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Monday, May 9, 2011

Inspired Art Gala preview: Profiling artist Sallie Wolf

Bid on this beautiful landscape watercolor May 18.
The DC SCORES Inspired Art Gala is just nine days away. The Gala’s silent auction will feature more than 40 pieces of artwork inspired by the poetry of DC SCORES poet-athletes (see a preview of the artwork here).

The artwork is diverse and has been donated by local as well as national artists. Recently, we caught up with one artist, Sallie Wolf of Oak Park, Ill., who donated a painting for the second year and is looking forward to attending the event for the first time.

How long have you been an artist and what makes you passionate about creating art?

My dad gave me watercolor paints and a brush when I was 4 or 5, so I’ve been dabbling in painting from a very early age. I never thought I could be an artist, however, until I was much older. I went to art school in my 40s thinking I would learn to illustrate the children’s books I was writing, and instead I fell in love with the larger world of art. I’ve been a full-time artist and writer for the past 14 years.

What inspired you to become an artist?

I have always loved color and pattern, but what really inspired me, while I was a student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, was realizing that art was a way of exploring all the things I had loved as a child — nature, such as birds, sea shells, rocks; anthropology, which was my original major in college; science, which was my first love as a child. I love the combination of thinking and doing.

What kind of art do you create?

I am an avid journal/sketchbook keeper and all my creativity begins there, in the pages of my journals. I paint panoramic landscapes in watercolor from small journal sketches. I have an ongoing Moon Project that has grown from the daily charting of the moon, which I keep in my journals. I love collage and play with that from time to time. Visit www.salliewolf.com to see examples of my work.

What does the connection between art and poetry mean to you?

Poetry has a very direct relationship to visual art. Both depend on creating images in the imagination of the audience. I began as a writer and developed my visual art later. For a long time I felt the two activities were in conflict with each other and competing for my time.

Then I began to write poetry about the birds I had sketched in my journals and that project became a children’s book, The Robin Makes A Laughing Sound: A Birder’s Journal. Working on that book has given me a new way to approach my art and writing. I now take inspiration from my art and let it guide my writing. I’ve recently submitted a manuscript of poems inspired by my Moon Project, and have plans for books related to my sketching and landscapes.

How important is it for students to explore their artistic sides in the classroom?

It is vitally important for students to explore their artistic sides in the classroom. Art is about pattern and design — so is math. Poetry teaches a love of language, an appreciation for the power of words. If taught well, poetry is much more accessible than other forms of writing because it is not locked in to rules of grammar. As facility with words and self-expression is gained, the structure of grammar can be added. But kids naturally love art materials, color, drawing, the sounds of words, patterns, rhythms, rhymes.

By building on these strengths, students can master language arts and math and science much more easily. And the interest in school work will be greatly enhanced. I never have a discipline problem when I’m teaching art workshops. It reaches certain kids on different levels and gives them a way to shine and use their energy that traditional learning does not. The arts — music, writing, visual art — belong in the classroom every day as major parts of the curriculum. These are not frill subjects, but the heart of being human.

What are you most excited about in looking forward to the May 18 Inspired Art Gala?

I’m looking forward to seeing the poetry paired up with paintings — how cool is that! I’m also looking forward to hearing the student performances.

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