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Dragons and Art for Chinese New Year 2012 in Jacksonville

Chinese New Year's Parade, Jacksonville 2012

Jacksonville's Resident Dragons and Lions ring in the Year of the Dragon

Chinese New Year is my favorite Jacksonville day. The parade is during the day, it’s not freezing, lots of people come to town and we get a packed schedule of Oriental arts and culture for a day. Having grown up in what’s now Silicon Valley, Chinese New Year in San Francisco was a childhood thrill I’ve never forgotten, and somehow our little town’s version of the celebration always takes me back. Dragon years in particular remind me of my mother. Last year I looked up my Chinese horoscope (the Rabbit) and found that a Rabbit with a Dragon mother is fortuitous, as the Rabbit child will be creative. Nice work, Mom! She’s not an artist and didn’t really teach me to be creative, but her example of overall creative living was so inspiring. Though her house is spotless, with impeccable interior decorating, and mine is anything but, I hope something of her influence was what caused me to put all my creative energy into creating SOAR for the artists of Southern Oregon.

Last year I spoke with Tami Lohman, art teacher to the elementary students at St Mary’s School, about a show of her student’s work at the GoodBean. When it came down to the final preparations, she had to step aside as her kids got the gig to create dragons for this year’s parade, and Betsy Moore, who teaches the kids in grades 8-12, got the space for her St Mary’s High School art students instead. Naturally I was thrilled to see beautiful hearts galore from Betsy’s students come in to hang on the walls, and was really looking forward to seeing the dragons created and performed by Tami’s younger kids.

Chinese New Year's Parade, Jacksonville 2012

Flight of the Dragon, by Cheryl D. Garcia, The Great Metal Works

Excited about the day, I was up with the sun and went over to the Children’s Museum to meet Tami…an hour early! I needed coffee, so I walked over to the GoodBean and bought a bag of their Swiss Water Decaf (yum! I think it’s better than the full-strength stuff I can’t drink anymore. Never thought I’d say that!) and walked back home. Who did I meet on the way but Cedric the Dragon, the creation of Cheryl D. Garcia (actual title of the piece is “Flight of the Dragon”), who made him as part of a trade with artist Katharine Gracey. Wow, is he spectacular! So I snapped several shots of him with great admiration and continued home.

Chinese New Year's Parade, Jacksonville 2012

Art teacher Tami Lohman organizes her students just prior to the parade

And made coffee.  At 9:30 I went back over to meet Tami. What a beauty! She was having fun being completely overwhelmed with the task of organizing all those kids, but graciously took a few minutes to talk with me. I snapped shots of the dragon heads her kids made and looked forward to seeing the kids surrounding “becoming” the dragons they had made. They didn’t disappoint! And what wonderful experiences a child can have as a result of a good art program in school…and fabulous art teachers like Tami and Betsy guiding them.

I’ll let the pictures tell the rest of the story and leave you to enjoy the wonderful blend of art and artists, kids and grownups having fun like kids, color, drums and  hula dancers (another special treat for me – my mom was born and raised on the Big Island) we’re enjoying on a particularly pleasant February morning (how does the weather always turn out beautiful for our festival?) If you didn’t make it here yourself this morning, I hope this will entice you to make plans for next year. There are so many great artistic and cultural activities happening right now I can hardly believe it, so rather than wear myself out trying to catch them all, I’m going to sit back and enjoy watching the throngs of people who did come today enjoy some arts and culture Jacksonville-style. And start looking forward to next year.

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