Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Big Unveiling

Yesterday was a fun and slightly nerve-wracking event--the official unveiling of my painting at the dedication of the Intercultural Mutual Assistance (IMAA) building.  IMAA is a nonprofit organization that helps new immigrants to our community learn the ropes of American culture, from learning how to navigate banks, schools, medical care and housing, to finding a job, to becoming citizens.

I was asked to create a painting that represented the bridging of cultures and celebrated diversity, and I interpreted this idea pretty literally. I experimented with some new techniques--the faces are carved in deep relief and  the river and bridge are textured. The golden stars and copper hearts in the river represent the dreams and hopes and passions of the people.
The IMAA building was being dedicated to  the founder of IMAA, Robert (Bob) Jones III, but I did not know very much about Mr. Jones until yesterday.   Here, IMAA Director Ron Buzard is introducing Bob, the man with the kind face seated to his right.

After serving for years in Viet Nam, Bob returned home and wanted to help people from Southeast Asia who were living in refugee camps.  He worked with Catholic Charities, first  sponsoring Cambodian refugees in Rochester and helping them transition to American life. (I wish I had taken notes about all the amazing things Bob accomplished.) This program eventually grew into IMAA.
Bun-ly Suy was the very first Cambodian refugee to arrive in Rochester and was one of several people who reminisced about how Bob Jones had mentored them and helped them learn both the small and big things they needed to know about living here. Little things, like when it is appropriate to chew gum and that when you are  done, you put it in the wrapper and throw it in the garbage can - not on the ground as was done in Cambodia, because there was no garbage service there. And bigger things, like how to find an apartment, shop for groceries and apply for a job. Bun-ly said that there is an old Cambodian saying: "Do as I teach, not as I do," but Bob taught him he must instead lead by example and that every immigrant must live in a way that the door would not be closed to future immigrants.  After he was mentored by Bob, he was hired to teach new Cambodian immigrants all the things he had learned from Bob, and they worked in partnership for many years.
Kieu-Oanh Vu arrived in Rochester from Viet Nam as a nine-year old girl and recalled a few of the funny things she learned from Bob as a young girl, such as the first time she saw white sugar falling from the sky; Bob told her about snow and warned that it would be cold, and he was right. She talked about some of the other ways Bob has touched our community - such as starting the Rochester International Association.  He launched many innovative refugee programs, including one for widowed Asian women and their children and one for Amer-Asian children of U.S. soldiers.

It is obvious that Mr. Jones has had  an incredible impact upon the lives of not just the speakers, but the HUNDREDS of people who showed up to thank and honor him.  From the time we arrived, half an hour before the event,  there was an interminable line of people waiting to thank Bob personally for the  impact  he has made on their lives. 

Bob spoke last and recognized the many volunteers who have helped IMAA grow to be the amazing organization it is now and the immigrants themselves who have become integral community members.  Bob is battling cancer and spends much time at the Mayo Clinic, where he says he is heartened to see people of all nationalities working in every type of position at the clinic, nearly all of whom have benefited from IMAA.
Finally, Ron proclaimed that the IMAA building would from now on be known as the Robert (Bob) Jones III Building and he presented a plaque and a canvas print of my painting to Bob.
Here is my painting at the entrance of the Bob Jones Building.  One item of note:  this  building was the first green building built in Rochester!  Altho it is a wonderful sustainable building, it is a bit non-descript on the outside.  If nothing else, my painting adds a vibrant  punch of color--and the large image can be understood from the road, helping to tell the story of  what goes on inside.

I am so honored to be have been invited to create this artwork and I am so delighted that it got such a positive reception!


Joanna said...

That is a beautiful image you've created. It's so full of life and hope. Inspiring. Congratulations.

Julie and Harold said...

I love it, Susan: the colors, the symbolism, the imagery of the people.

nikina said...

what a wonderful piece of art !!! being an immigrant to Canada myself, i can totally see myself in your painting !!! Bravo !!!

Becky said...

Amazing... simply amazing! What a wonderful, welcoming work of art to invite people in to a wonderful organization! Congratulations!

Nonna said...'s just so beautiful. You are amazing!

katiegirl said...

That's wonderful!!

Dawn Sanborn said...

Fabulous! It's a beautiful work! Congrats!

Sandra Sarlinga said...

Thank you for your beautiful work, being an immigrant from Argentina myself made me feel inspired and full of hope.Thank you!

Woody said...

Cool...and Too cool! I love the painting and the whole idea behind the program. Congrats!

Susan said...

Thanks so much, all you kind blog visitors!
I was absolutely delighted to do this piece, but after the moving dedication yesterday, I was totally humbled to have been asked.

Laurie said...

This is gorgeous Susan! It reflects who you are - a colorful, community linked, welcoming person.

Cheri said...

love everything about this piece of art! The picture of you in front of your piece is perfect!

You should be proud !
Job well done.

Lynne said...

OMG (now it's in the dictionary), it's so beautiful! You are an amazing woman, Susan!

Judy said...

Thank you for creating such a beautiful piece of art to honor the beautiful person who inspired it. Robert Jones III is everything presented and 100 times more. Thank you for honoring such a generous and unique individual..:o)