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These gifts come from kindness

Updated: Jun 5, 2023

We honored Memorial Day in ART YARD Advanced Studio on zoom with the next installment of our Earth Mother / Mother Earth themed session in which we memorialized a departed loved one led by ART YARD Artist Jacob Rath.

Jacob teaching on zoom

Jacob recounts: “I began class by acknowledging that George Floyd was murdered three years ago. I then jumped into the lesson, which was about an art exhibit I saw in Minneapolis: Piitwewetam: Making is Medicine. The show features artwork made by the Gustafson family. Many of the works in the exhibit were about the family's deceased son. I focused on showing six dresses from the exhibit, made by Shannon Gustafson. Each dress was accompanied by a letter that the artist wrote to her deceased son. The letters all focused on the artist's feelings of grief, the love for her son, and about things she found beautiful on Earth.

Wall text from the exhibition:

"One of the gifts of being human is to love. We love so deep and so forever that generations forthcoming can feel our love. Another gift of being human is to grieve: a most natural and challenging response to loss. This is a story of an Anishnaabe family’s journey of love and grief and grief and love.

Piitwewetam: Making is Medicine is a commemorative art exhibition presenting the work by the Gustafson family: Shannon, Ryan, Justine, and Jade. This exhibition honours their son and brother, Piitwewetam (Rolling Thunder), also known as the late Jesse Gustafson, who travelled to the spirit world in 2015.

Piitwewetam is an offering from the Gustafson family to each of us. As an Anishnaabe family, the act of giving is an essential part of their life. Gifts are offered out of kindness, out of love. To give is to simply offer without the expectation of receiving something in return. When we give, we are enacting a sacred law that acknowledges life. Within Anishnaabe tradition, a part of the grief ceremony is gifting. This beautiful exhibition acknowledges all of the good life, including relationships, teachings, singing, and dancing that Jesse experienced when he was here on Earth. Each piece in this exhibition will be gifted to friends, family, or to one another. These gifts come from kindness, from a deep love that honours Piitwewetam."

Jacob continues: “Everyone's work looked completely different, but everyone was able to create work which showed an appreciation for a deceased person and the Earth. I enjoyed being part of a group where everyone got to share their feelings and tell a story about someone from their life. Participants are instructed to gift their artwork to someone else.”

Jacob’s delicate watercolor rendition of the beach and dunes at Provincetown was accompanied by a poignant letter to his mother Laura which described how the landscape reminded him of the beaches at Montauk which they regularly visited together.

Dear Mom,

I made a painting of the dunes at Provincetown, because you are the one who made sure I developed a love of the ocean. Would you have guessed that I would move out to Minnesota when I grew up? It's beautiful, but I miss being near the beach. I don't always remember that until I'm back at the water staring at it.

The beach is where I learned to love and appreciate the world around me. I love the salt, the intense heat of the sun and sand, the aggressive current and waves, and the wind. This place is beautiful for all the same reasons as Montauk.

Love, Jacob


Dear Scotty,

Thank you for suggesting that I visit Provincetown. I loved it, but maybe not for the same reasons as you. But I suppose the important thing is that we both love it.



Jacob Rath, Piitwewetam: Making is Medicine, In Memory of My Mother

Pat drew the mulberry tree on her grandparents property, depicting the berries in various stages of ripeness, paying attention to the surface of the leaves, and resting a top of a symbolic depiction of a nearby stream in a graphic symbolic style reminiscent of the work we viewed by Shannon Gustafson.

Pat Larash, Piitwewetam: Making is Medicine, In Memory of My Grandparents (in progress)

Ed honors the memory of his friend, Allan Hobson a renowned psychiatrist and dream researcher. Ed shared that Allan gave Ed his best compliment ever telling him that his artwork is empirical (based on, concerned with, or verifiable by observation or experience rather than theory or pure logic.).

Ed Rath, Piitwewetam: Making is Medicine, In Memory of Allan Hobson I

Ed Rath, Piitwewetam: Making is Medicine, In Memory of Allan Hobson Il

Meridith explains: “I chose to memorialize my great aunt Anna Mae who died about a year ago. Anna Mae was an avid bird watcher who had feeders strategically placed about her small yard for the best views. She frequently sent me lovely gifts including jewelry that had been hers, my other great aunts, my grandmothers, or my great grandmothers. These aspects made me think of that wonderful Robert MacFarlane poem, Jackdaw, from The Lost Spells (Penguin Random House UK, 2020).

