When I asked Angela about a student who embodied the purpose and mission of Flite, she immediately thought of Bella.
With her Mom’s (Flite Board member, Dorota Baird) permission, I spoke with the 8th Grade student at Winston School in Dallas. We talked about Flite and how she’s been encouraged to pursue her art. You’ll find a reference to her and one of her paintings on Flite’s website here.
When we are forced to create as an assignment or to be pushed to perform for someone’s pre-determined expectations, art can be an unwelcome chore, especially at age 14. Bella agreed. But in the context of encouragement and the freedom to explore, art becomes an avenue of learning, healing and wholeness. Through Flite, Bella has been exposed to young people who are far removed from privilege. She has been inspired by those who have discovered art to be a path to self-confidence and accomplishment.
She sees it in Angela’s sculptures. She loves the faces of the children, smiling playfully, reading a book or chasing a dog or dancing ballet or painting a canvas or reaching for the sky. She especially loves “Joyful Empowerment,” where a young woman stands on the north pole of plant Earth, arms outstretched with abandon toward the heavens. Bella sees herself in those bronze scenes.
It’s taken her into her own little studio where she paints and creates her own sculptures. Bella described a day at school where some friends joked and teased her in a way they thought was funny. But it was hurtful. Their cutting words echoed in her mind long afterwards, darkening her mood, driving her into herself; entertaining unwelcome thoughts, stealing away her joy.
That same afternoon, she arrived at her art class, welcomed by a teacher who was happy to see her. They talked about what she might do that day. Then she hit the canvas without rules or a plan, and simply began to paint. Time got lost in the wide-eyed effort; she turned to shades of blue oils. She felt strong and pleased as the teacher and her classmates admired her work.
She forgot all about those awful comments back at school.
“I prefer abstract to realism,” she explained, “because I’m free to express in shapes and forms without the pressure to be exact.” I noted that she is drawn to the color blue. “Yes, I like blue – it can be warm or cold. It’s eye-catching. It mirrors my moods – when I’m happy, I see open blue sky and when I’m sad, it reflects my gloomy feelings. Blue is like a good friend who accepts you as you are.” She talked about how she enjoys playing with different hues of blue, dark and light, on the canvas and then to introduce a contrast color to bring it all together. She likes green and orange, too.
“My art has helped me to deal with the pressure,” she said. Currently, she is working on a sculpture with a glass bottle, wire and spray paint.
Flite welcomes young artists like Bella. We love their art – and we celebrate the process.
It brings joy to the beholder – and more, strength, poise and focus to the artist.