An Oregon native, I'm a multidisciplinary Community Artist. My career has been rich, varied and surprising. Trained in music and language, curiosity and opportunity combined to pull me along an irresistible path of discovery.
It began the spring of my senior year in college when I was invited to become part of the legendary Storefront Theater in Portland. Awestruck, I ran away to join the theater and spent a decade training and collaborating with an inspiring group of actors, designers, artists, playwrights, musicians and political activists.
Simultaneously working in touring companies
and musical ensembles, I was encouraged to deve-
lop skills as a Performer, Collaborator, Vocalist, Designer and Storyteller.
Over the next decade I created costumes for theater and commercial use, taught playmaking classes for kids and developed an improvisational singing practice which evolved, through time, into a group improv form called Voiceweaving.
In 1990 I co-founded the "Dreams Well Studio," a performance lab for the development of original theater and also worked as an exhibit and parade float designer at Studio Concepts, (now SCI 3.2. ).
After a growth-filled decade, I wanted to engage more personally with folks in my community.
And at the time, in 2003, arts education in the Portland Public Schools was almost nonexistent. Combining my interests in the environment and the arts, I co-founded Earth Arts NW, an eco/arts education program for grades K-12 children.
For over a decade, Earth Arts served thousands of children in classroom settings. In 2016 we decided to expand the program to include kids and adults in community events, workshops, and collaborative publication.
Earth Arts NW is now on permanent hiatus, but the youth and environmental focus of Earth Arts continues through a new publication project for kids - Storieseed - an imprint of Dreaming Earth Press, founded in 2021.
Curious? Read on...
I discovered Voiceweaving while singing with my dear friend, Izetta, during the 1970's and 80's.
We worked together in a theater company and later as touring musicians. In the process of warming up for rehearsals and performance we relaxed by sounding out wordless musical phrases.
Through the years I noticed that there were organic touch-points through which we entered an improvisational flow. I began shaping these discoveries into sound games to share with others.
As a Dreams Well Studio partner, I taught Voiceweaving classes and workshops for a decade, also producing student performances.
During this time, working with folks of diverse experience, I began to wonder if everyone had an innate ability to improvise and harmonize with sound.
Somewhere in time all our ances-tors were tribal people. Long be-fore writing was invented folks heard local news around the fire by telling stories. When there were no words in the language to describe something it was evoked through physical gesture or sounds - dance & song.
Expressive vocalizing could be the original human language. Today, babies all over the earth use it until they learn the language of their culture.
The mother tongue seems rooted in us, available when we want it, offering opportunities to play, listen, and open our hearts to life.
Here's a little VW snippet:
Large Scale Design
Working on staff at Studio Concepts, a national builder of parade floats and theater sets, gave me an opportunity to collaborate with a large team of artists.
For ten years my job as a designer was varied: creation of concept sketches, finished illustrations, blueprints for float, set and prop fabrication, sculpted models-to-scale for large character heads and hands-on, full scale sculpture.
Tackling new and unique pro-jects all the time, I often felt as though I was just improvising, trying to figure it out as I went along. When I told this to a
very skilled co-worker, she said: "Don't you think I’m doing the same thing? We’re all just
I am profoundly grateful for the co-workers and collaborators I’ve had the privilege of working with throughout my career. Gifts, each one.
Here's my take-away from those years: When learning or doing something new - as in proto-typing a product - best guesses and mistakes are the norm.
I’m a believer that making “mis-takes” is an essential part of hands-on learning. The process of experimentation deepens access to native intelligence, firms character, and guides us to fortuitous discovery through trial and error.
Strategies we develop to tackle crisis, engage problem-solving skills and move through fear and doubt are gifts of the creative process - absolute and valuable.
As a mid-career artist I made a choice to channel my concerns for children and the environment into conscious action.
I became an Artist-in-Residence at the Portland Children’s Muse-um, working collaboratively to create exhibits and interior spaces for the new museum, then under construction.
Later I visited regional schools, guiding children in the creation of special projects while also working in the environmental community, creating theater sets and eco-learning props.
I also had the privilege of colla-borating with a colleague and middle school students to create earth Story Songs celebrating the Tualatin Valley Watershed.
Earth Arts NW was inspired by kids’ potential and by their needs. Motivated by what I had already learned in the schools, I co-founded Earth Arts nw (under the sponsorship of the Earth & Spirit Council) in 2003.
At the time, school-day art acti-vities had almost disappeared from regional schools. Creative thinking, vital for learning, can so easily be ignited through childhood art experiences. Blen-ding art and environmental learning seemed like a timely, worthwhile goal.
Co-founder Judith Yeckel and I collaborated with teachers to develop a series of outcome-based creative activities that engaged students in learning about Pacific NW history, culture and eco-systems through individual and collaborative projects.