Category archives: kennettsquare

Meet Jan, the founder of AHHAH–arts holding hand and hearts.

1. Can you tell us a little bit  about yourself ?

My life has been a winding road full of many wonderful twists and turns that have all lead me to AHHAH.
I grew up in Nashville and was going to major in psychology but was invited to act in a summer theatre program my senior year and was hooked and changed my major to theatre.  I was a professional actress in NYC for 18 years, even was in a a horror film, Mad  Man where I get axed in the chest and my head shot off (that always grabs the attention of youth in detention when I share that tidbit).  
I have a BA degree in Theatre and a Master’s in Education, my thesis was “Does and Arts Infused Curriculum enhance the academic success of children labeled “at risk”?”
I have two children, Ian who is 35 and a lawyer in Norristown, and Caitlin who is  31, an artist, dancer and the most amazing mother of my 2 year old grandson in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
We moved to Unionville 25 years ago.  I started a ‘Science Alive’ program at Unionville Elementary school when it was a K-3 school when my daughter was in 1st grade and then was hired to bring the program to Chadds Ford Elementary.  After getting my Master in Education, I moved on up to Patton Middle School and  taught English, Science, Life Management Skills and assisted the after school drama program.
My husband had worked at the World Trade Center in NYC.  I had always said when my children were grown and I was a grandmother I would go back to acting.  After 9/11 I realized that if you have a dream, you can’t put it on a shelf and say “one day” but pursue it now.  I finished that school year and once again pursued acting this time in Philadelphia.  
My first day not teaching, I was cast in a show “Snow is Falling” with Philadelphia Young Playwrights. During the rehearsals, when they found out that I had been a teacher, I was asked to be a teaching artist teaching playwriting with children in inner city schools in Philadelphia.  A truly AHHAH moment.  I was a teaching artist for both PYP and the Philadelphia Theatre Company for 8 years.  

I also lead the drama program with the Philadelphia Senior Center across the street from Suzanne Roberts Theatre and was a member of CAAN- Creative Arts and Aging Network.  I was part of the planning committee for a town hall meeting at World Live Cafe in 2002 of the importance of professional arts programming with seniors that was a nationwide movement to get funding for professional senior arts programming. The theme of the town hall meeting was think globally but act locally. 

2. When and why did you start AHHAH? 

I started an intergenerational program called Hands Across the Ages which combined senior citizens at the Kennett Senior Center and teenagers at the Garage to share their stories and break down the walls between the generations.  The teens came to the senior center after school for workshops where we used theatre techniques to build connections.  The next year the seniors went to the high school as part of an after school program.
I brought this program to Philadelphia Theatre Company as part of their “Philly Reality” program.  I worked with the Philadelphia Senior Center and the World Communications Charter School which was across the street.   Fall of 2012 they picked the issue of bullying in school and that we need more arts education not more guards with guns.  The piece they wrote together was, “I AM LIVING”.  December 12 was the Sandy Hook killing.  I AM LIVING was performed to a packed audience at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre.  At the talk back after the performance, young and old shared having been either bullied or being a bully, not realizing the impact of words to hurt a person and became advocates to stop bullying.
Three weeks later I found out that  three of the inner city schools where I was teaching were closing and three weeks after than I found out that funding for the arts of the other inner city schools was being cut.  I said to the director of education at PTC that if the government does not believe that children in poverty deserve an arts education and are just going to funnel them into the prison system, then we need to bring our programs to the children in the juvenile justice system.
The education director said they didn’t go there and I said, ” I guess I have to open my own organization that does.”  I quit my job.
I get up early in the morning 4 am  to meditate ( that’s when my husband starts snoring and I felt it was better to get up and meditate instead of tossing and turning with a pillow over my ears or his head!) and journal.  The day after I quit I journaled and asked  “Ok what do I do now, and as if channelled my hand wrote, AHHAH.  I wrote what does AHHAH stand for and I wrote Arts Holding Hands and Hearts.  I closed my journal and said to myself, “I guess that’s my new organization.”  

