Tag Archives: collaborative art

LIZ TRAN | Hilltop Elementary Mural | My Edmonds News

22 May

Art Beat feature: Hilltop Elementary unveils a mural of belonging

Posted: May 18, 2023

Principal Melissa Somoza and artist Liz Tran posing by their new mural with the Hilltop Student Council.

“This is the first time we have ever done an outside assembly,” Hilltop Elementary Principal Melissa Somoza told the sea of waiting students. “Hopefully, you know why you’re here today, this started because of you.”

The courtyard at the Lynnwood school was full of students, staff and representatives from the Edmonds School District gathered for an unveiling of a mural that was created in partnership with community grants, donations and PTSA funds.

The Hilltop Mural Club unveiling the mural.

Part of the school’s writing curriculum involves sending letters to Somoza on what students think could be different. In multiple letters, students asked to create a mural.

When the school decided to go ahead with the mural project, Somoza reached out to Tran over social media. Somoza saw local artist Liz Tran’s art in an Edmonds gallery years ago and fell in love with her style. “I’ve always thought ‘this is such kid-friendly art,’” she said. “It’s imperfect, its bright colors, every piece is unique. All the things that would make kids feel successful in art.” When she reached out, she thought, “there’s no way. She’s going to say no, but then she said yes! She’s been amazing. It has been an amazing experience and has brought our kids confidence as artists and in feeling a part of something.”

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Liz Tran and Melissa Somoza

Tran truly seems in her element with the students. She has worked with student artists before, but it was her first time helping children with a mural. “Working with kids is more fun,” she said. “They’re really creative and open and very honest. As adults we filter ourselves a lot, both creatively and in every way as a society. Kids don’t have that quite yet. There is a lack of self judgment.”

The mural

Tran says of the mural’s design: “We went with a tree. I have a strong connection to trees and the kids have a connection to trees, too. I mean, we’re from the Pacific Northwest. The tree represents Hilltop and the branches represent students.” Five hundred-plus students participated. She had each student artist paint a wooden circle with a design that represents themselves. Across the bottom, Tran added the words “We Belong at HIlltop,” which captures the school’s theme for the year, “Belonging.” The final product also includes a sound element from sonic architectural firm Memory is a Game. The firm incorporated audio from students as they created the mural to capture their thinking throughout the process.

“We Belong at Hilltop”

The school put together a mural club of students with an interest in art who also helped Tran paint the top of the tree. One student, fifth grader Violet Melllich, said she was drawn to participate in the mural club because “I like to do art on furniture. When I heard they were doing a mural club, I was like, ’oh my God I want to do it so bad.’”

Sixth grader Narayan Mitra wanted to join the mural club because “I have a huge passion about art. I really like to draw characters from games I’ve played. I just love to draw and make art, so I was really hyped about this. I was really glad when I joined. It was so much fun.”

Narayan went on to describe what he learned from the experience: “Being in more than other ways of art is really nice and really fun. And lots of other people can feel really connected to it.”

There certainly is a connection to the mural, beyond the students and teachers. There were many participants in the mural’s creation. Jennifer Blackstone, who is the school’s art docent, galvanized parent volunteers to help students paint their contributions. Additionally, the PTSA also provided support. Parent Julia Reynolds, whose daughter Jolie is a third grader at Hilltop, explained the PTSA’s involvement. “We had a grants program this year, so when Melissa brought this idea for a mural project with [Tran] we absolutely were right on board with it,” Reynolds said. “Our mission as a PTSA is to support the students and the community. This felt like an appropriate project to participate in, especially in supporting the arts.”

A closeup of some of the student circles.

With encouragement from Tran, who also fundraised for the project, the PTSA created an arts fund that will be used on a grant basis. Fundraising that is done beyond the cost of the mural will go into the arts fund. Readers who wish to donate can access the school’s PayPal here. Read more about the stages of the mural project on Hilltop’s smore page.

What’s next for Tran? She says the project “makes me want to teach, honestly. I’m thinking about programs in the future and replicating this. It’s so meaningful and has got to be the most rewarding project I’ve done, at least in a very long time.”

Melissa Samoza and Liz Tran, posing with the Hilltop Student Council

— By Elizabeth Murray

Photo by Brittany Gross

Elizabeth Murray is a freelance writer thankful to call Edmonds home. When she’s not busy wrangling her two kids (and husband), you can find her playing ukulele and singing with The Band LeLe.

Available artwork by LIZ TRAN

ROSEMARY FEIT COVEY in the Alexandria Times

20 Dec


City creatives: Rosemary Covey

Rosemary Covey first came to the Torpedo Factory at the age of 22 and has remained an artist at the art center for over 40 years. (Courtesy photo)

FacebooktwittermailBy Cody Mello-Klein | cmelloklein@alextimes.com

Art has never come easy to Rosemary Covey.

The long-time wood engraver and painter has spent the last 40 years at the Torpedo Factory with collections of her work on display around the world, yet the process of making her work hasn’t gotten easier. The challenge – the fear, “the edge,” in Covey’s words – is intrinsic to her work.

“You kind of have to skate this edge between being very uncomfortable and yet still being able to have the skills and be conscious yet almost unconscious at the same time,” Covey said. “As soon as you relax, the thing starts to not work. It can work, but it won’t have life to it.”

Given Covey’s preoccupation with death, fragility and the darker side of the natural world, the sentiment might seem at odds with her work, but her wood engravings and paintings come to life precisely because of that tension.

“My work has that duality to some extent,” Covey said. “It used to be what people always considered very dark with themes connecting to medicine and death and fragility. But out of that came a series of work that surprisingly had great, larger appeal.”

