Summer Art Camp

Schools are closed for July and August where I live. I work at the College doing summer day programs of arts & crafts with kids.

This is what I'd like to be doing year round, in my own art school/studio/gallery. Need like a million dollars, seems impossible, but I still wish it.

The biggest difference is class size. Having groups of less than twelve children means that I am able to really focus on my students, give them more open-ended creative and explorative projects, spend time talking about their projects with them, and help them problem solve. This does not work once you see 20 or 30 or more kids in a group. The lessons are simplified to be accessible to the weaker students, because most will be teaching themselves while the teacher is busy repeating instructions. The talented students often get little attention because they've caught on to the idea and the people struggling need the guidance more urgently. Small groups though, I am mentoring each one.

I am thinking about making a book (or maybe a blog) about art lessons with kids. I have some great photos from over the several years I've done art camp. I'd have to use photos without faces because the forms the parents sign to photograph their children only cover consent to the college and the newspaper. I'm not sure what programs I'd need on the computer to lay out that kind of thing, if I went traditional publishing route. In addition to the lesson plans and photography, I'd like to add memories, and descriptions of how each lesson creates different results depending on the imagination of the children.

Every now and then I meet a student that I immediately know has True Talent. Yes, everyone can be an artist. Art skills can be learned and improved. If you can write the alphabet you have basic drawing skills. I tell all my students their work is awesome. "I love the colours you chose!" "This technique is working really well!" type of thing. But some kids really impress the socks off me and that happened today. I can't wait to see her final project, it might be better than the example I made!

At snack break she sat on a couch in one of the student lounges on campus. She put up her feet on the upholstery and I said, "Hey! Would you put your shoes on your couch at home? What would your mom say?" In a joking, conversational tone of voice, not punitive. She very quietly looked toward the windows, and after a pause, moved her feet to the floor and said softly, "my mom died."

It made me think about the connection between artists and adversity, and how she will create with real emotion and darkness and hardship most kids haven't experienced. I wonder if that unspeakable tragedy had to happen to her so the world will have her beautiful expressive art. Or maybe it was just a fluke project, the majority of her work is not adult level, and she said she was orphan because she thought it would be funny. Who knows?

My Grandparents’ Eulogies

Lately my creative projects have been influenced by death and grief. I lost both maternal grandparents within a year of each other a few years ago. I wrote their eulogies and presented them at their funerals.

Sept. 2014

Pearl Rodermond was my grandmother, or as I called her, Oma. Thank you for coming today to honour her life. I will share some of her history and how she influenced my life.

She was born April 16th,1925 in Gieten, Holland to Arend and Henrietta Aasman. She was the oldest of twelve children, followed by Casey, Jeanette, Betty, Johnny, James, Hank, Robert, Jean, Bill, Mark and Elly. She came to Canada in 1953, and found the love of her life, Jim Rodermond, who had also moved to Canada from Holland. He thought she was so beautiful, he quit his job at the lumber camps by Nordegg, because he was worried she would start seeing someone else. They were married in 1954.

They first settled in Medicine Hat, Alberta and had three children. Janet in 1955, Ernie in 1957 and Michael in 1961. The family then moved to Leslieville in 1965. The house they built in 1982 was where she lived the rest of her life. She had three grandchildren; myself, my brother James and sister Jessica.

Oma loved having family and friends over for special occasions. She enjoyed traditional cooking and baking, and we are still trying to figure out how to make “boerenkool” taste the way she made it. When we got together we would play games like Uno, Tile Rummy, Tri-ominos, and Skip Bo, and Oma loved to win!

My grandparents traveled the world from Costa Rica to Australia, and enjoyed spending winters in Mexico and the United States. Opa and Oma would send us postcards, and we would watch slideshows of all the photographs they took once they came back. When she couldn’t travel anymore, postcards turned to letters, and I wrote her a letter every month, often sending photos of my own travels. She loved receiving handwritten letters. She also called my mom every Sunday night and often visited with my Uncle Ernie and Auntie Judy. She always remembered everyone’s birthday- her brothers, sisters, in-laws, nieces, nephews, and their spouses.

