In past articles, you
have read my commentary and conclusions from interviews
with local artists. But this month, I have the opportunity
to tell you about myself and my artwork. I am Sydney Francis
and I hold a Master’s of Fine Art in Inter-disciplinary
Art. My specialization is in using art to build community,
communication, and communion. My primary medium is painting,
but I am interested in any art or craft which allows one
to use his/her hands as a means of creativity and expression.
I am fortunate to have grown up in a family of artists,
in which art was encouraged. My mother is a designer of
fine jewelry and glass sculpture. My father was a watercolor
painter. And unlike many artists, I was actually encouraged
to excel in and pursue my passion in life.
My artistic practice currently has several interconnected
layers: my personal artistic practice, teaching the visual
arts, and facilitating community based art projects. My
heart lies in working with people in a collaborative setting
to create art where the whole is greater than the sum
of its parts.
I have been very lucky this year to have been able to
teach a variety of classes at the Moab Arts and Recreation
Center, the College of Eastern Utah, and at my own private
studio. The classes include Beginning Drawing, Figure
Drawing, Plein Air painting, Color Theory, and the Introduction
to Visual Arts (art appreciation). I love teaching, as
it is great fun to work with diverse creative minds and
learn from student’s questions, comments and insights
into art.I think teaching art classes is a collaborative
effort, and therefore, very much a part of my interest
in building community, communication and communion through
In my personal artistic practice I have been working in
watercolor. One of my most current paintings is “Sunflowers”.
This painting is a combined result of techniques encouraged
by Lola Krummenacher’s watercolor class at the MARC,
ideas inspired by my Color Theory class, and a love for
sunflowers which are abundant in my yard. My personal
artistic practice allows me to experiment with new media,
rejuvenate myself through art, and hone my creative and
My main focus of this last year, however, has been to
work with teenagers and adults to do community based art,
making art that is by, for, and part of the local community.
I have worked with Robynn Parker of Youth Corrections
since last December designing a rehabilitative art program,
which would give back to the community. But our vision
has been postponed due to a lack of funding for this kind
of work. In June, David Olsen, the Planning and Zoning
Director of the City of Moab asked me to consider painting
some murals at the new City offices on Center Street.
For this project, Olsen agreed to let me coordinate a
group of local students and teenagers to paint murals
on the various exterior walls of the building. Although
the project was to begin in September, we have been delayed
by a variety of logistical concerns, such as the weather
and the new cement courtyard (an artwork in and of itself).
But he and I have agreed to keep the project open for
Spring of 2004.
Having had access to some Grand County students for the
City mural project but no mural to paint, a community
art opportunity opened at the Canyonlands Community Recycling
Center, last month. We were asked to repaint the CCRC
sign, and in return we would get access to free recycled
materials in which to make a recycled sculpture. This
group and I had a limited time frame in which to work
on our art project, approximately 12 hours total, after
school. The goal of this project at the Recycling Center
was to foster teamwork, communication, art and environmental
education, and creativity among teen peers.
My interest in this kind community based artwork has been
sustained by a series of murals that I have done in the
last year with German volunteers. I was asked by International
Adventure Tours to facilitate a group of German, University
students, ranging from 21-25 years of age, to paint murals
on the blank walls of the Mill Creek Parkway (as agreed
to by the City of Moab). For the first group, I did not
know what to expect in terms of their interests in art
and their abilities in painting. So ultimately if worse
came to worse, I would design and outline the mural and
delegate simple painting jobs to complete the project.
However, my fears were put to rest by this first group
who had an abundance of art experience, creative insight,
and initiative among them. It was this group that collaborated
to visualize and complete the design of Delicate Arch
that now proudly stands under the Main Street overpass
on the Mill Creek Parkway.
In the above example, I really feel that my goal to facilitate
a product where the whole is greater than the sum of its
parts comes into practice. The resulting art product is
a team effort, where each person’s unique contribution
adds to the success of the whole. My contribution as facilitator
is to encourage ideas and creativity, provide technical
support, manage the group dynamic, and facilitate the
completion of the mural. However, my role as facilitator
is no more or less important than the roles played by
each of the contributing participants, and this is where
I feel my vision for community building is played out
on a small scale. In other words, all of the parts and
participants are integral to the resulting whole. And
within this whole, building community (and communication
teamwork) is the ultimate collaborative art.
For information about classes
taught at the MARC, contact Debbie at 259-6272. I will
be starting an after school visual arts class for Middle
School aged students in November. For information about
any of my classes or community art projects, please call
me, Sydney Francis, MFA at 259-3989.