The Butterfly Project began with an invitation to participate in Mass MoCA's Art For Change Residency. The residency is part of Mass MoCA's four year long initiative to share focused arts education with elementary students of Northern Berkshire County. The initiative is built around four themes: Empathy, Optimism, Bravery and Problem Solving. The students visit the museum several times throughout the year and work with artists in residence to create art around the selected theme.
I was invited to be an artist in residence in the theme of Optimism, and I instantly knew what I wanted to create. The theme resonated with the symbolism of butterflies: delicate, vivid, transformative, and creating positive emotions. I remembered a technique my grandmother taught me when I was very young. Together she and I turned crayons in a pencil sharpener to make little crayon shavings which we melted onto wax paper. The effect was like stained glass. This is how we would create the wings.
Optimism also brought to me a vision of a disco ball helmet. I was inspired by the saying, "The light in me honors the light in you." The disco ball helmet would reflect that light in all directs and create a magical, bright and hopeful feeling.
I shared these concepts with the students participating in the residency with me and taught them the crayon melting technique. During their time at the museum the students made small butterflies to take home and together we made the large butterfly wings to be on display at the museum.
I had one year from the time of the invitation to the residency and in that time I became inspired to share this work with more students. It was time for me to shake my day job, and become a full time artist. I shared my vision with a couple local schools and they were eager to have me work with their students as well. I wanted to share with these students concepts about Identity and Empathy as well as Optimism through a tactile, large scale art making process.
The Butterfly Project reached almost 200 students from 6 different schools. Together, we made art and learned about what makes us who we are. For this, I am eternally grateful.
Here are some photos from the Art For Change Residency, and please visit Mass Moca before Memorial Day 2017 to see this work in person!