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Little sparks of joy

Little sparks of joy - (25-10-2023)

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PHOTO: Artists Claire Galbraith (left) and Kerry J. Stucky pose in front of their mural commissioned by the Jefferson Foundation. The pair conspired for several months to design and paint the piece that reflects aspects of the local area, including the monastery of the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. (Photo courtesy of Claire Galbraith)

If you ask artist Claire Galbraith what types of projects are her favorites, her answer is quick and heartfelt.

“There is no better feeling than watching someone get overwhelmed with emotions when they see the magic you created for them,” she says.

One of her most recent projects was also her largest when she was commissioned to paint a mural for her alma mater, Jefferson C-123 in Conception Junction, Missouri.

The Jefferson Foundation approached her about painting a mural for the school, desiring an enduring piece that would reflect the area’s historical components and the communities the school serves.

That includes what’s colloquially known as the Tri-C Area, named for the three communities that call it home: Conception, Conception Junction, and Clyde. The mural depicts landmarks, the school and homes surrounded by rolling green hills of farmland.

Converting a three-dimensional subject like a building into two dimensions onto a flat wall proved a bit tricky for Galbraith. So making sure she treated each town and object with balance meant taking a little artistic license on placement and proportion.

“It’s not a map,” she insists, for those who might wonder why the locations of some components seem off. Instead, it’s a reflection of all the things the area represents, and what Galbraith refers to as “little sparks of joy.”

One of those sparks includes the monastery for the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Clyde.

“I used to work at OLR (Our Lady of Rickenbach, the Congregation’s health care facility), so I knew that we had to incorporate the convent and show its beauty,” Galbraith said.

Working alongside Galbraith for the project was Kansas City-area artist Kerry J. Stucky, whom the Foundation recommended serve as mentor to the young artist.

In collaboration with the Foundation, Galbraith and Stucky spent months conceptualizing the project and working on sketches. Once the committee approved the design, the pair began work in earnest in July 2023.

“We would come up with lists of things for her to address and accomplish while I was working back in the Kansas City area, and she skillfully accomplished everything on those lists,” Stucky said. “(Claire’s) face would beam when I would walk back in the door. She did such an incredible job, and watching her confidence take off was a thrill for me.”

For Stucky, mentoring Galbraith wasn’t a difficult task and recalled her being an “absolute sponge for new knowledge.”

“Her ability to paint an image was already there,” Stucky remarked. “Learning new products, techniques and time savers provided so much excitement for her creative mind.”

Galbraith is equally appreciative of Stucky’s talents.

“Kerry has been such a mentor and friend to me,” she said. “There’s no way I could have produced this kind of result without her.”

Galbraith said one of the most challenging aspects of the project was knowing when to stop adding or changing elements to the mural.

“Even today, I could probably think of five more things I wish I could have added,” she said.

And it’s that connectedness with the mural - and with the people and communities it represents - that made Galbraith a perfect choice for the project.

“I enjoyed making the little details the most,” she admits, “the things you might not be able to see unless you’re really close and in person. When people come to look at (the mural) and find a piece they can connect with, that is my favorite thing about this project.”