3. Can you share some stories from AHHAH programs?

I teach 6 am yoga at Yoga Secrets in Kennett. That morning after teaching I asked, Can anyone get me into the prisons legally.
There was a new person in class who said she was a parole officer and said I need to talk to Carrie Avery and Joe Frankenstein at the Chester County Youth Center.  I said,”Is this a horror film joke, Carrie and Frankenstein! It wasn’t.  I met with Carrie and Joe and a week later I started a weekly trauma sensitive yoga class.  Three months later we started a creative writing program.  That was in 2013.
The first writing program was with girls in the shelter for homeless and abused girls at CCYC. There were 4 girls, all from Coatesville.  The first girl who shared was Sarena, who wrote, “I am the daughter of a teenage mother who was the daughter of a teenage mother who was the daughter of a teenage mother with no father in sight.”  The next girl who shared wrote about being raped at 12 by her uncle while her mother was in the room and the baby crying that stopped him from taking her again but she forgave him because she knew that she would be in prison in her heart if she didn’t forgive.  I knew then that AHHAH had to make Coatesville our base to see how we could stop the youth from Coatesville entering the juvenile justice system.
Our first grant was a 21st Century Learning Center grant and we facilitated trauma sensitive yoga and after school playwriting classes with students at Scott Middle School in 2014.  We then found out that children in kindergarten were being suspended in Coatesville.  We knew if we were going to be more than a bandaide we needed to reach families with children 0-5.  We started a Family Story Time Yoga program for children 2-5 with a caregiver at the Coatesville Library.
One of the mothers in our first class, mother was a teacher in Early Start a program with Head Start.  She introduced us to the director of Coatesville Head Start and we facilitated Storytime Yoga for free to 5 Head Start classes in Coatesville.  2019 AHHAH brings our Storytime Yoga program to over 400 children in Chester County.
 In my research of why so many children in poverty enter the juvenile justice system I found statistics that children in poverty are exposed to 30 MILLION words less by the time they are five than children in a middle class or more affluent household.
2015 was the City of Coatesville’s 100 anniversary.  I spearheaded a “PULL” (Pop Up Lending Library) Campaign to get 100 both indoor and outdoor PULL Stations throughout Coatesville.
2018 the Longwood Rotary gave AHHAH $1500 for materials to build 10 PULL Stations in Kennett Square. The Kennett Square community embraced the PULL Campaign.  AHHAH partnered with the Kennett Library and the Kennett Culture and Arts group in identifying locations, artists, and collection of books.

Please check AHHAH website for more information:www.artsholdinghandsandhearts.com

How long have you been painting? 
 
Coming from a family of creators and performers, I grew up with a love for all things creative. In high school, I was more drawn to music and performance but still dabbled in painting. Visual/fine art was something that I had always loved and when it came time to decide on a career path, the visual side took the lead. I went to Delaware College of Art and Design for my associates in Fine Arts and West Chester University to finish my bachelors. After that I was employed as a photography assistant for an auction house in Downingtown, I now currently work there as one of their lead photographers. Although I loved all of the creative formats that I had been allowed to experience, I felt like there was something else that I could use as an outlet, so I decided to play around with the idea of watercolor.  But it wasn’t until I worked at Philter that I started painting as a freelance artist. The owner, Chris Thompson, allowed me to hang my work in the shop, which received an awesomely positive response and things continued grew from there. 
How did you become interested in watercolor? 
 
The funny thing is, I have always been more drawn to oil paints and heavier mediums. In school, I had a very heavy hand and loved high contrast and texture, so oils and charcoal were always my go-to. The love for watercolor came as quite a surprise. I fell in love with the way each layer influenced the next, allowing you to see a history beneath them. Its such a delicate medium, and I was always told how scary it was to use, so it was pretty intimidating when the time came to try it. I wanted to experiment one day, and after I painted my first goldfish, I fell in love with the medium. I’ve never been one to create clean and crisp work, which is something that is usually associated with watercolor. Through playing with it, I had realized that it was much more fun to make a mess. Watercolors are known to be hard to control, and with this knowledge, I’ve learned to let go of my own expectations through the process and allow it to have an active role in creating the piece as well. Why try to control something that can be so beautiful in it’s own right? That’s where the splashes and drips come in. 🙂 Though over the last 3 years, I have worked in a bigger format, moving to larger canvas pieces. This required a heavier paint to stick to the canvas, so a lot of my more recent pieces are done with acrylic in a watercolor style -which opens up a whole other world of playing and experimentation. But I must say that every time I go back to watercolor, my heart is re-stolen. It is a truly beautiful art form.
What attracts you the most–when looking for potential subject matter? 
Painting is truly an outlet for me. So it really depends on my mood and whats happening in life, as cliche as it may sound, those things really do influence what kinds of works come to fruition. Sometimes when I’m not feeling anything in particular but have the need to create, colorful abstract pieces with come to mind. Most of the time my works consist of animals. I’ve always been an animal person, if I didn’t choose this career path, then it certainly would been one involved with fur friends. So I’d say that they influence my work quite a bit. I love the idea of the spirit animal. I feel like everyone has one that they connect with, so shedding light on that is always a fun adventure. I’m especially drawn to woodland creatures- foxes, wolves, and hawks are some of my favorite subjects. They’re pretty independent creatures, though obviously wolves can be big “pack” animals, I feel like there’s a quiet “loner” side that is easy to relate to as well. Color also plays a huge role in my process. I’m a huge fan of color, and I love playing with it in spots that you may not usually find it- like if something is supposed to appear black or in shadow, in nature if you really look at something that appears black, it actually consists of so many other colors. I think that’s half of the fun when creating these pieces, finding things that you wouldn’t usual see at first glance, but somehow makes it all work. It allows the viewer to really observe, search for, and discover something, creating their own connection to the piece, which is really my goal.
Who were the watercolor artists who inspired you most? 
 
