Thanks

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I finished the mural this week! Each day was hard, with lots of uncertainties and muscle strain, but each day was also wonderful.

I can’t think of much that is better than finding a challenge that scares you and taking it on.

As I was working this week I wasn’t sure why I kept finding myself thinking about Gerald Donato, one of my professors at VCU.

Donato

He died in 2010, and his death shocked me into the realization that I had made a terrible mistake: even though I considered a number of my professors to be not just excellent teachers but life-changing influences for me personally, I had never gotten in touch with any of them to say thank you because I didn’t want to bother them.

After hearing of his death, I did make the effort to contact the others, but I will always regret not having reached out to him.

His drawing classes (which were more mixed media classes) were where I found the process that is still basically how I work today: making a wonderful mess on huge sheets of industrial paper with tempera, acrylic, pastel, chalk, pencils, and ink, and then seeing what images emerged, drawing and painting them all in, and then editing them.

I remember one day being in the zone, bending over my big paper, and standing up to realize Donato was next to me. He smiled and said, “It all goes away, doesn’t it?” Meaning my surroundings. I replied, “Yes,” and it felt like something had changed hands. He had acknowledged the part of me that gets into the work and then nothing else exists. And then I knew that part was there, in a way I hadn’t before.

There were many other lessons he had for me, some technical, some personal. And perhaps his last, best lesson for me was to never again be so ignorant as to think I would be bothering someone by saying thank you. I will remember that one.

This was all close to my heart when I went over to Patricia’s Green at lunchtime today for the dedication of the new temple by David Best.

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I got to applaud and shout for his amazing work, and also for my friend Madeline Behrens-Brigham, who was honored for all of her hard work making both this particular art project and, in many ways, our neighborhood happen.

Here’s David hugging Madeline, and thanking her, with the temple in the background. That’s me sitting down in front:

Best temple

Adding to the perfect closure of this moment was that David’s temples are memorials, where visitors are invited to remember lost loved ones by writing messages or attaching photos.

So this week, here’s to having the opportunity to give a loud shout of thanks, and here’s to taking that opportunity!

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