She was generous with charities and donated money to many organizations,including myself while attending University. She taught me to be wise with money, helping me open my first bank account. She had lived through the depression, food shortages, and Nazi occupation of Holland, and more than I’ll ever understand, knew the value of saving and not allowing things to go to waste.

She took great pride in her beautiful award-winning yard and enjoyed her flowers. It may be a coincidence, but hours after she passed there was frost, and all of the gladiolas and dahlias went with her.

This August, Pearl and Jim celebrated their 60th Wedding Anniversary. Sharing this day with her family was a momentous occasion for her. I look to my grandparents as an example of how successful marriage can be, and hope to have that kind of devotion some day.

I also hope to see my ninetieth year of life, I hope that Opa would like to carry on getting Oma’s letter subscription in the mail, I hope everyone who knew her will remember all the good things and be glad for the times they had with her.

Rest in peace Oma, Pearl Rodermond. Thank you.

Sept. 2015

Today we say goodbye to a great man, my Opa, Jim Rodermond. We will miss him terribly, but we take comfort in knowing he is together again with the love of his life, and his grief has turned to peace.

He had an adventurous spirit. He came alone to Canada from Holland at 19 years old, not knowing English, and had to learn Canadian farming methods. He worked very hard at various jobs until he realized his dream of owning his own farm, settling in Leslieville, Alberta in 1965.

One of Janet’s earliest memories of her father was following him into the irrigation field. He’d have a shovel on his shoulder and be singing at the top of his lungs, “You are my Sunshine,” and “Home, Home on the Range.” Growing up, he would challenge his kids, and they would have contests to see who could do the most push-ups and squats. He was pretty fit, so of course he would win.

He started smoking while working in the lumber camps in the 1950s, and at some point he picked up the pipe. He continued smoking a pipe until the day he died. Many people will remember him for the lovely aroma of the pipe tobacco. While working in the field, he would clench the pipe between his teeth and when it started raining he would turn the bowl upside down.

Every summer, he would take his young family for a short holiday. Destinations such as the Calgary Zoo or the Badlands, and after they got a camper, to Yellowstone and the Peace River country. After their kids grew up, Jim and Pearl went on many adventures as they traveled the world. I will never forget the time we went to Las Vegas. They would also eventually spend 22 winters in Arizona.

My grandparents were very rarely apart, and one of the reasons was that Pearl couldn’t trust Jim with the checkbook. One time when Pearl was away for a week, Jim went out and bought a new seed drill for the farm. She very seldom left him on his own again.

One day Jim came home with a used Ski-Doo. Wow, were my mom and my uncles ever popular with the neighbour kids and the cousins when they came to visit! Ernie would take them for rides around the yard and the pasture. It was very thrilling for the young cousins.

In his later years, his driving speed began to slow down. Judy remembers that when he came down their laneway it would take a considerable amount of time. Their dog Roxie always barks when someone comes in, but with Jim she also barked when he left because she didn’t know if he was coming or going!

When I was younger, my parents and younger brother and I would visit during the summer and Christmas holidays. Us city kids would get a taste of country life; quadding, exploring the woods, going to the coffee shop in town. We would get to go along with Opa on the back of the pick up truck to go gopher hunting and check mole traps. We would also play games after supper, usually Uno or Skip Bo or Tile Rummy. Opa would sometimes try to sneak a 6 onto a 9 in Skip Bo, just to make sure we were paying attention.

He was quite a collector. He had an extensive rock collection, a vast collection of hats, western novels, matchbooks, and stamps.

Opa was a true farmer at heart. He enjoyed being outside and working the land, always keeping an eye on the weather forecast. In his later years, he always kept an immaculate yard and enjoyed his garden and the flowers. He always had fresh flowers on the table just like Oma did.

We will miss you. Rest in peace Opa.