Person of the Week

Judith Felch

Artist

Because I had no doubt about my mission as an artist, the arrows of naysayers could not barb my resolve to keep giving.  Staying focused on good provides a rudder, to pass through rough waters.  Being buoyed by good ideas keeps me off the shoals of other people’s discontent.  What a joy it is to give to the community and see that it is not professional suicide, but fuel for a more vibrant life.

1.  What led you to the mission of being an artist?

The world was deep into the Sputnik era – they called it the race for space.  The sciences were extolled and I was excelling in them, so my overjoyed teachers and family slated me to enroll in a prestigious engineering university.  Much to their chagrin, I matriculated at a very small liberal arts college.  Because the school required fine arts credits, I enrolled in an art course. Right away, the teacher told us to go outside and draw.  I vividly remember going outside, alone, and producing an image on paper.  All of a sudden, I felt this great sense of peace – a peace I had never felt before. Something inside of me became alive.  The message was clear and strong that this previous “extra curricular” activity must become my primary mission.  I switched majors to studio art.

2.  What does this mission mean to you?

This mission meant choosing a life of truly being me.  I was the oldest of six children and the first to go to college.  My parents had great expectations for me. When I told them I was seriously studying art – in college, I was not prepared for their response of consternation, anger, ridicule, and fear.  My first heart wrenching decision was to go against their demands, and get a degree in art.  I think this forged a very healthy desire to be serious and work diligently on the craft and aesthetics of the art process.

At first my mission was to prove that life as an artist was valid and could provide ample income to support a family.   This mission proved to be a success.  My visual arts students have been able to discover their own uniqueness and potential.  By showing and selling my drawings, I’ve shared the power, light, and inspiring presence of Maine’s rocky coast.  The privilege and inspiration I’ve felt unlocking these treasures have nourished me on a daily basis.

3.  What was your best day as an artist?

The best day was when a friend introduced me to the coast of Maine.  The environment felt right and the subject matter a joy and adventure.  I think the right mission or path is to find such a place and feel fully alive within it.

4.  What was your worst day as an artist and how did you survive?

I value and love my community, so I painted a huge outdoor wall mural to brighten up a local family services playground.  Upon completion, the parents, administrators and children celebrated the painting and gave me a beautiful framed thank you.  I was a deeply moved.  Even a local newspaper covered the story about urban renewal and my large donation of time, talent, and materials.

Some colleagues and artist friends expressed concerns that I had sold myself out — “selling my work for nothing” – charity — professional suicide.  I was deeply shocked at this self-serving attitude and lack of compassion.

Sharing one’s innate talent is a moral obligation…. something to be used for the healing of all.  I did not give myself the talent.  It was a gift from God.  I survived this criticism by knowing that painting the mural was a blessed activity that would inspire hundreds of children. Furthermore, I recognize all people – no matter what their income — deserve to be surrounded by beauty.  I was put in that place and at that time to express a healing love, joy, and encouragement through the visual arts.

Because I had no doubt about my mission, the arrows of naysayers could not barb my resolve to keep giving.  Staying focused on good provides the rudder to pass through rough waters.  Being buoyed by good ideas keeps me off the shoals of other people’s discontent.  What a joy it is to give to the community and see that it is not professional suicide, but fuel for a more vibrant life.

2 Comments

  1. I liked reading that you stayed with art even though you had been strongly discouraged to do so. Your dedication to what you loved doing proves that we all need to look deeper in our hearts to what most full-fills our lives.

    Reply

  2. benjamin 01/9/12
    7:21 am

    I love the line, “Something inside of me became alive.” It is important to live an inspired life. These words will help me keep on track.

    Reply

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