Though I haven’t seen many watercolors by him, Cy Twombly is a huge one….I even nerded out to the point of naming my cat after him. At first I never really understood his work, but that’s what made me fall in love with it. He seemed to be purely about color and placement. Things don’t have to make sense in his pieces but they certainly convey something. Lora Zombie’s works really helped to inspire me in taking on watercolor. Her pieces are super fun and edgy, usually consisting of pop culture subjects. And she’s never afraid to make a mess when it comes to watercolor. There is also a ton of talent in my personal tribe and local community that is super inspirational. I’m extremely lucky and thankful to have so many talented friends who influence and inspire my work as well. Its great to be able to bounce ideas back and forth, get feedback and to really be able to be completely supported and vulnerable with these fellow humans. That kind of connection is important.
What are you working on now? 
I’m currently gearing up for the Holiday freelance season, it’s always a super fun and creative time. There are a few pieces that I have in mind that will need to be put on canvas soon (and possibly t-shirts!), so be on the look out for those! There are also some pretty exciting things that are being balanced with the freelance painting as well – my family recently started the On the Roll Inc, Food Truck, which has kept us all very busy and excited! I am thankful to be apart of that endeavor. I am also currently planning out the holiday display at Philter Coffee. Its always a fun process and its nice to take a shot at 3D work between paintings. So I’m super excited to see what we’ll come up with next!

Meet Caroline, artist, art writer, event maker.

How do you introduce yourself?
Caroline Roosevelt. 


How did you find yourself in the art world and decide to stay?
My passion has always orbited around art. As I child, I started drawing and was encouraged to do so by my mother (who is an artist!) I excelled at art in high school, entering and placing in competitions, and studied studio art and art history at Connecticut College. After graduating, I moved to Philadelphia and attended Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts where I continued to suss out what I’m trying to do with my art. As an adult, I continue to pursue artistic endeavors while also engaging the community. I write an art column for Chadds Ford Live and Chester County Press called Mixed Media, and have been enjoying that since November. I still create my own work, and sell my cards at worKS, as well as participate in community art events. I recently established a Pop Up Arts committee dedicated to uplifting the arts in the Kennett area through Pop Up Events. It seems that, no matter where I go, art follows me and I’m realizing that’s not a coincidence. 

What are you working on right now? How did the project come to you?

Right now I’m working on a few paintings for the Evening of The Arts. I’m looking to expand into some more fauvist styles of painting. I have also just learned how to frame my own work, so I’m practicing that as well. 

We also have a Pop UP Art event in Kennett Square on June 1st so, stay tuned for more info!

 
Why did you decide to move to Kennett square?
I am originally from the area. After living in dense metropolitan areas for 10 years, I was ready to slow down a little bit and recalibrate, and that landed me back in Kennett which has been a really fantastic thing for me. I work for the Kennett Township, and participate in community events in the borough as well. I love this community!
What do you like most about Kennett Square?
I love how Kennett has grown into itself in the past ten years. It’s changed from a sleepy agricultural town, to a lively community full of artists and entrepreneurs with big ideas. There will always be a part of the community that will long for the past, and challenge ingenuity, but overall, I see Kennett as receptive to change while still respecting its roots, and that’s one of the most attractive things about this town. 

“Stan Smokler’s steel sculptures recall the visual wit and cunning assemblages of Picasso and Gonzalez, as well as the American voices of David Smith and Richard Stankiewicz.”–http://www.stansmokler.com

 

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Did you upbringing influence your work?

I am from the Bronx, New York and I believe that the fast pace combined with my learning experience of my youth influenced my work…the use of material / recycled was always at my disposal.

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Where do you get your inspiration ? 

I was inspired by nature and its forms….the breathing and wrestling of the material.

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What are your favorite sculptures you have made? 

My work has  always been with me…  I do not have a favorite work…   a process….from my early work; to work I plan and build today….

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What are you working on now? 

I am working on a figure that stands 8 feet tall…gears …lots of them….!!!   lots of rust !!…. the movement will be a figure that billows and blows from the sides……..I am working on several works as I travel in time.  

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What do you like doing when you are not making sculptures?

And speaking about travel….that is the gift to either see new places / old places or read about places that make me wonder…I will research the place and begin a new work….