The Challenge

A class of 28 poised and uniformed students sits at their desks. I didn’t expect them to be this quiet. I didn’t expect them to listen.

Pepper Ann the rock climber - age 6

Pepper Ann the rock climber – age 6


I bring the PhotoFly book my husband made me for mother’s day.  I show them pictures of my kids. I tell them about my 3 year old son Beckam, and how he wakes up at 3 am demanding Ramen noodles and Lucky Charms.  I show them rock climbing pics of my 6 year old daughter Pepper.   I tell them about how I sprained my ankle 10 steps into a 5K race.  Then I show them my misshapen ankle, and we all agree it is gross.   I want them to know me because I want to know them.   The challenge is this:  Can we open up enough in 3 short months to make authentic art together?

The sprained ankle in question.

The sprained ankle in question.

Can we move beyond our first impressions of each other and of what is possible to do something really cool!  I hope so.

We break down the definitions of words together.  What does it mean to “claim” something?  What does it mean to claim the “right” to something?  Do people make claims about you that are not true?  Why is it important to make claims?

Who has made claims on the behalf of others?  We read quotes by Barrack Obama, Thomas Jefferson and Martin Luther King Jr.

I explain to them, that I have no idea what I am doing.  We have a lot of money and space to create whatever we want.  In this moment we have a voice, and the challenge is figuring out how to use it.

I ask them, ‘What is an Artist in Residence?” …crickets.

So I ask them, ‘What is your residence?’

“Your home…it’s your home,” a girl in the back says.

“That’s right,” I say.  “I am the artist who comes to your home to make art with you.”

I pass around my ACE bandage, the one for my ankle.  I ask them each to sign it with a Sharpie so I can learn their names.  They ask me if they can keep the Sharpies.  No, I tell them.

That’s enough for one day.  I wish we had so much more time.

Sarah climbing at Momentum's sweet crack

Sarah climbing at Momentum’s sweet crack