Saying everything without a word
Artist leads children in ‘quiet advocacy’ at PA Library
Not all ideas can be bound by rules and structure.
Some experiences and emotions are so complex and disorganized they can’t accurately be explained with the verbal and written systems of traditional language. Instead, artist Ted Ellis says, they must be shared in a language all their own.
“It’s funny because deep down, we are all the same. We are all one, we are all in this together — each person is important to the story of our communities,” Ellis said at the Port Arthur Public Library Saturday. “We share so many things that we try to articulate and represent with the words we’ve learned — when what we should be doing is sharing them with the words we don’t have to learn.
“Today I want to share how the arts heal and teach and bring us together. They generate the spark to make us do the right thing and be courageous when we are afraid. Art is a language of its own. It’s transformative, it’s educational — it’s everything. It says nothing, but it says everything. It’s quiet advocacy.”
Ellis, an artist nationally renowned for his depictions of African American history and culture, mentored a group of Port Arthur schoolchildren and community leaders Saturday afternoon during the Port Arthur Public Library’s “A Day of Art Appreciation” back-to-school celebration.
Carolyn Thibodeaux, Port Arthur Public Library children’s and young adult librarian said the afternoon dedicated to the arts — featuring Ellis, the Mexican Heritage Society Folkloric Dancers and the African American Cultural Society — aimed to propel the children in their education and cultural development.
“The reason I’m here is because you matter, right now,” Ellis said. “You guys are going to be able to speak through art today, and that message you put in will live in perpetuity.
“Each one of you can make change happen. Dare to dream, make it actionable, put forth the effort and the work, and watch wonderful things happen to you.”
José Martinez, director of the Port Arthur Public Library, said he wanted the children in the library Saturday to make connections between different art forms — literature, painting, dance, poetry — and the world around them.
“Art is all around you,” Martinez said. “In any field you go into — teaching, engineering, anything you can think of — there is art involved. And that’s beautiful.”
Ellis led the children in creating a three-piece mural he said represents the three most important things in a community.
“On one panel, we have the cultural center, which represents the essence of who we are and where we come from,” he said. “On another panel we have the church, which gives us our principles and shapes our morals. The last panel is the learning center — the school — where all knowledge in the community is gathered and passed down to the next generation. Once the panels are finished, each child is going to paint themselves holding hands to represent our togetherness in the community.”
Gloria Moreno, director of the Mexican Heritage Folkloric Dancers, brought three performers to demonstrate “The State of Veracruz” and asked the children to watch for the “proud history and heritage” on display in the dance.
Ellis said the heritage found in each movement of “The State of Veracruz” could be recreated with a paintbrush, a pen, a typewriter, a stage performance — any expression of art the children chose.
“That is the real beauty of art,” Ellis said. “If I just reach one child to spark that interest and see that passion, what can happen? I know what happened for me. In the 20-something years I’ve been on my magic carpet letting the art teach me, I’ve just let it bring me where it will.
“I’m accomplished in museums, in communities throughout the nation. I’ve done a lot of events in corporations, in schools, in community centers, but this is the first time I’ve done a session like this. I just hope they walk away feeling enthused, excited and engaged — ready to create.”
For more information about Ellis or his work, visit www.tellisart.com.
For more information about Port Arthur Public Library programs, (409) 985-8838.