Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Mexico Artist's Ceramic Mural Class & School Tour

We'd nearly exhausted our visiting Mexican artist and friend, Efren Gonzalez, with touring him around Southern Oregon, and finally mid-week, we delivered him to his Ashland home stay family. He'd be closer now to be able to teach his upcoming Ceramic Mural Class at the Ashland Art Center ~ but we dearly missed the fascinating flavor he brought to our home.

I continued my usual schedule, coming in to work in my studio at the Ashland Art Center, as well as watch the illuminating progress in Efren's daily mural class. First day, he coached them on designing a practical, functional and beautiful flat mural with 3-dimensional aspects undulating from the surface. Next day, was the beginning of the process with the clay. I watched as some of the student's designs continued to transform as their visions changed (like so many of us artistic-types) or, as they were advised by their experienced instructor, for better outcomes. Over the remaining days of the Mural Class, I observed lovely detail and imaginations become physical in the diverse pieces. Then . . . they need dry for weeks. I would pass them each day peeking at their drying progress on the shelves in the Ceramic Lab as I entered thru the basement doors. And Efren, released his students and their pieces to follow and fire with his instructions, as he moved on to other projects.

We'd arranged thru the Medford Schools, to have Efren do presentations to several different schools. A priority in Efren's life is to educate and inspire children. In his own Art Center, he daily furnishes classes for children, where they are instructed in painting and in English. Not to mention the role model Efren, his family and his career offer the children! So, of course, he wanted to touch the children here if he at all could. The first day we visited four schools, the second two, where Efren spoke of his dedication to becoming an artist (his first opposition came from, of all places, his mom) and then did a slide presentation of his multi-medium creations with time for "question and answer" following. The children were wow-ed!!!! So many of them came up to him after the show to get more personal questions answered or just to thank him.

I believe he especially touched the Hispanic children and the High School students. I was especially touched during a fire drill which took place at the end of one of Efren's presentations. This young man came up with such intensity, tenderness and sincerity in his face (yes, it brought me to tears) I could read how Efren had effected him. It was transformational!!

Efren had several days to recover from the whirlwind "School Tour" and relaxed into some of the other treasures of Southern Oregon. He visited wineries, lunched with local Hispanic leaders and, had to, of course, attend one play from the internationally known Oregon Shakespeare Festival. He was gifted three tickets to the "The Imaginary Invalid" and was so kind as to invite Roland and I to attend with him. He doesn't know my gratitude for this privilege as I've never attended a play here either ~ and what a creative's delight. The color, the costumes, the quality of acting and singing . . . t'was a perfect finale' for Efren's visit.

A late evenings flight took Efren on wings into the night sky, where he stopped in Los Angeles and emailed that next morn, letting us know he'd safely arrived home. He'd talked about all the stress, pleasure and abundance of exposure he'd had while here visiting Oregon. And finally home now, he could release the tension and share with his dear wife and family his treasure of experiences.

Little does he know the depth of experience it was for me to have him come stay with us . . .

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