When I first met Michael, he used to live at this artist colony deep in the heart of the ghetto of mid-city L.A. called St. Elmo Village. My first memory of the place is one of mud and rain. I would have to walk up to his door by stepping on wood planks that they laid out so I wouldn’t sink in the mud. And it was always dark when I came over, so I never knew what the place looked like in the daylight.
When I did get the opportunity to come during the day, I was completely surprised to find a cluster of brightly painted little buildings, succulent cactus planted everywhere–including in an old toilet bowl and sink–rusted metal sculptures and smiling faces. Everyone who lived at the Village was either an artist, writer or musician. Every Saturday morning they hosted free art workshops. So every weekend there would be a flood of excited neighborhood kids drawing and painting or having a drum circle. And my dear man was an instructor there for nearly six years.
What I love about this place is how they welcome everyone and encourage the creative spirit. But more meaningful to me was how they have nurtured my husband over the years. They welcomed a mischievous, energetic little boy who was caught stealing coins from their fish pond. A boy who would rather roam the streets than be at home. They gave him a safe place to explore his creativity. They loved him. They gave him a chance. And most importantly, they shaped the man.
So many of my husband’s wonderful qualities I can trace to the Village, and the couple than run the place, Roderick and Jacqueline Sykes. They are two awesome people. They have always been a very loving influence on our relationship. So when they asked us to participate in their 40th Anniversary Exhibit, Past & Present Villagers, I was thrilled. But a little shy, too. I never actually lived there, but I guess I have become an honorary member because of my husband. Either way, I’m proud to be showing some of my paintings there during this exhibit.
So if you want to brave the huge storm that is headed our way this weekend (total bummer), come on out to L.A. on Sunday and check out the exhibit. I promise, you will not be disappointed. It is such a magical place with all the sculptures and cactus and murals on the floor. Kind of like an oasis in the middle of the hood. I love the place because of what they do but also because it has my husband’s spirit all over the place.