Tuesday, August 27, 2013

They’re off!

Scores of high school, college and recently graduated college boys and girls have graced our home this summer. I’ve gotten to know a few new kids and grown closer to those we’ve spent countless hours with over the years. All of these young adults have shown kindness and compassion towards our family and Jimmy. I am so grateful for these kids whose interests represent a wide range activities and skills.  Their best trait is that they are all fine human beings.
Kelly, Jack, Jimmy, Patrick and Ned 1997

This summer was a difficult one for our family from the standpoint that Jimmy has been struggling since last spring.  As we work to find solutions for his challenging healthcare issues, his behavior and sleep patterns are often aberrant leaving our family exhausted.    

Each of our kids has a close group of friends, Ned: Mitch, Michael, Brian, JT and Renner: Patrick: Luke, Andy, Shane, Alec (a host of girls too); Jack: Chris, Janey, Ben, JP and Pat; Kelly: Laura, Coco and Noelle as well as her host of friends in Boston who snap chat, text and call. I’ll call this group, “The Kids”.  I am so grateful for the support that “The Kids” offer my kids.  They need the support and I appreciate the countless acts of kindness that are shown to our children.

Josh Harrod, Kelly, Jimmy,
Jack, Patrick and Ned 2012
Sea Bird Island, Florida
We delivered Patrick and Jack to St John’s University in Collegeville last Thursday.  Three weeks prior to leaving for SJU, we found out that Patrick had to have surgery on his arm. Not the best situation to show up at SJU in a cast unable to move his own things into school.  But, that was okay because the SJU swim/dive team came to help move Patrick into his room.  Patrick will be swimming and diving for SJU this year. The coach called last week as did the team captain to report that they would move Patrick into his room.  I have a feeling we will have additions to “The Kids” group.

Ned started school yesterday as junior at St. Thomas Academy.  Ned and his pals stopped at our house before football practice yesterday.  Last Wednesday night when we were plating up our back to school dinner, Ned grabbed a goblet and it broke in his hand sending us to the ER for stitches in his hand.  Happily, he is
St Thomas Academy Football Team
back to football today with a wrap over the stitches. I am amazed at how quickly 16 year old boys change in a summer. Ned and his friends look more like men this school year than the boys they were last spring.

Today, my house is clean and picked up.  The beds are made.  The throws are neatly folded on the couches. The dishes are done and the garbage isn’t full. The countless numbers of shoes, socks, shorts, towels and swimsuits are back in their places.  This past summer my house was littered with all these things and I didn’t really mind.  I was glad to have the house full of happy people.

To “The Kids” and my kids…...have a fabulous school year and we’ll be here for you.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

What's in a Signature Part II

Jimmy presenting his painting "Girl from Egypt" in
May 2013 at the Owatonna Center for the Arts 
As many of know, verbal language is a challenge for Jimmy on a daily basis.  Jimmy’s emergence as an artist began with illness.  In May of 2013, Jimmy presented his art to a large group at the Owatonna Center for the Arts.  After the presentation, a woman asked me if I thought we would have discovered Jimmy’s love of art if he hadn’t gotten sick.  I didn’t have to think for very long as I answered, “no, I don’t think that we would have found art for him.” Until Jimmy was in 6th grade, I always imagined him in college.  He was smart.  He had a great memory….sure, he’d need supports…but, I never gave up the idea of college for him until his health so severely eroded and the words he had gained slipped away… only then, I gave up my dream for him.  I discouraged school staff from mainstreaming Jimmy for classes like art and music even though he enjoyed both. Many kids with special needs are only mainstreamed for classes that I would consider to have had less “meat” than reading,  math, science and social studies. I didn’t want him shuffled into these classes as it signified for me, I’d given up on him. 

