CAIR Residency

(Photo credit Jodi Locke photography)

So my December started off with no major plans for the next few months. Thankfully my schedule was wide open as I was nominated and chosen as the next CAIR artist in residence to create, connect with community, and exhibit work at the New Bedford Art Museum. The Immigrants Assistance Center of New Bedford nominated me and I gratefully accepted their nomination and began packing up my large canvases to head south to my hometown of New B.

(No worries about the bare walls there were three other girls waiting to be displayed.)

After a fresh artsy cut I was off to connect with my hometown community at The New Bedford Art Museum and create in a new yet very familiar space that I had some history with. I was a museum educator and created curriculum for the afterschool program and taught for the art mobile program as well for several years. My grandmother’s 1950’s hatbox was always in tow by my side filled with crafts then, now my acrylic paints and possibilities. The logistics were a bit complicated and also a winter residency during a pandemic, but I embraced this adventure fully and looked forward to this public facing position with an opportunity to grow, share, learn, and connect with others.

With a blank canvas front and center I was ready to hit the ground running. To make art, not war and hopefully inspire within the process. I wanted nothing more than for my paintbrush to cut through the pandemic days past and present and leave behind little bits of hope for my hometown community to hold on to.

From family, to dear friends, to unexpected visits from former Art Museum colleagues. I’m truly grateful for everyone who took the time to visit, assist, and accompany me along this journey. You are all greatly appreciated! I can’t thank everyone enough for celebrating, being joyful with me, and honoring this accomplishment as I moved through the world and along my own creative path. I felt a great deal of love and support surrounding me throughout my entire ten week residency and beyond. I can’t stress enough the power and importance of community.

And let’s not forget about our furry little friends along the way as well!

Blanket-dwellling, head butting, snack hunting cuties.

There were many hometown explorations with many out of town friends from all over Massachusetts. We visited restaurants, The Whaling Museum, The Visitors Center, the working waterfont, cool local shops, and scouted out murals around town.

As the weeks unfolded this new artwork began to take shape one little creature at a time. New arrivals came to show their support and view the exhibit each week. Dear friends from all over Massachusetts once again and even two visitors all the way from Utah popped in to open new doors and catch a glimpse of these girls looking right back at them. I feel like everyone saw something different within their eyes. Possibly our shared humanity?

A great big thank you to everyone at The New Bedford Art Museum for welcoming me and assisting me with whatever I needed during my stay Ashley Occhino, Dena Hayden, Zack, Michelle, Kat, & Iris. I had the pleasure of sharing my practice and discussing my work with them, with local middle school students, as well as with UMass Dartmouth MFA students. It was a great feeling to feel celebrated and embraced by my hometown community while sharing my creative practice and my healing journey through art. It was amazing to be back in this space that I had worked in so many years ago looking in on the art of others. It is a truly humbling space to be in when the roles are reversed and your work is the one being viewed, discussed, and uplifting others.

Art is life, life is art! We are all masterpieces in the making. As my residency was nearing the end all of these beautiful humans continued rolling in to show their support and see what I was up to in the museum. Once again arriving from all corners of Massachusetts and traveling from Maine as well. A few family members, a grade school friend, old friends, new friends, soul sisters, and even a lovely group of women in a Wampanoag immersion class. They shared a few words with me while discussing my artwork. What an unexpected and special gift! Thank you Jessie Little Doe for your |Waantamoonk|.

At last ten weeks had come to a close and I put on my butterfly wings to honor what had been my space to create in during my residency. My new artwork not yet complete would head back to my home studio to further evolve. My mother arrived to don the wings and flutter around a bit. Then my Arts Connect International community joyfully arrived from Boston to fill my last days with laughter, excitement, and deep reflection. Dena & Iris joined in to see me off and two of the youngest art enthusiasts learned that they too can fly. Then just as fast as I flew in, it was time to fly off once again on to my next adventure. Then I was off once again with deep gratitude for all of the support, connections, enhanced inspiration, and my grandmother’s hatbox full of acrylic paints and possibilities.

These pieces are deep representations of my life, humanity, and all of the women who have come before me. So often in our world women and girls are undervalued so I’m trying not to do that with these girls. For them to arrive there has been a very long journey for me in between which may be the rest of the story that I will tell at my next exhibition. Art is and has always been life for me!

This piece is still evolving as we speak and will soon be returning with two others to The New Bedford Art Museum and become a part of the CAIR artist in residence alumni show which will be running from sometime in June – November 2022. A great deal has happened in our world as a whole and in my personal life as well since my residency. You will see first hand just how that has shaped this piece and caused this work to evolve in surprising directions. Stay tuned…. ~Peace 💜, jummyjeenz/ Deana J. Tavares

Until next time New B ✌🏽💜🌞

Alone I am but one tree, but together we are a forest! ~jummyjeenz

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