I used to think that teaching was something other artists did because they could not paint and successfully sell their work. Yes, I was bit of a snob. How lovely to be wrong. Teaching is a sacred work.
I had sold my work consistently for almost a decade and completed commissioned work for up to fifteen thousand dollars. In another lifetime I had also spent over 25 years doing laundry, cleaning house, cooking, and maintaining homes and truly I wasn’t really very good at any of that. My heart wasn’t in it.
I was great though at talking to and encouraging my children. I loved my time with them. The rest just seemed to continually get in the way of making art, which is all I really ever thought about. I honestly thought that teaching too would get in the way of making art.
In 2017 after my son left for college, a three week stint working for a major retailer put my soul into complete and total rebellion. I knew that I was a creator and that I came here to create.
Luckily, I took the half day necessary to review my skill set and remembered that from 1995 to 1997 I had written and taught a unique Fine Art curriculum for Kindergarten through 8th grade at St. Josaphat School in Lincoln Park where my children were students. I remembered overhearing one of the school board members referring to my work as “an Act of Love”. I wish that I could thank them now for saying that. It made me remember that I could do that. I could teach creation.
I was so grateful for the support I received to begin. I have no idea where my initial students came from or how they found me in the small room in The Clarendon Hills Music Academy that over looked the main street in town.
What really surprised me were the students who told me their stories and then those who told me everything with their tears. I was very taken aback at the level of anxiety in small children and the relief that they felt when I explained that there were no rules and no mistakes when it came to making art.
Art was always the place where I made all of the rules and no one could tell me what to do or who to be. I felt that my students deserved the same respect and so I gave it to them. In return, they created beautiful, joyful art and allowed me into the magical world of childhood. I was privileged to see their hopes and dreams, souls and desires and I knew then that teaching would give me the sense of community and belonging that I deeply desired from the singular isolation of my studio.
From there came a connection and a gracious invitation from the Union Church in Hinsdale and the Maureen Claffy Art Academy was created on the second floor in the Art Room. More community, more home, so much gratitude from my heart for so much kindness as I began.
Then came an invitation from the director of The Union Church Early Childhood Program to create a Monday Afternoon Enrichment to coordinate with their dismissal times. Collaborating with the strong, generous and benevolent Jennifer was a true gift. When I asked her what parents wanted in a class that would follow upon dismissal, Jennifer replied “Parents are always asking for music and movement and art.”
Well that sounded amazing and so “Joyful Arts, Connected Kids” was born. And truly what a creation. I am so honored to work with Clara D’Onofrio whose original music I envision powering the spirits of children through every season of their school year. Her brilliance is Real. I knew immediately that I would ask Gail Ann Bradshaw to teach the movement piece. I have never met anyone like her. Her love for the human body and its beauty took my breath away.
I remember the child that I was growing up on the South Side of Chicago. My kind Mother signed me up for a park district class where I made a mosaic of a sail boat with dried beans and peas. I can not recall the teacher’s name or face and yet I remember the feeling of light and color in that classroom and I remember clearly that this was the moment where I became an artist.
And so it all makes me think what will happen and who Clara, Gail Ann and I will help inspire and encourage with our gifts. The gift of JACK Kids, Joyful Arts, Connected Kids is real and it is offered with our full hearts. I hope that you are as eager as I am so see who they grow to be, encouraged in beauty, in art, in song and in movement from a very tender age. Thank you for taking the time to read this and thank you for considering giving the gift of JACK to your child or children. The arts have the power to transform us all.
Let it begin.
With Love Always, Maureen Claffy
Hinsdale Central High School, 1982
Bachelor of Arts, French Literature and English Language, The University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 1986
Lettres Modernes, L’Universite d’Aix-Marseille, France 1984-85
Certificate of Painting, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, 2015