week sketchjournaling course to 10 students.  Among them were non-artists, artists and art teachers.  As usual, I learned so much from them and am already looking forward to next time.  Next semester will be a bit different.  I will be co-teaching with a book-maker named Cody Calhoun.  Together we’ll be offering a class where students will make a blank journal, and then learn how to fill it.  Details about our Make The Book/ Fill the Book class are available in the new Community Education 2010 course catalog which you can download via the link above.  You might recognize the featured faculty member on the cover as well as inside.  My sketchjournaling process is featured in this issue!

Work at the wax table has seen some growth spurts in the month of November, with new layers and processes developing.  I plan to spend the month of December preparing more work for a show at Pleasant Perk in January.  One exciting aspect of the upcoming show is that 20% of the sale proceeds will be donated to the Esme Kenney Sculpture Project.  This is an exciting project that I am involved in and it deserves it’s own post with photos and details to come soon, but I wanted to mention it here and give folks a chance to check it out. I will certainly keep you posted, most likely later this week…. but for now, a sneak peak at some new work.