Jimmy at Good Purpose Gallery in Lee, MA with his paintings
"Goodbye Ron",
"Girl in the Forrest", "Elizabeth" and "Jim" 
In many school settings, kids with special needs get placed into art and music classes for mainstreaming.  Jimmy was great at social studies and science.  He could read well. So, I was not hot on Jimmy being in art class as a means of mainstreaming…..where would this get him in the future??? Jimmy was mainstreamed for many classes that I felt had "meat".  So, he had less time for art and music.  Although, he did take them.  Instead of choir class, Jimmy played baritone in the middle school band...a first for the middle school and he was good at it. It was only when he got sick and we were trying to find a way to engage him that we discovered his true love of and motivation for art.  He loves learning about artists.  He spends hours during the week reading about artists.  I print articles and he loves reading about famous artists …seems to never get old for him.  I don't regret not learned about his art aptitude until he was older as he learned many valuable skills in the mainstream classes that he took.  It helped us to learn how he learned when he felt well.

"Mad Cat" 11"x14" Oil Pastel on Paper, 2013 inspired
by Dutch Expressionists
In 2008 as Jimmy’s health improved, his artwork provided a voice for him.  Those who saw his artwork began to see him differently and see potential.  His artwork was certainly a catalyst for improving his sense of self and wellbeing. 

Jimmy works hard to communicate to us how he feels.  I have often referred to him as the blade of grass that grows through the tar…come hell or high water, he will make his point. When he was about 5, he taught himself sign language over the course of a weekend after my daughter brought a sign language book home from school.  Verbal language was illusive to him at that time.  We all learned how to sign the alphabet and used this for several years with Jimmy. …it was concrete, visual and made sense to him. He taught us how to best communicate with him at the time. We still occasionally use signing to lead him to verbalize. 

Jimmy’s art continues to be his voice for us as a family.  His art speaks volumes to us as it often helps to tell us how he feels.  Over the last several months, his sketchbook has shown panic, rash work lacking detail and the quality we’ve grown to know. Although he still is producing very interesting works, it isn’t at the same pace that it had been.  He recently produced a very interesting piece called, “Face.”  He created this piece from a close up black and
"Face" 11"x14" Oil Pastel on Paper, 2013
white photo of a face.  He outlined the light and dark parts of the face on the photo with a pen and translated what he saw to paper with oil pastel and loads of color. This is a technique that he often uses.  When I posted the piece on Facebook.  I was stunned at what people saw in the piece….one elephant, two elephants, one face, two faces, a fish and a dog.  It is a very interesting piece.  Last week, he had to sign several new pieces before I had them scanned.  Since early May, we have been back and forth with doctors as he’s been losing weight, not sleeping, vomiting and complaining of stomach pain. He was struggling the day I asked him to sign his works. So, I shouldn't have been surprised when he signed “Face” upside down in yellow.  The upside down yellow signature was barely visible. Then he took an oil pastel and covering up the yellow signature….I said, “hey, Jim your name is upside down.  With intent, he took a darker color and signed upside down again in the same place.  He looked at me and said, “sick.” 
Clearly, he was making a point with me…he must feel upside down….”sick.” 

After being scoped last week, we can confirm his pain and illness.  Resolution of his conditions are another story.  But, we are on the complicated path to reduce his pain and put him back on strong footing.

"Girl from Egypt" Jimmy's work
will be
included in a
special installation
at the Northern Trust Collectors Lounge
 (or other location tbd)
September 19th through the 22nd
on Navy Pier.

So, what’s in a signature for Jimmy?  His signature tells us who he is and now how he feels.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Jimmy Reagan is a Northern Trust Featured Artist at the EXPO CHGO September 19th - 22nd. Jimmy's work will be included in a special installation at the Northern Trust Collectors Lounge (or other location tbd) at EXPO CHGO, September 19th through the 22nd on Navy Pier. 
.....not sure what we will send? 

Check out the video for Art Week- will be a fabulous week of fun in September! .  
Here are some pieces that are in the running for the expo: 

Two Guys - 24"x30"
 Acrylic on Canvas 2013 

Girl from France - 24"x30"
Acrylic on Canvas 2013

Johnny Bravo Self Portrait
24"x30" Acrylic on Canvas 2013
Girl from Egypt
Acrylic on Canvas 2012
Goodbye Ron
24"x30" Acrylic on Canvas 2012
Man with Sad Face
24"x30" Acrylic on Canvas 2012

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

What's in a Signature?

