Intern Blog: Passion Works Studio at KMA, Part 2

Sarah Melaragno (the Kennedy Museum’s Outreach Programs Assistant) and I were in charge of planning Art Encounters this time. This was a very special Art Encounters because we brought in guest instructors for the first time: Passion Works artists Troy Goins and Noah Hogan!

Some of our staff with folks from Passion Works. From left to right: Emma Stefanoff, Sarah Melaragno, Mallory Valentour, Troy Goins, Rachel Broughton, Noah Hogan, Sally Delgado, Abigale Collins (me), Basil Masri Zada, and Jess Minarchek

Our team took a few trips to Passion Works in order to prepare for all of these events. We met with Troy, Noah, and Nancy, along with Mallory Valentour (Creative Foundations Program Coordinator) to plan for the Art Encounters workshop. This was the first time some of my coworkers had ever gone to Passion Works, and the first time they had met Troy and Noah. They quickly learned two things about them: Troy hates meetings, and Noah is a walking encyclopedia.

We employed a process used at Passion Works for the activity. Children made small drawings on transparent sheets, enlarged them with an overhead projector, and traced them onto colorful canvas squares which they could then paint and decorate as they desired. Troy and Noah made some drawings and talked about their art making processes with visitors while they worked. Noah made a special drawing of a shark for me, since I have a shark tattoo. (He usually calls me ‘Shark Lady’.)

Intern Sarah Melaragno projecting and tracing her drawing onto canvas
Visitor painting her pet cat

The opening of ‘A Story of Flying: 20 Years of Passion Works’ was a complete success. Past and present Passion Works artists were there celebrating with us, as well as people from the community of all ages. It was amazing to have so many people of different abilities in the museum at one time; it felt just like being at Passion Works Studio. Patty Mitchell gave an incredible gallery talk about her personal story and how Passion Works came to be, and I definitely cried a little bit.

Passion Works Studio Founder Patty Mitchell speaking at the opening


Visiting Monks from the Labrang Tashi Kyil Monastery in Dehra Dun, India

The next big event was Honey for the Heart! Honey for the Heart is an event put on by Passion Works in which the community collaborates to create giant puppets for a parade right before Athens’ Halloween block party. They hosted community art making workshops throughout the month of October for people to come make the puppets and costumes. I went several times with friends and coworkers and had a blast.             The parade was a colorful kickoff to block party, livening up what was previously just a cold, rainy gray day.

Honey for the Heart Parade, photo by Karl Francis

A few weeks later was the event this was all leading up to: The Passion Works 20th Anniversary Celebration on November 10th. I was a volunteer at the event. It was a night full of love, passion, and fun. Guest performer Ann Randolph used to live here at The Ridges as a theater student when it was still a mental health facility. Patty Mitchell lived here as a student at that same time, and was inspired by Randolph’s creative and passionate presence at the asylum. They both went on to do work for and inspired by the patients.

Honey for the Heart puppet and banner decorating the Ridges Auditorium for the Passion Works 20th Anniversary Celebration (photo by Stephanie Serna)

The last Passion Works event this year that took place at the Kennedy Museum was a panel called ‘Art, Collaboration and Making Spaces’. Passion Works Board Director Dr. Lynn Harbor, Founder and Executive Director Patty Mitchell, Visiting Artist Kate Kern, and Passion Works Advisory Member Maureen Wagner talked about their personal histories at Passion Works.

Passion Works Board Director Dr. Lynn Harbor, Founder and Executive Director Patty Mitchell, Visiting Artist Kate Kern, and Passion Works Advisory Member Maureen Wagner

They told a story that I loved about a particular woman at Passion Works who loved Smokey Robinson. She would write stories about him on everything. Other places might try to ‘fix’ that, deeming it obsessive behavior. But at Passion Works, they encouraged her. They let her make what brought her joy. And as an artist, I loved to hear that. I even needed to hear it myself.

Being involved with Passion Works has taught me a lot about other people and myself. It’s taught me about everything from human rights to the perfect paper mache recipe. I believe that all of my experiences with Passion have made me stronger as an artist, better at my job at the Kennedy Museum of Art, and better as a person.

By Abigale Collins