We’re now several weeks into our ‘stay-at-home’ order. During the first days, we evaluated our work situation. Meetings with staff determined who would work from home and who would continue to look after Ilan-Lael’s gardens and buildings.

Of course our beloved artists-in-residence depend on us as much as we depend on them. Jim and Anne are doing well, by the way. Going a bit stir crazy, like all of us, but they are staying put and enjoying a pause from their normally jam-packed calendar of studio and foundation activities.

I call Jim regularly. We discuss work a little less and changes to our lives a little more. I value these conversations very much. Jim has a broad view of life, yet he distills his thoughts into simple ideas that carry great meaning. We talk of the curious place we find ourselves in right now, and how this moment is already giving rise to many changes. He has personal experience with such times … his maternal grandparents both died during the Spanish Flu outbreak in 1918-1919, leaving his mother an orphan at the age of 7. Relatives took her in, but that tragedy changed her life. She spent her life searching, Jim thinks, for the love of a family lost, which resulted in multiple marriages and many moves from place to place. Jim attended 13 different schools in 12 years, never putting down roots. This vagabond existence drove the shy boy to find comfort in nature and his art. From personal loss and deep pain, an artist was born.

In a moment the likes of which we haven’t seen before, I find myself wondering, as the chief executive of an arts education non-profit, does art matter? Art and cultural experiences are often seen as a luxury, when in fact we are being reminded right now how essential they are.
In times of crisis, our collective yearning for art grows immense. The creativity inside us emerges, connecting us across our self-imposed distances, and sharing laughter and beauty, hope and faith so we can weather the storm together.

Because art has become a necessary outlet for so many, we launched the #TrustLifeProject. Jim supplied the first few drawings, inspired by an early spring snowfall that enhanced Ilan-Lael’s architectural beauty. We invite you to join in! Please share the moments and images that bring calm, comfort, serenity, and hope to your life. You can see the posts from our community on our Facebook page, Instagram feed, and on our website’s Juicer bar (at the bottom of the home page).

It’s clear to me that art matters very much. Art soothes the psyche. Art nourishes us, and never more than when we ache or fear. Art and creativity are embedded in all of us — enhancing our sense of self, the strength of our community, and the fullness of our humanity. Who knows how many artists are being born now, and what wonders the future holds when we come out on the other side.
—Marianne Gerdes

From the Spring 2020 Issue of Hidden Leaves


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