Friends and Mentors
February marks the two year anniversary of a friendship and artistic collaboration between artists Jamie Ribisi-Braley and Kim Christensen. Ribisi-Braley and Christensen are part of an artist to artist mentorship program sponsored by Spindleworks, a non profit arts center for adults with disabilities(www.spindleworks.org). Spindleworks Director Liz McGhee paired Christensen with Ribisi-Braley, and they hit it off so well they even got an early start on their work together. They were good friends, right from the start, says Ribisi-Braley.
After having lunch together, they began visiting galleries together and seeing the work of other artists. Their outings often included going somewhere to set up and paint and draw together or going back to Ribisi-Braley’s studio and working together. Sometimes they did their own separate work, and sometimes they collaborated. Christensen has been able to expand the subject matter of her artwork. Ribisi-Braley mentored Christensen on not only the art itself, but some of the practical aspects, including pricing, writing an artist’s statement, and framing.
When Ribisi-Braley asked Christensen what she wanted to do next, she said she wanted to start showing her work at galleries, so they applied as a team for “Community Supporting Art,” a project sponsored by the Kennebec Valley Art Association, and partially funded by the Maine Arts Commission. During the project, fourteen artists were paired with thirteen central Maine farms, and asked to respond to the 2012 growing season. Ribisi-Braley and Christensen were paired with Wholesome Holmstead in Winthrop, where they created art based on their experiences on the farm. The process, says Ribisi-Braley, was about learning to be artists in the community.
One of the connections between them was photography. As part of the Community Supporting Art project, they collaborated on a piece titled “Cover Crop” which involved photographs transferred to fabric and woven together. The project also made use of Christensen’s knowledge of weaving, an art that Christensen has been able to introduce to Ribisi-Braley. “Ít took us a few months to figure out where we wanted to go with it,” says Ribisi-Braley, “We scrapped the project so many times, but then we finally sat down and put together what we wanted it to look like.”
The mentoring has not been a one-way affair. Ribisi-Braley says working on the farm was a process of being inspired together and learning together, and she’s learned a great deal from Christensen. “I like working with her in the studio, because it showed me she’s freer with her process. She just sits down and draws. I always go in thinking I have to make something. It freed my mind up to the process of art making.” Christensen says they show each other different things and help each other out, and they visit galleries together and discuss what they see. Ribisi-Braley says she’s been making more art and connecting more with people in the art community, because it gave her something to talk about. If there were any surprises, says Ribisi-Braley, it was how quickly the two became best friends. She thought the mentoring would be something that she would do every once in a while, but it has turned into having a best friend, and having someone to show what you’re working on and talk through the process.
Christensen now thinks of herself more as an artist, “It gives me a chance to go out in the community and people look at me like I don’t have a disability—a person who can do things, who is able to do a lot of stuff now.” Ribisi-Braley has kept a blog of their experiences at jamieribisi.blogspot.com. The Community supporting Arts project is featured on the Kennebec Valley Art Association’s website at http://harlowgallery.org/csa-community-supporting-arts/. More information on the Community Supporting Arts project can also be found at http://csaart.org/. For more information about Spindleworks' Artist:Artist Program, Contact Liz McGhee at 207/725-8820 or firstname.lastname@example.org.