Archive for July, 2014

Face Everything and Rise

July 31, 2014

IMG_2070 IMG_2069 IMG_2068Life in Camden is difficult.

The past month the rear end of my car, parked in a “safe” place, was reduced to rubble by an intoxicated (?) driver in the middle of the night. (It gave me the opportunity to patch it up lovingly with pre-school manipulatives.)

In another incident, a drunk(?) addict (?) hit-and-run man-child(?) abandoned his car which caught fire behind my row house and ignited trees (which are making a fast recovery). Had the police and fire department not come immediately, I might not be writing this post.

And finally, Camden Iron and Metal, a business that has no respect for Camden City and her inhabitants, has been operating  heavy metal crushing machinery 24/7 causing many residents sleepless nights.  I think (HOPE) that Zoning Enforcement disciplined them with BIG fines – because last night was quiet and the first full night of shut-eye for many in South Camden for the whole week.

And so I “face everything and rise” and give thanks to those who haven’t “run” from Modacius, the most dangerous city in the U.S.!


Modacius II

July 29, 2014

Here is the first very personal post to my blog.  It’s about art but, this time, not kids’ art, my own art describing my own thoughts…

Modacius II – July 11, 2014 IMG_2033 Most dangerous city in the U.S. The city is starting to stir. A shout of “What the fuck’s the matter with you?” drifts from open windows of a neighbor’s house not fifty feet away – a mother probably talking to her child.

I have “my cat child” of sixteen on my lap in a collapsible, canvas arm chair under a weeping cherry tree I transplanted from across the street a decade ago – which was planted by a Sacred Heart Church neighbor a decade before that.

Myself a transplant to this place twenty-five years ago after I had already lived one half a century… What possessed me? Perhaps the intimations of things to come: this cat on my lap, the distraught mother and child next door, the weeping cherry tree grown tall,

the thousands of images of kids’ drawings, the dozens of rescued stray animals, the generations of robins, and less distinguished others living and dying before my eyes, the drunk driver crashing behind my row house causing his car, and almost my house, to burn

the “good and the bad” mixing together in the pot of my life which has been stirring for seventy-five years with not enough time to observe, as I’m doing now, the weeping cherry tree, which just dropped some caterpillars and a spider on my lap.

I had moved my cat, Beebee, inside but not before taking photos of her face with wide eyes experiencing for the first time with me on the collapsible chair a glorious summer day surrounded by bridal wreath, ivy, honey locust,

weeds, shade behind my Camden row house.

There are five photos – the first, her head twisted to the left, whiskers splayed, showing cautious interest, the second, her head twisted to the right, the third, she’s safe on my lap, the fourth and fifth, so calm with her “Mom,” her first time outside in sixteen years but

she’s cool with it, having seen and heard for four seasons every year of her sixteen years from the open and closed windows inside our corner row house variations of what she experienced on my lap just a while ago –

I see in her eyes our deep, deep bond.

View Camden Student Artwork at Artsonia

July 27, 2014

Look at what Leap Academy art teacher, Jeffrey Phillips, did with his classes last year!  And look at the 440 students he inspired to get fantastic results.  Go to to see ALL the artwork. I especially like the Pumpkins with Personality collages!

57 2nd graders designed Dia de los Muertos Skulls. (this is by Isaiah)  50 1st graders drew  Kandinsky Geometric Shapes (by Adrian)  51 kindergarteners did Butterfly Symmetry (by Lillyana)58 kindergarteners did Ugly Bunnies in watercolor (by Elijah)56 1st graders did Line Varieties (by Joel) 37 kindergarteners did Paperline Collages (by Evan)52 kindergarteners did collages of Pumpkins with Personality (by Jordan) 56 1st graders did The Landscape: Beautifully Basic (by Sherine)


Putting Your Mark on the Page

July 26, 2014




IMG_2043Back to my blog after a hiatus.

Life is so full – so busy. Mostly full doing things I love to do. Not busy doing stuff I should do, like paying bills, house cleaning…

I’m still collecting artwork from elementary school classrooms, but just from one school, Leap Academy, not schools city wide. This past spring I photographed and posted online to “” over 1,000 images of student work initiated by art teachers Jeff Phillips and Nina Speart. Check it out. Go to the website, then click on Camden City, NJ and you’ll see it.

I know by printing out and sharing these images from K to 5th grade throughout the city that the spirit of Camden can be uplifted. Such talented teachers and students.

Volunteering in a Rutgers Early Learning Research Academy pre-K class this summer has been an experience. It has caused me to think about children who are fearful to pick up a crayon and put their marks on a page. One five-year old in particular, is behind the others in learning his alphabet. It seems the only time he puts pencil to paper is when a teacher asks him to trace the dots of alphabet letters on an exercise sheet. It appears he has no experience at home with fooling around with pencil and paper.

I take out my Japanese Language Writing primer that I’ve often referred to for the past five decades* and look at the characters first graders must learn for school. The characters are so much more interesting (to me) than the twenty-six letters of the alphabet.

I try to steer this five-year old away from the drudgery of tracing alphabet letters to keep up with his peers, to the fun of just making his own marks – just drawing stuff on a page. When I fool around myself with abstract shapes on my paper, he becomes more interested with working his crayons on his own page.

It seems like such a simple way to get him ready for kindergarten. But the problem is there is NO ONE else in his life who wants, or feels it necessary, to do one-on-one playing with colors and shapes on his page. No one to celebrate his individuality.


*I taught English as a Second Language at Futaba Gakuen in Tokyo in the 60’s