Robert MacFarlane, Jackdaw (excerpt)

Meridith McNeal, Piitwewetam: Making is Medicine, In Memory of My Great Aunt Anna Mae

Karla writes: “I was so surprised by the contemporary expression within the garment designs in Jacob’s presentation. The strong geometry in black and white along with ribbon strips of bright color. My design speaks to the weaving of fabric but also to the complexities of minds and personalities. Fred loved bindweed (a highly undesirable plant) with its sweet delicate white blooms. He was a problem solver, a mechanical genius! Someone who could distill a paragraph to one succinct sentence! Robert often drew complex scenes in black marker and pen. Social commentary and a way of coping with discrimination. I miss them both. I am blessed to have known them.”

Artwork by Fred Elliott (left) and Robert Joy (right)

Karla, Piitwewetam: Making is Medicine, In Memory of Artists Fred Elliott and Robert Joy


On Tuesday we celebrated the AYB Gemini’s Golnar, Evelyn, Maraya, Kevin and Meridith in a GEMINI inspired art-as-healing ART YARD Advanced Studio in person at BWAC. In this challenging session ART YARD Artist Golnar Adili had us exploring our duality by drawing from observation with both hands simultaneously. Interestingly, as I wandered about taking photographs I could pick out all of our multi-talented instrumentalists! The giveaway was their dexterity and posture.

Ajani drawing

Golnar enthusiastically recounts: “It was such a great session drawing with both our hands simultaneously! As the last class in a 3 session series, we continued to dig into the subconscious by using our hands as unorthodox drawing tools. Also as celebrating our Gemini birthdays, it made sense to use both hands to show duality in this astrological character, the twins!

Advanced Studio Artists at work in our studio at BWAC (use arrows to scroll)

We started drawing from observation objects, landscapes, and figures, each looking in different directions and drawing freely. Artists were asked to start at the top of the object and move down. What a challenge, and what beautiful works that came out of it! Some had done detailed hair texture and beautiful mark making, some chose to do continuous line drawings. There were overlapping interests in depicting certain objects like the plant pot, and the rooster, and the Manhattan skyline drawn also by Assia, the smallest member of the group. We had so much great work to look at for critique!!”

Golnar drawing and artwork

Ajani drawing and artwork

Evelyn drawing and artwork

Eden drawing and artwork

Jules drawing and artwork

Sarah drawing and artwork

Vera drawing and artwork

Annie drawing and artwork

Bryanna drawing and artwork

Assia drawing and artwork

Saidou drawing and artwork

Christine drawing and artwork

Naomi drawing and artwork

AYB Board Member Cecile Chong joined us for this session, she writes: “Led by Golnar Adili, the group was focusing on a wonderful activity involved drawing something in the room but using both hands simultaneously. The results included exquisite drawings of plants, interiors, artwork on the wall, and hair. Some were colored, shaded, most were line drawings. Soon everyone gathered to do compare and contrast, and compliments. When it came to compliments, I became emotional going through this part of the lesson that is so much part of the routine. I complimented the group for their work, for their dedication, and for continuing to make ART YARD BKLYN part of their lives. I also realized the power of this ritual, to say something positive about someone's work. It also made me remember that my professor at Parsons, Tom Butter, once mentioned how we, artists, are privileged to be able to spend time looking and discussing about a line, a shape, or a color for hours.

After the excitement of meeting new members and seeing many familiar (and now grown) faces, I was able to catch up with a few. How I loved to hear Ajani talking about Cal Arts and Eden going to school in London!

The Gemini celebration continued with a surprise, Annie asked Meridith if she could play the piano. Oh could she play! The room was transported to a different place. The pleasing sound made me feel like I was floating and I soon felt I was on a magic carpet heading to the sunset happening outside the window! Happy Birthday Gemini!”

Annie Beliveau at the piano

A wonderful Gemini birthday celebration enjoyed by all!

