Architecture Class at The Sharon Academy

March 17th, 2014

I recently had the opportunity to teach an elective Architecture class at The Sharon Academy in Sharon, Vermont. Each of the 8 students completed two projects, one based in fantasy, the other in reality. The first was to design and build a model of a fantasy tree house. The second was to design an artist-in-residence cabin for possible construction on The Sharon Academy campus. Students visited the future site for the cabin to plan a residence footprint no bigger than 800 square feet. Then, they generated drawings and models of their proposed cabins and presented them to classmates, a visiting architect and school administrators:

Through an exciting collaboration with the Harpo Foundation, the school may draw inspiration from the students’ designs to build the actual cabin!

Thanks to Amber Wylie for her photography and slideshow video!

Humanizing Skin: A Mural Project with High Schoolers

December 12th, 2013

I recently taught a 10-week mural class with 11 students at The Sharon Academy in Sharon, Vermont. In these photos, students are posing with their self-portrait “bodies.” I guided students through a process of cutting out their body shapes from plywood and then painting what they currently identify with on each. For instance Deniz, an exchange student from Turkey, has painted elements in his body that reflect his love for his homeland, travel, the sea, and basketball.

Deniz

All of the students’ paintings will be screwed to the exterior walls of the high school. I call this “humanizing” the skin of the school.

Anyata

See more photos of student work and read about my teaching and workshop offerings.

 

Reclaiming Sustainability through Art

December 2nd, 2013
Red Hands

Jay Mead, Red Hands, 2011

By Jay Mead, with Dominic Stucker. The sustainability movement is in urgent need of re-invigoration. For too long, we have relied on a problem-focused, doom and gloom approach that engenders fear. While fear can motivate action, it more often paralyzes people, trapping us in anxiety and despair about eroding futures for our children and grandchildren. Seemingly surrounded by catastrophes and insurmountable challenges, we usually cannot see beyond the perpetuation of our broken, fossil-fuel-dependent socio-economic system.

The word “sustainability” has been used now for decades; for some it carries hope, while for others it has lost it’s meaning through misuse in marketing and “green washing.” Together, let’s seek to reclaim sustainability as a viable aspiration and a way of life for all of humanity, using art and creative expression as a path to do so.

I believe that people need to connect to sustainability through their hearts; this orientation can happen through art and the cultivation of right brain thinking. I call this approach the “Art of Sustainability,” a practice and way of being with one another and nature that emphasizes creativity, connection, and hope.

Being in this great moment of human history, we are conscious of the choices we make and have the agency to create a sustainable future for all. This moment is what deep ecologist, Joanna Macy, refers to as “The Great Turning” and what systems thinker, Donella Meadows, called the “Sustainability Revolution.” Envisioning a just and thriving world is an act of faith, a recognition of the potential for change in oneself and in society. Shared vision can transcend the pervading mindset that we are separate from nature and help us bring about a life-sustaining world.

The current unsustainable path that humanity treads instills many with fear of mass pandemics, climate change, destruction of what we know and love, technological oppression, and the loss of individual freedom; the list goes on. We can, however, take a different path to sustainability that engages the heart and inspires us to do what humans are so good at: creative problem solving.

So what is it that moves us to act on behalf of this amazing place we call Earth? I know that I value beauty, the essence of nature, and the fullness of sensory pleasure that comes from experiencing wildness. The simple fact that there is so much yet to be learned about and experienced in the natural world is the essential fire of my curiosity. Biomimicry, for example, is a practical application of this passion to observe and learn from nature while serving the needs of humanity.

To embrace the Art of Sustainability is to embrace a way of living that is playful, and filled with wonder and infinite possibility. As poet Mary Oliver says, “The universe could have been created ugly, and would have functioned. And yet there is beauty everywhere in creation. Beauty gives us an ache to be worthy of that creation.” The Art of Sustainability gives us a pathway to demonstrate our love for creation and creativity.

Read more about my Art of Sustainability approach and related workshop offerings.

Dancers in the Forest

September 10th, 2013

 

At SculptureFest annual openings, dancers engage creatively with each piece that has been installed. In this clip, Tracey Penfield and dance partner Chelsea Palin performed a spontaneous piece in “The Forest Within.” Filmed by Edie Farwell and edited by Cedar Farwell, with original music, “Anna’s Waltz,” by Seth Houston.

The Tree Artist: A Tribute to an Oldest Friend

September 5th, 2013
Jay Mead and Peter Heller

Jay Mead and Peter Heller

I am pleased to share these written reflections on my SculptureFest piece, “The Forest Within,” by friend and author Peter Heller. A former Upper Valley resident, Peter wrote the bestselling novel The Dog Stars in 2012. – Jay

The Tree Artist
Jay Mead at SculptureFest
A Tribute to an Oldest Friend

Take a beat up old farm shed. Prop it up, true the posts, re-roof it. Give it back its humble life. Then reach for the medium you have loved since you were a kid: trees.

Trees are everything to you. You grew up on a tree farm in New Hampshire. You tapped trees to make syrup as a teenager, cut and bucked and split them for firewood. You walked and skied among them for inspiration and solace in high school. And after you moved to the Bay Area you went to the sequoias and redwoods whenever you could. The giants were your cathedral. Those forests did something to the light and the air that changed the way you saw yourself in the world. When you lost two younger sisters and a father that is where you prayed, and when you had children of your own it is where you gave thanks. They gave you back your smallness, which every person needs. Your awe. Your oxygen. They rooted you to your life and reminded you that those that walk and sway on earth are myriad, are your brothers and sisters, and that we are entrusted with certain souls.

The Forest Within

The Forest Within

In San Francisco, your first big installation was a giant redwood stump, the kind they used to drive cars through, erected in the middle of the city and built of discarded redwood lumber. I helped you build it. Remember? The crowds that stopped, the mouths that fell open? It was a sensation, an organic monument to nature and loss.

So, trees. Back here in Vermont you cut twenty saplings—the field edge needed to be cut back–and you painted them white and planted them inside the dark shed on a ground of soft red mulch. The old pavilion suddenly looked like it would burst its seams with pride. Because it was now a shadow box that held a forest. A ghost forest. A forest of birch at night, or aspen. It was a little church, and inside danced the rows of slender luminous trees, and it was sepulcher also, and the forest was skeletal, a photographic negative of the living world, of what it may become. You called it The Forest Within. And you planted it on the King Farm* where we can all see it and wonder why it resonates with some green thing that moves inside, that sways against our own bones.

* King Farm is in Woodstock, Vermont and hosts the annual SculptureFest.