At 3 PM on October 19, a dozen people gathered in the parish hall at St Luke’s, not quite sure how their creativity would manifest itself. With some trepidation and signs of enthusiasm, they kept their eyes, minds and hearts open to the promised, but scary, prospect of putting paint onto canvas. We greeted each other with warmth as we consumed salsa, chips, veggies and dip, and got to know one another, hoping the painting part wouldn’t start anytime real soon, just like normal people about to experience something new and unfamiliar.
Jamie Samilio, founder of Art and Soul, talented graphic artist, and caring human being explained to us how she answered God’s call to teach others to paint and offer the product of that gift to a newly-housed, chronically homeless individual. Jamie brings the paint, canvasses, brushes, sponges, tarps, buckets and inspiration along with some food and great music. Hospitality and music is important! The host site spreads the word, invites people to come and provides more food and drinks. Pathways to Housing DC receives the finished artworks. The paintings hang in the Pathways offices, and the client chooses the painting that speaks directly to them.
Jamie led us through an opening exercise that gave context for the project along with background about Pathways. She provided us with an introduction to the color wheel, a smattering of art education, a few rules, and then turned us loose in front of a blank 2’x3’ canvas. We started to squeeze any one of 7 different paint colors onto the canvasses, tapping into the well of our experiences and moods to mix the perfect colors to reflect our feelings. Jamie moved among the tables, offering encouragement, suggestions, and technique demonstrations. Before we knew it, each one of us had a poured our heart and soul onto the cloth. Voila! Art and Soul! We felt good about it – ecstatically so!
Most of us had not touched any type of paints except wall paint since kindergarten. Most of the participants vehemently cast off the label of “artist”. Yet, as you can see from the selection here, everyone reached inside, tapped into the center of their soul, and created something that reflects our love of God and for one another. We thank God for Jamie’s guidance!
The last piece of work the artists of the workshop have to accomplish is to say goodbye to their creation. It’s bittersweet. We take comfort in knowing that someone will enjoy it as much as we enjoyed creating it. Hannah, from Pathways, said that clients truly appreciate the fact that they can choose a painting for themselves. She says they talk about their reactions to the paintings, and hold sustained conversations that are thoughtful. They talk about what the painting means to them, and about how they feel – just like a normal person.
Workshop Leader: Jamie Samilio St Luke’s participants: Tuck Bowerfind, Cathy McPeek, Sallie Hutcheson, Caroline Tringali, Marjy Jones, Jen Bloom
Hannah Zollman, Director of Development, Pathways for Housing, DC, Hannah’s aunt Barbara, Sylvia Saliunas, Mona (Jamie and Sylvia’s neighbor), Krista (teen artist and fellow encourager)