Bobiam Gallery Uptown Minneapolis
Minnesota - Exhibition April 2013
On Sunday April 7th, 2013 Bobiam Gallery in Minneapolis hosted a reception for Jimmy.  He is exhibiting at the gallery for the month of April. Several years ago, Jimmy was invited to be one of Bobiam’s first T-Shirt artists.  Last fall, Bill Farrell from Bobiam asked if Jimmy would consider an exhibition in their Minneapolis Gallery. 
Bobiam - 2nd floor Lagoon and Hennepin
Minneapolis, Minnesota 

We agreed and decided that April would be the right time.  I didn’t think about it until later that April is Autism Awareness month and April 2nd is designated by the United Nations as World Autism Day. So, April is a good month for Jimmy to show his work.  
Goodbye Ron - on exhibition
at the Good Purpose Gallery
Lee, MA April and May 2013
He is also exhibiting in Lee Massachusetts in April and May at the Good Purpose Gallery and will have his painting Maggie Live Auctioned on April 28th to raise money for the University of St Thomas Scholarship fund.

The Bobiam reception was attended by a nice sized crowd….some folks I knew and many that I did not.  Jimmy’s speech pathologist from elementary school was in attendance.  She is a very skilled and open minded woman whom I’ve always respected.  She worked with Jimmy when we were full of hope that he would recover his language.  She walked through the Gallery surprised and enjoying Jimmy’s work.  She and I were talking in front of one of his paintings and she remarked “look at his signature.  It’s the same as
it was when I worked with him.”  She paused in thought…..what are we teaching? She and I remember regular discussions with school staff about the importance of using upper and lower case letters….working on cursive….does it really matter? No, it doesn’t. Was making sure that Jimmy capitalized letters properly or learned cursive helping him to communicate?  The question might be where should we focus our time and spend our resources? What tools should measure success?  What goals are important? What will create future value?

Man with Pipe - signature on face
Dad signature in the eye
Jimmy’s signature in his artwork is unique in the color he signs in and the locations where he signs…..To those of us in the mainstream, his signature is present in very curious locations like in the eye of a subject as in his piece titled Dad  or on the face as in Man with Pipe or in a vase of flowers as in 
Dr Barnes - can you see the
signature in the flowers?
Dr. Barnes.  To Jimmy, these locations make perfect sense. To many of the rest of us…..shouldn’t it be in the lower right or left corners? Isn’t that what we were taught? 

Last year, I received a call from a man who had attended WineFest, the University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital event where Jimmy had been the Featured Artist.  This fellow runs a division of a large national company in the Twins Cities. When he called, he told me that he was driving to work one day and saw the WineFest billboard that had Jimmy’s painting CafĂ© at Night on it.
Cafe at Night - University of Minnesota
Amplatz Children's Hopsital
WineFest No 17
Featured Artist
He noted the artwork and wanted to know who the artist was…..he loved the painting. So, he googled WineFest to see the painting in full view.  He thought….now that is an interesting signature?????It looks so different….perhaps, child like yet the painting is so sophisticated and full of vibrant color.  So, he googled Jimmy……and learned about the artist.  He attended WineFest and was struck by both Jimmy’s artwork and his challenges.  It was the art and Jimmy’s unique signature that attracted this man’s attention.  This experience had
Jimmy Reagan on the roof top of Seven
restaurant in Downtown Minneapolis
with one of his billboards.
such a profound impact on this man that he asked me to come and talk with some of his employees.  It opened his eyes to something totally unexpected and valuable. 

So….what’s in a signature?  Changing minds and attitudes? I hope so. What does Jimmy’s signature say about him? Who he is?  He is an artist? He doesn’t see life in a conventional way and that’s okay……in fact, it’s beautiful and valuable.
Jimmy Reagan with Target Corp employees
at Sunfish Cellars for Jimmy's Erik's Minnesota
Adventures tour.
Coloring contest winner selection

Jimmy’s artwork with his unique signature has raised over $25,000 this year for organizations in the Twins Cities.

What’s in your signature?