Covey was born in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1954, a time of intense social and political upheaval. She left the country at age 10 with her family because her father had been invited to pursue a Ph.D. in the U.S.

“Sins of the Fathers” (Courtesy image)

Covey’s formative memories of South Africa are still tinged with nostalgia – the memories of a child unaware of the time in which she was growing up, happy in the self-contained world of her family.

It’s also a nostalgia for the early days of her artistic curiosity. At five years old, Covey was expressing an interest in creative expression both in class and at home, where she worked on crafts with her grandmother.

“She had big boxes of scraps and we made things together all the time, so leaving South Africa was hard for me because she and I spent all our time together,” Covey said. “She was the biggest influence on my life ever.”

Covey and her family ended up moving to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where her father finished his Ph.D. at the University of Michigan. The family then moved to Ashfield, Massachusetts, where Covey’s father had secured a position at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

In Ashfield, Covey’s passion for the arts continued to blossom. An art teacher at Williston Northampton School introduced her to print engraving at the age of 14; Covey returned years later, after college, to learn wood engraving from the same teacher.

Covey was set on the path. She knew she wanted to make art, but, like many artists, she found barriers at every turn. Her parents warned her about the scary, impractical path of an artist. Collectors and artists openly questioned her ability at portfolio showings.

The cynics only strengthened Covey’s determination. Covey’s early career was defined by finding a way around the blockades that were thrown up around her, she said.

Covey’s parents refused to pay for her college education, so she left Cornell University after two years. At 18 years old, she married a man who helped support her artistic ambitions, but after divorcing at 21, Covey found herself in need of a way to support herself financially.

“Then I’m on my own at 22 and I have to make a living,” Covey said. “My parents were like, ‘Now you’re on your own.’ So, coming [to Alexandria] I started doing commissions and slowly it became my career and way of making a living.”

Covey immediately fell in love with Alexandria. The history and character of the city were captivating, and the detail of the streets was like catnip for a wood engraver, Covey said.

“Red Handed” (Courtesy image)

Wood engraving, at its most fundamental, involves carving an image into a block of wood, applying ink to the face of the block and pressing the ink onto a surface to leave an impression.

It’s a process that is easy to learn but difficult to master, partially because of the intense concentration it requires, Covey said.

“You can’t make a mistake and if you do, you have to incorporate it, which really creates that panic, nervous energy that I think propels work,” Covey said.

Prints created through wood engraving also need to be designed in reverse, since the print will be ultimately be a reverse image of the original design. The reverse engineering makes executing facial expressions difficult for many engravers, but Covey said her dyslexia helps.

“I have extreme dyslexia. I have problems with all kinds of simple tasks, but the reversing of things comes more naturally [to me] than it might [to others],” Covey said. “It’s very difficult to do facial expression and … to get a likeness of any sort when you reverse it, but it helps to have dyslexia.”

Covey came to the Torpedo Factory in 1976, two years after it opened as an arts center. Although she can trace thematic patterns in her work all the way back to those early days, her work has evolved creatively and procedurally.

Death and fragility are still at the core of her work, but Covey has started to find new ways to explore themes that have captivated artists forcenturies.

In collaboration with botanists, evolutionary biologists and entomologists, Covey now finds new inspiration in the natural world, the duality of decaying lifeforms and life under the microscope.

“Insects” (Courtesy image)

Her series called “Insects” came out of a residency at Blue Mountain Center in the Adirondacks. Combining printing and painting, Covey depicted the bodies of butterflies and dragonflies as beaten and bruised yet beautiful.

“[One entomologist] said, as a scientist, you see them under the microscope and they’re battered and beaten and their wings and their short life are scratched,” Covey said. “They’re not pristine. And what I had been noticing was that, as they lie dead, they strike these human poses.”

Another series of prints and paintings focused on fungi and lichens and the above ground beauty that masks monumental, monstrous rooted webs just below the surface, Covey said.

“I don’t do it, when I work with a scientist, to be an illustrator or scientific illustrator,” Covey said. “[I’m] not interested in that at all. I’m interested in what they can tell me that sparks my visual imagination.”

Covey’s science-inspired and research-driven work hasn’t been limited to just insects and mushrooms.

“David with Astrocytes (Brain Tumor 8)” was part of an intimate series of portraits that captured the eponymous David, a man Covey had met at her Torpedo Factory studio, in various stages of treatment for a brain tumor.

“He looked really haunted. … He’d had all this surgery and you could sort of see what happened behind his eyes, that something monumental had happened,” Covey said. “He hired me [and] I ended up working for him for three years to do a piece on his brain tumor experience.”

“David with Astrocytes (Brain Tumor 8)” (Courtesy image)

Collaboration has become an integral part of Covey’s process, whether it’s incorporating a partner’s scientific knowledge or pieces from fellow artists.

“The best thing in the world is to find other people that are crazy about what they’re doing and that fits with what you’re doing,” Covey said.

Her process has changed even as she uses the same tools. Covey said she’s still driven by the same unknowable passion to create that drove her when she was alone at 22.

“It’s the same exact thing and I still don’t know quite what it is,” Covey said. “You get the idea in your head and then you have to push it. And you’re hoping that you’re gonna push it and it’s going to be better than anything you ever did before. … Once I’ve done it, I’m not even concerned anymore. It’s getting it there.”

For Covey, the elusive “there” is a place she can’t stop working toward.

“That’s the goal,” Covey said. “You hopefully never stop.”

(Read the first entry in the City Creatives series: Alexis Gomez)

Click HERE to view available mixed media works and rare wood engravings by ROSEMARY FEIT COVEY.

or contact:

Morton Fine Art, 52 O St NW #302, Washington, DC 20001


(202) 628-2787