Damn the torpedos! (or how the arts can change a community.)

August 8th, 2014
  • A few years ago I was invited (as a community leader?) to give a presentation to a regional group of several hundred women. It was quite an honor to be asked.

  • I just re-read my presentation, and thought I would share it here.

  • What I wrote is about life and art and moving forward against the obstacles life throws at you. Autobiographical, but that’s what they asked for. They sent me a list of questions, which I answered. Here’s the first part. I’ll post the second part later.

  • When I first started working on what to say to you today I was having a terrible time answering the questions that were sent as guidelines. The first question was about difficulties… It was something like: What difficulties did I have in the process of becoming a leader? For some reason I couldn’t begin to structure my thoughts. Then I realized that my difficulty came from trying to begin with a question about difficulties. You can’t start there. There are plenty of obstacles for all of us, along whatever path we choose but we can’t focus on the roadblocks or dragons as I call them. 

    Dueling dragons on St. John USVI 2007

    Dueling dragons on St. John USVI 2007

    In life you can’t let those be the first thing you think of. You’ll never get out of bed. It’s twice as hard to even begin.

  • For some reason in life I have sort of a ‘damn the torpedos, full speed ahead’, dragon slaying attitude. Once the goal is clear, you can slay those dragons of difficulties while dodging torpedos along the way.
  • When we started the Brandon Artists Guild I wasn’t very hopeful, but I pitched in with the rest of the group, Warren Kimble, Coliene Moore, Dolores Furnari, Esther Buffam, Dick Kirby and others. I wanted to support the community of artists. There were 10-12 of us who sat on a dusty floor in a derelict building that the Bank didn’t know what to do with. The walls were covered with peg board, there was a giant heater/cooler thing hanging from the ceiling that roared and clanked. We only had use of the front because they were using the back to store outdated electronic debris and/or equipment. But the bank was willing to let us have the space for, I think, $100 a month, utilities included. That was in 1999.  Storefronts in Brandon were empty. We cleaned it up, as best we could, on no budget. We staffed it 4 days a week, rotating a volunteer schedule and limped along for 4 years. The artists worked together. At that point we didn’t have a clear goal, we just wanted a space where we could offer our work to the public.
  • And then the Pigs happened. The Really, Really, Really Pig Show. I’m sure you all have heard the story of that success.

    Liza and her pig, Esperanza the flying pigadillo.

    Liza and her pig, Esperanza the flying pigadillo.

  • The lifesize fiberglass pigs that adorned the streets of Brandon Vermont. But you may not realize how many people worked how many hours to create it. Forty artists created astonishing artfully enhanced pigs. They were pretty impressive. A brilliant component was that every school in the district was involved, which meant all the kids, teachers, parents, aunts and uncles and neighbors were on board. I worked on my own pig, Esperanza, which means hope in Spanish. In Pittsford, Vermont, with a group of my 6th graders, we created Piggsford.
  • There was a lot of dragon slaying along the way. Negative people didn’t believe that, as artists, we could do anything meaningful or useful. Some begrudgingly sponsored a pig; a few were generous and enthusiastic. Most thought we were crazy. But everyone now recognizes that our end result was beyond belief, both financially and
    My chair from the "Brandon Rocks" project.

    My chair from the “Brandon Rocks” project.

    spiritually. Not in the religious sense of spirituality, but in terms of the energy, the spirit of our town. The governor even called Brandon the Art and Soul of Vermont. We “tipped” Brandon from a sad, declining town, into a hopeful village, united and empowered through the arts.

  • Since that year the Brandon Artists Guild or BAG as we call it, has continued to support, challenge and inspire individual artists and art education in our region. In my participation I’ve made 3 birdhouses, a rocker, two large and one small palette, a flying dog, a four sided box, a large wooden star and oh yes- a sign- or maybe its mural.  Sixteen feet of sunflowers that has caused quite a bit of debate in the town. We’re waiting for the final word on possible new language in the zoning ordinance.
  • (BTW, the mural stayed up for several years, but now has a happy home in upstate NY)
  • Sunflower Starry Skies ©lizamyers, acrylic on board 4′ x 16′

    Sunflower Starry Skies ©lizamyers, acrylic on board 4' x 16'

    Sunflower Starry Skies ©lizamyers, acrylic on board 4′ x 16′


5 Responses to “Damn the torpedos! (or how the arts can change a community.)”

  1. Lucy Lowry says:

    I am linking this page in my blog because I loved the spirit of enthusiasm throughout. It inspired me and will also inpsire my readers.

  2. lizamyers says:

    Thanks Lucy! It was good to look back at things to see what we have accomplished.

    • Lucy Lowry says:

      I liked the sign/Sunflowers. In reference to Short and Sweet (posted last year- I just found it) I also use chalk to sketch. I always use it on murals inside people’s homes, so they can see the layout and suggest changes before I start. A damp rag easily removes it for adjustments. Recently, I used chalk on my dark Rose because I needed to find my petal edges again. In Artwork, I have a 3’x3′ colored chalk painting of corals, but it also has some colored pencil and water mediums that glow in UV light in some places. It was nice finding your page.

  3. NanciHersh says:

    Not only do you demonstrate that the arts can change a community but that with vision, and a damn the torpedoes attitude you are truly creating a community. and I love Esperanza. Where is she now?

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