My dear friend and amazing human being Liz Sheehan is the director of Partners in the Arts, a program that supports arts integration at local schools here in RVA. We know, of course, that art feeds our soul. Our spirits. And kids know this already and way better than we do, but sometimes we just math them and english them to distraction so the part that they know at a deep level — the language and the dance of their very spirit — gets forgotten.
Enter Liz Sheehan. Now here is a woman with an enormous heart and a brain that can think circles around mere mortals and in that way, Liz often reminds me of Katherine Hepburn’s character in Desk Set who “associates many things with many things.” Beyond that, she has an intriguing history of having grown up in Manhattan, working as a graphic designer there, acquiring a PhD in cultural anthropology and consequently working at the Smithsonian Institute in D.C. where she could wander the catacombs of the place, examining the ephemera and iconic memorabilia of our culture to her heart’s content. When you talk to Liz, there is a profound listening going on that is practically seismic. As you can imagine, all of these qualities and experiences make Liz an extraordinary writer — indeed, one of my favorites. I am going to keep all the rest of the treasures I know about Liz to myself because by now she will be blushing and wanting me to keep the focus on the kids who need the arts integration for God’s sake. I just want you to understand about this quiet wonder who is here in Richmond, Virginia, working quiet wonders under the guise of Partners in the Arts, this quite unique program that actually uses art to teach other subjects. Speaking to the children in language they inherently understand, it would seem.
So now, here’s one of the projects of Partners in the Arts, involving Chris Milk Hulbert, one of Richmond’s beloved painters, and Sarah Fought, art teacher at Linwood Holton Elementary School and her students. How lucky are these kids to have teachers and people like Liz and Sarah and Chris who honor them and that part in them that is sacred and constant and mustn’t be papered over for the sake of busyness or culture or other foolishness. “Being happy and inspired while making art makes happy, inspired art,” says Chris to the children. Yes, yes, yes.
I’ve been watching too much television news lately, i.e., more than 5 seconds on any given day, and it had started to wear at my gleaming worldview just a little. For this little segment where I get to listen to Chris’ responses, I will make an exception to my new no-television-news-whatsoever rule: