Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Drawing Together

By C.J. Hirschfield

At Children’s Fairyland, we love artists and we love teachers. Oaklander Clare Szydlowski is both, and for the fourth consecutive year, she’ll be participating in our adults-only DrawnTogether event on Sept. 30.

That evening, Clare will be one of 50 local artists who will create Fairyland-inspired pieces as admiring guests look on. At the end of the evening, the art works will be sold for a flat $40 per piece; the proceeds will benefit our park and its programs for underserved kids.
Although the wine, music, tarot readings and fairy hair weaving are fun, it’s the opportunity to engage with talented artists that has made this such a popular event. Speaking from three years of experience, Clare says the feeling is mutual.

“Drawn Together is a celebration of the making process,” she says. “When you’re standing next to your framed art in a gallery, it can be socially awkward. But at Drawn Together, people who attend can engage in a natural way, not disassociated from the process.”

Clare says that if people get to know how an art piece was made, they come away with a memory of that experience whether or not they ultimately purchase the piece.

Clare Szydlowski at work in her studio.

For her, another benefit of Drawn Together is being able to interact with other artists. “It’s a cool time to catch up, and I always meet at least one new artist.” Also a treat: “Enjoying a park you never get to see unless you have a kid.”

A native of Buffalo, Clare moved to Southern California as a teen; she earned a BA from UC Santa Cruz and an MFA from San Francisco State University.  Her passion is screen printing, and she will be bringing her screen to Drawn Together. She has done some prepping beforehand, with the goal of producing multicolor prints of Fairyland’s iconic Magic Key floating in a bubble.

The first two layers -- cyan and magenta -- of Clare's screen print of Fairyland's Magic Key.

Clare notes that there will be some well-known artists in attendance, and she appreciates that fact that all art – no matter how famous its creator – will be sold for a flat fee. “We’re all being valued and honored at the same level,” is how she puts it.

When Shannon Taylor, Fairyland’s art and restoration director, found out that Clare teaches art at a high school in Redwood City, she started a conversation will result in a visit to Fairyland in October by 50 of Clare’s students. Like the adult artists at Drawn Together, the students will use the park as a muse to inspire their own art. Their Fairyland visit will also include time with Shannon in her workspace at the park. “I want them to see how artists can have jobs in the real world,” says Clare.

Clare says she’d always had the idea that she’d be an artist — but not necessarily a teacher. After nine years of teaching, she says she’s fallen in love with the profession. She reveres the art teachers who encouraged her, and she wants to inspire her students in the same way. Although she admits that teaching 170 kids a year is “a huge job,” she has come to realize that the experience makes her studio time “more precious.”

The printing table in Clare's studio, just after she'd printed the magenta layer of the Magic Key print.

When we came up with the great title of “Drawn Together” four years ago, we knew our goal was community building, but we didn’t anticipate all the ways in which we’d be connecting people to each other: artist to artist, artist to public, students to art. This year, for the first time, representatives from six local art galleries will also attend the event, connecting with new and established artists.

If you come to Drawn Together and see Clare making her art, be forewarned: “I can’t stand it when people tell me they’re not creative!” she says.

To see samples of Clare’s art, visit her website, americanhinterlands.com, or her Instagram account, @americanhinterlands. To learn more about Drawn Together, visit our Facebook event page. Tickets for Drawn Together are available at fairyland.org. Because alcohol will be served, no one under 21 will be admitted. This event sells out every year – buy your tickets now!

-- C.J. Hirschfield has served for 14 years as executive director of Children's Fairyland, where she is charged with the overall operation of the nation's first storybook theme park. 

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