A birthday card from Assia and golden coins for the celebration


Teaching artist Fatima Traore rolled out a new lesson for our final week of classes at the East New York High School of Arts and Civics. Those students who completed their Remastering The Masters participated in the new lesson - called Nature Close Up. Students were asked to find a bit of nature (leaves, flowers, dirt, clouds, insects - and the like) and zoom in (a gigantic zoom) and create a drawing and watercolor.

Dennis tells us: “Those continuing with their Remastering The Masters works received individual attention from Fatima - most especially Jacob who learned the skill of gold leaf application. Jacob's doing very well in our classes and agreed that learning about gold leaf is another step in going forward with his art education.

Fatima trains Jacob in gold leaf technique

Jacob, Remastering The Masters I & II (in progress)

Ines is adding a collage portion to her Kahlo self-portrait by adding a necklace and pendant. It's gorgeous already.

Ines, Remastering The Masters, Frida and Olive

Sabrina and Anaya moved forward with their Starry Night pieces - colors have changed since their original states but looking quite beautiful (even more beautiful - not that the originals were not) now.”

Anaya, Remastering The Masters: Starry Night

Sabrina, Remastering The Masters: Starry Night

Fatima puts the finishing touches on Remastering The Masters: The Girl With The Pearl Earring

Rah-nee working, Remastering The Masters: American Gothic & self portrait (in progress)


Wouldn't it be great if we qualified for Tony Awards for our work in costume design and prop and set making?

Dennis reports in: “Teaching Artists Fatima Traore, Evelyn Beliveau, PS 17's art teacher Ralph Pryzanowski and I would surely qualify to be nominated (and win!) for all that's being done in one single day (every Wednesday) at PS 17, one of our partnership schools in Jersey City.

PS 17 Lion King rehearsal in progress

The gorgeous backdrop canvas is hanging on the school's stage - designed and executed by after school students and Fatima - together with Ralph's props of Pride Rock, Rafiki's sticks, and the Elephant Graveyard. I sat in on Wednesday's rehearsal and everything is falling into place - in great anticipation of the opening performance in a few weeks.

In the art room, students put final details on the Baby Simba prop and he is ready to be 'delivered' (no pun intended - or maybe yes pun intended) to the Lion King's director, Maya Reyes. After School students painted foam masks for the central characters; 7th and 8th graders continued with corrugated board cap masks under Evelyn's direction; and some 1st and 4th graders worked with Fatima on a watercolor project about 'nature: close-up' with a strong emphasis on things found in Africa. Other 1st and 4th graders finished up masks and pattern paintings.

Simba prop and foam masks in process with Evelyn

Students display Nature: Close-up paintings

Rather than have students work with sharp scissors, Xacto blades and/or box cutters, Evelyn, Fatima, Ralph, and I set up a factory line and cut out the masks and the brims off the caps.

Lion King masks and hat masks

We're all exhausted by day's end - but not too exhausted to accept our Tony Awards!”


Live from the Path Train Dennis reports: "Teaching Artist Evelyn Beliveau led a group of students at PS 6 on an adventure to imaginary places - and had students create maps to to use as directions. Long before GPS existed, people needed to read maps. It was vital. But maps to imaginary places only existed in books or in one’s fantasy world - which we all lived in, at one time or another. Most especially - treasure maps were on the top of everyone’s list!

Slide from Evelyn's PowerPoint

Evelyn explained the history of maps, what certain symbols were used for, how to follow a key, and the earnings maps often offered us.

Fantastical maps by artists at PS6 in process! (use arrows to scroll through work)

Students jumped right in. Messiah’s map was the world of Super Mario in that far off place known as Brooklyn. DJ drew a sonic map - everyone seemed to know what that was except me!


Evelyn also continued a class on mer-people for first graders who missed a lesson last week due to the school’s early closing. Critique was lively and everyone offered kind compliments. I complimented all students but chose Benita’s piece of a mer-person seemingly spinning upward from a tidal wave, with a hair do that looks like it went thru the same spinning cycle.

Mer-people and critique at PS 6


Teaching Artist Kevin Anderson joined us today to assist Evelyn’s students and participate in gallery installation. Also on hand were Sarah Gumgumji and Fatima Traore - Meridith fondly refers to our group (Evelyn, Fatima, Sarah) as The Dream Team (although I do sometimes feel like Charlie of “Charlie’s Angels”).