Our May artist of the month is Elizabeth Decker. Elizabeth is just one of those people you meet and don’t forget. She is smart, fun, creative and memorable. I met Elizabeth several years ago at a retreat where she was providing a version of her writing and art program called Create Your Story! Visual art is my thing, but writing scares me. I had nothing to fear though. Elizabeth is an inviting, non-judgmental person who really knows how to make anyone feel comfortable when they are not. Her ability to do that is a genuine gift. So, when she got involved with Art Spark Texas a few years later as a writing instructor for our Speaking Advocates program, I was thrilled to see her again. She is a perfect fit for Art Spark Texas and our atmosphere of inclusion.
When I asked Elizabeth about being an artist she said,
“I have always been artistic, temperamental, imaginative, stubborn with a desire to be free… I’m an abstract artist mainly because I’m not very good at doing things realistically and I have very little patience so the idea of allowing myself the freedom to express without a clue to the outcome works for me. I interpret my relationship to self and how I’m influenced by the external word through paint, usually on large canvas but also paper.”
After teaching our Speaking Advocates class, I saw Elizabeth again a little while later at a Moral Injury conference being hosted by Reverend David Peters of The Episcopalian Fellowship for Veterans. She met Reverend Peters at Whole Foods of all places and they got to talking about her Create Your Story! Workshop. He thought it would be a great fit for Veterans. Since we had been doing Veteran programs, I agreed that was a great idea, so we hired Elizabeth to do her classes at the Austin VA Outpatient Clinic.
Here is what Elizabeth says she likes best about working with Veterans,
“I love their willingness to explore and dive into their personal story through writing and art but what’s an even bigger surprise than what it is they create, is their fearlessness in sharing their story. It becomes a big love fest for a few hours every week and I’ve made a lot of friends with the Vets so we talk on the phone or meet for coffee in-between workshops… I love it. They seem to like me so I’ll keep it going!… I’ve been working with Veterans consistently for the last five years and it’s been a gift. Honestly, it’s one of my favorite things to do.”
With the current COVID-19 pandemic, Elizabeth could not teach her class at the VA and has been working on her own art at home. I asked her a little about that.
“I’m used to being alone, working alone, however, I was not prepared for COVID-19. I miss interacting with people but until we are safely allowed to do that, I made some friends! It began first not because I set out to make friends but because I’m lazy and was not motivated to cut and iron about 50 bags for a mural I was thinking about…The two bags I did cut, were shaped like people and very quickly, the thing took on a life of its own and I created the series: With my friends….I engage the “friends” in board games, yoga, reading, spa time, music…anything that comes to me and once I began to put it on social media, I realized they put a smile on people’s faces. So, I continued with the story. I believe I’ve done about seventeen of them. The first one, Tea With My Friends, was created on March 26 after I made it through the polarizing fear of the current situation. I’ve relaxed since and was finally able to begin that mural!”
Elizabeth Decker’s next Create Your Story! Workshop with Art Spark Texas will be at our Putting Action Into Words: One-Day Writing Conference on June 20, 2020. Join us in Maud, Texas or Virtually. Details here.
ArtWorks Director, Art Spark Texas