By Jess Graff, DCM Artist-In-Residence April – June 2019
When I started this residency in Naperville, I had imagined that I would find the buildings and man-made places that were most important to the community and that as a community of adults and children, we would capture those places through our artwork together. What I discovered after many hours of asking questions, taking walks, interacting with the community, sketching, and experimenting with various art materials, was that Naperville was less about static places and more about dynamic people.
Naperville, to me, became the families I worked with, the children and parents taking walks along the river, the students working in the coffee shops, the bookstore and library staff, the museum employees, the people at the businesses where I bought food. Naperville was this rainbow of people living intricately entwined lives filled with memories, ideas, hopes, and dreams and so I began to sketch the children who worked on the project with me.
With loose strokes, I tried to capture their rapidly moving faces as they drew, explored, and experimented and I realized that they were drawing me too. We drew eyes looking down drawing, eyes closed imagining, remembering, dreaming, eyes open wondering. They drew their families and other people who were important in their lives. Some faces were easy to recognize, some were more abstract.
Frequently children would draw themselves or add to my quickly drawn outlines. We added marks to the lines that others had drawn, honoring the marks of every maker no matter where they were in their development, creating these layered community maps. Not of places, but of people, the people who make this place special and different from any other place on earth.
Join Jess in The Studio:
Thursday, June 13 – Friday, June 15 | 9:30 – 12:30
Thursday, June 20 – Saturday, June 22 | 9:30 – 12:30
Jess Graff has been working with children and community programming in the Pacific Northwest for over 13 years. An artist and certified Playworker, Jess has participated in numerous gallery shows and residency programs at schools, art centers, museums, and a correctional facility. She has recently worked as the Artist in Residence Manager at Portland Children’s Museum, the Curator in Residence at Vancouver City Hall, and as a Teaching Artist with the Arts Center of Corvallis. Articles authored by Jess have been included in publications across the nation. She has also had the pleasure of presenting at arts and education conferences on the topics of creativity, collaboration, equity, and the power of play. She is passionate about creating equitable classroom spaces and artworks that invite people of all ages and backgrounds to collaborate and communicate together. As an artist with both Western European and Middle Eastern heritage, Jess draws inspiration for her artwork from her personal history, the natural world, and from moments of shared creative exploration with the families she teaches.