Category archives: powerofawoman

Meet Catherine, she is a Pianist, improviser, Steinway Artist.

Who or what inspired you to take up the piano, and pursue a career in music?

When I was 8, my parents bought me an 80 year old piano at a yard sale with a cracked soundboard.  My dad who was good with woodworking repaired the soundboard and built me a piano bench.  I played non-stop after that! I was a music minor in college when I discovered that I could improvise, and the music started coming in torrents after that.  Even though I was performing classical and my original music in many solo concerts a year, it wasn’t until five years after graduation that I decided to leave my corporate job and pursue music full time.  By that point I had released two albums and was performing throughout the region!

Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

Pianist George Winston, Cellist David Darling and his organization Music for People, and Pianist Dr. Robert Bedford.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

River Flow, Maiden’s Voyage and I Dream About This World: The Wyeth Album.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

Learning to be self-aware enough to know when I need to practice and continually improve!

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

Purely by emotion, and a reflection of my state of being! I have found that some years I’m more melancholy and want simplicity and depth, others I’ve craved structure and light-heartedness, and others I seek a deep-dive into intellectual and technical challenge.

I found Rebecca’s work in a west chester interior store and I loved it. I think we have something in common–our subjects are women.

1.    How and when did you decide to be a painter? 

I started painting about five years ago. I left my job in New York City as a magazine editor to stay home with my son and was in search of a new creative outlet after moving to the Philly suburbs. I’ve always loved art and interior design and thought why not? My sister was moving abroad and gave me some old paints she had lying around so I began to experiment. 

2.    Who were the artists inspired you most? 

There are so many amazing artists on Instagram that inspired me to start painting–women that are professionally trained, self-taught, painting with a kid under one arm. I’m currently saving up for a Claire Johnson collage or a Rebecca Russo portrait or a Gee Gee Collins anything. I’m obsessed with Milton Avery’s use of color and patiently waiting for a nearby museum to give him an exhibit. 

3.    Do you work from life, photographs or from imagination?

I work from photographs to find poses for my figures and then let color and imagination take it from there. 

4.    Please tell us some of your considerations when using color in your work? what sort of paints do you put out on your palette?

Color makes me happy! Acrylic and oil pastel are my go-to mediums and I find a lot of pleasure just mixing paints on my palette. I love the way color creates a mood. A mark of fuchsia or indigo or chartreuse can totally transform a painting. Finding the perfect color composition is one of the most rewarding aspects of painting for me. In many ways I find the process similar to writing. It’s all about piecing together a puzzle.

5.    what are you working on now? 

I’m working on a still life commission for a friend’s new office and gearing up to try some different substrates like wood and unbleached linen. 

“Creating is an integral part of my life.  Working with clay, other natural materials, and metal connects with Earth.  Their transformation is alluring and fascinating to me – as it has been to humans through the ages.  Myths, animals and other forms of nature  influence my work.  Capturing and expressing the essence or spirit, not soley a realistic portrayal, is my goal.  I would be delighted if my functional work is enjoyed in everyday use and my non-functional work provides visual pleasure/provokes contemplation.”–Jill Beech

“I first took a ceramics class around 1981 and immediately felt an affinity and bond with clay.  Since then, I have taken many classes, mostly in hand-building, and nearly all at Penland School of Crafts – a truly inspirational place with great artists and teachers.  As my passion and involvement increased, I built a large gas kiln to expand firing capabilities beyond electric.  Until 2011 when I retired, I was a veterinarian on the UPenn Veterinary School faculty so I juggled time between the studio and working at New Bolton Center, in the large animal hospital.  Since then, I have been able to devote much more time to working in my studio adjacent to my home.”

“My functional and sculptural work is mainly made from porcelain or stoneware clay, and less frequently low fire earthenware clay.  Some of my hand built forms are perforated with hundreds of varying sized and shaped holes whilst still damp and malleable; they are then dried, fired to a low temperature ( approximately 1800 F) then sandblasted, and finally re-fired to a higher temperature, usually between 2100-2300F.  Glazes or stains are applied to some pieces.  Others have multiple layers of different coloured slips (clay suspension) applied and then rubbed through to reveal different colours, and some are left unadorned, revealing just the clay itself. Some are mounted on steel stands that I forged. I have sometimes used metal containing paint on the final fired piece to give forms the appearance of metal.  Encaustics have been used on some vessels to create layers on the surface, giving subtle colour changes and texture. Less frequently, on the low fired non-functional earthenware pieces, I paint multiple layers of acryllic paint. Horses, and to less extent other animals, influence both the forms as well as the images on the decorated surfaces of functional ware. Imagery from travel also has influenced forms.”

“Over the last few years, in addition to working with clay, I have worked with copper fold-forming,( using commercial patinas on the finished forms, and making wall panels, leaves for mobiles,  and wearable wrist cuffs), clay monoprinting,( influenced by  the late Mitch Lyons, who had a studio in London Grove) , hand made paper, recycled cardboard,  paper sculpture, and also  wire sculptures.   I particularly like Kozo for  making paper, and sometimes use encaustics on  surfaces.  My studio is near Ercildoun and is open by appointment and at my yearly open studio days.”

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