Luna Parc and Randyland are two treasures I had the joy of visiting this summer. Luna Parc is located in northwestern NJ, and Randyland is located in Pittsburgh, PA. Both were begun by artist visionaries who have, over time - through donations, innovation, and hard work - have transformed their homes into works of art. These artistic homes have far exceeded their walls in both ornamentation and outreach. I invite you to explore some of the many photos I took, along with a brief background to each.
For over seven years, my family lived in Sussex County, NJ, within 30 minutes of Luna Parc, one of the state's most artistically unique homes. During our residence in nearby Newton, I ran a brick and mortar gallery / studio (TraillWorks) and was raising my first son. Suffice it to say, while I had met Ricky, Luna Parc's founder, I could never make his biannual open house. This summer, I happened to have a free day during his June open house and met up with former fellow Newton shop owner, turned realtor, Leigh Pecoriello.
The home was started in 1989, and when originally purchased, was a dilapidated structure in the woods. It is continually in a state of change - additions, elaborations, and collections. Ricky Boscarino, originally from Paterson, NJ and a graduate of RISD, is descended from an artistic family that stems from the Medicis; his influence from Italian art, mathematics, Latin, religion, and science is evident in just about everything in the home. The Fibonacci sequence, its formula actually affixed to the exterior, is realized is many of the spiraling mosaics found around the home. Not limited to Italy, there are incorporations of many influences from around the globe. He is a Renaissance man who is capable beyond most in many media including, but not limited to: ceramics, jewelry making, and painting.
The house was an utter delight to traipse through and these photos barely scratch the surface of what's inside and around the grounds. Beyond his personal home, the grounds holds metal and ceramics studios, a gift shop with Ricky's art pieces, collections of things yet to be organized into new art, and gorgeous landscaping. He has turned Luna Parc into a 501c3 that is aiming to facilitate creativity in youth through hands on learning / making. His next open house is in the Fall.
Located in the Mexican War Streets of Pittsburgh, PA, we stumbled upon Randyland during my family's "art day" while on our summer vacation. Pittsburgh is of course known for Andy Warhol, but with two active boys who needed to run around after starting the day with a trip to the National Aviary, we decided, rather than visit the Andy Warhol Museum, we would play in a neighborhood park, then walk around the Mexican War Streets along the way to the Mattress Factory, with a possible stop to Randyland. It was an incredibly hot day, but we managed to keep the kids moving, fueling them with homemade chocolate chip cookies (and us with coffee) at Commonplace Coffee.
Our visit to the Mattress Factory was brief - the Yayoi Kusama exhibit delighted all of us. But it could only hold our tired boys for so long; on our walk back to our hotel we discovered Randyland. It was too hot and late to linger, but we took a moment to soak it in, play and marvel at the beauty, collections, and space Randy Gilson, a writer, gardener and community activist has created. He doesn't consider himself to be an artist (I would beg to differ), but I can't make that argument with him. Unfortunately, he wasn't around when we were there.
I was taken by his story of poverty and ADHD that was transformed through his love of repurposing, giving and hard work using his own hands, coupled by a strong belief in his capability by several teachers in his teen years. Randy purchased the property in 1995 for $10,000 on credit after having gained the support of a neighborhood group. His revitalization of several abandoned lots in the surrounding neighborhood with barrel gardens helped support his effort to buy the property at 1501 Arch Street. The home is full of installations featuring collections he's accumulated through dumpster dives and donations. The irony of this amazing community transformation, is that he may lose the house due to the discrepancy between his income as a waiter and the skyrocketing value of the house. According to an article in NorthHillsMonthly, he's intending to begin a non-profit that will take over the home. His courtyard is open to the public and free, but monetary donations are welcome.
TEACHABLE THOUGHT: these homes are the results of two artists who have used hard work and the support of others, to create joyful, inspiring structures out of detritus. Luna Parc is already a foundation striving to encourage making in youth, and Randyland looks like it is on its way of becoming something similar. Both artists are incredibly focused on their work, and in particular, Randy Gilson, is an example of someone who truly turned around his deficits into assets, not only for himself, but for the community. Beyond how each has used a strong work ethic to turn something around, the homes are amazing examples of repurposing, installation art, organizing and designing spaces, and exquisite artistry. I'm still processing my visits and am sure at some point, they will influence my lessons.
"A teaching artist is a practicing professional artist with the complementary skills and sensibilities of an educator, who engages people in learning experiences in, through and about the arts."
After earning my degree in Art Education, alongside a Painting degree from Syracuse University, I entered into the field of public education as an art teacher in my early 20s. It was an eye-opening experience, one that ultimately wasn't the best fit for me. As a novice teacher, I had the dream that I would develop as a professional artist, alongside teaching professionally. Unfortunately, I learned within the first year of teaching, that I wouldn't have the luxury of time to devote to that kind of creativity, as all of my energy was being put into my teaching. I deeply admire public educators, but realized that I needed to pursue a different path to maintain my art-making.
That path led me to offering private art lessons from home, which in hindsight was modeled for me by teaching artist, Nancy Bossert, whom I studied art with in high school. Within a few years of working form home, I opened a space that operated for five years as both a gallery and studio from which I exhibited and created my own work, sold work by other artists, and taught art lessons. Several years and two kids later, I'm on a slightly different road, though the trajectory of teaching and making my art is still constant.
This past fall, I started offering my art classes at Oh! Canary Art Studio in Maplewood, NJ. This new space has allowed me to breathe life back to my lessons, after having taught in a small home studio for a few years in West Orange. Simultaneously I started identifying myself as a teaching artist. During the past year, I've been thinking about ways to redesign and rebrand my blog, which I've been posting to since 2007. After hiring a local web strategist, Dani Geraci, to review my site, she suggested a blog overhaul. The new name came to me recently when a lightbulb went off - "The Teaching Artist."
From here on, you can expect to see posts under the name, "The Teaching Artist." The direction of posts will move towards showing the connections between what I'm teaching and what I'm making. Sometimes it may be an influence from a book I'm reading, unrelated to art, or it may be a direct connection to work I'm creating. I'm teaching in Maplewood and making in West Orange, NJ. Showing up in this arena, gives me purpose, structure and forces new ideas that often filters into my own work. Keep on following, sharing, and please connect with me.
I'll leave you with a quote that resonates with me and accurately describes one of the drives behind a teaching artist, by Richard Bach, the author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull, "You teach best what you most need to learn."
Jennie Traill Schaeffer
"You teach best what you most need to learn." - Richard Bach
Jennie Traill Schaeffer
Sometimes called the Kitchen God's Artist, I'm balancing mothering two energetic sons, our new pup, Cider, while making and teaching art. TraillWorks is the apron under which I create and teach. My own art develops mostly in my West Orange home studio, but is often spurred through my teaching, and travels.
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