A Letter to Parents and Students

My philosophy is that anyone can do art, it’s not about talent, it’s about putting the time in, just like anything else.

Dear Parents and Students,

I’m Ellie Crawford, here in northern California, and I’m really excited to be able to invite you to join us at Leaves of Grass Learning Center for virtual after school art and creative writing classes this fall. Since the Pandemic, I’ve talked with too many parents who are concerned about their children’s education and social well being for this next school year. There are so few options, especially in my small hometown, for any kind of after school art or writing program. Recently our AP English class was canceled. AP English was such an important class for me, it started giving me confidence as a writer. I’m devastated to know that this senior cohort will be missing out on that kind of opportunity. The Leaves of Grass Learning Center has been a foggy dream and idea, waiting for this moment of community need to make it clearly necessary for many families and friends. I am proud to be able to offer students the kinds of extracurricular and enriching classes that helped define my childhood education. My late mother, was a believer that all education is a privilege, but that arts education is a joy. 

Everyone working at Leaves of Grass Learning Center is dedicated to helping out families and students during this difficult moment. We want to offer our skills to the next generation, and create a safe learning community for students here in California, across the US to New York, Canada, Italy. Wherever your family is sheltering, we hope we can bring you some creativity, time for reflection, a chance to connect with other students going through the same isolation. We hope that families who normally were able to do something athletic like sports or dance can use this as an opportunity to try our program and see if they have an interest in comics, designing community projects, writing short stories, joining our book club discussions, or having support in setting up some personal academic goals.

One of my first school memories was doing a “draw along” and choosing to make the grass pink- not anything near green- I realize now how lucky I was to be told by my mother and my teachers that choice to make the grass pink meant I was creative. They said nothing to make me think that I had done something wrong. Over the many years of making and teaching art, it has become so apparent that all types of creative people need helpful and constructive feedback, not discouragement or negativity. During the past ten years, I have enjoyed offering both: structure in my classroom, while, making sure that students have the chance to explore, fail, make mistakes, and grow. My method for building student confidence is doing lots of quick assignments to build up a body of work, while making sure to offer projects that are specifically tailored to challenge my students. Above all, I believe in giving an abundance of encouragement and positive feedback, to assist students in discovering what they are most interested in, and nurturing their identity as creative people.

Over the years my dedication to the arts has broadened to include literature and public policy. I have a Bachelors in Fine Arts degree at California College of the Arts, in San Francisco, with an emphasis in painting and drawing. At CCA my awe of the transcendentalists and Walt Whitman (who wrote Leaves of Grass), solidified in my literature classes. I studied at the New York Studio Program with International artists, and with top students from all over the country. Through the Get Arts in the School Program Grant, I taught painting, drawing, and printmaking at my old high school for a few years and then worked at a local non-profit as a guest artist. I wanted to be able to give back to my rural community, so I went to Oregon State University and studied Rural Public Policy. While at OSU, I was a graduate teaching assistant, mainly working for criminologists and sociologists. I discovered, surrounded by social scientists who didn’t know much about art, that I couldn’t resist teaching them how art and science connect. My philosophy is that anyone can do art, it’s not about talent, it’s about putting the time in, just like anything else. 

During the pandemic, I taught myself how to weave and built a six foot by four foot loom. The Lord of the Rings series, on audio, has been a huge comfort. Being able to make art everyday has brought me happiness, fulfillment and stability. Also, reminding myself that I’m not alone in feeling isolated, missing my family and friends, and wishing I could be surrounded by the people I love. Right now, the prospect of being able to bring people together where we can celebrate the best in humanity- our shared art and culture, and the next generation of global citizens- is the best project I can imagine to manifest in these uncertain and difficult times. 

I’m one of the teachers available nearly every school day to encourage participation, and provide creative support, feedback and motivation. Hope you can join us.

Thank you for your interest in the Leaves of Grass Learning Center,

Ellie