Anne Cook and Will Mosgrove Give back to Moke Hill
When Anne Cook and husband Will Mosgrove retired from illustration (Anne) and teaching photography (Will) and moved to Mokelumne Hill five years ago, they fulfilled a vision. “Our dream had been to move a place where we could bring our art background and make difference,” Anne said.
They started out by purchasing the H.M. Sturges building at the end Main Street in Moke Hill and turning it into an arts playground, which was another dream they’d had, to have an storefront that was open on a whim, and offered classes and space to make projects. “We had it for 3 years,” Anne said, before they sold it last year. “It wasn’t working out,” she said, admitting that when they made the choice to sell it, they felt as if a weight had lifted from their shoulders.
Even though the storefront is closed, Anne said, “We're still operating Acme Art Moke Hill. We're working out of our home. Most of what we do except my mosaics class is taught off premises. It's a lot simpler.”
Oodles of Doodles
Anne and Will are still making a difference. Most of what they do is volunteer. If they are paid, for example by the Calaveras Arts Council, to teach at a local school, “it goes right back in to art supplies that we give out to the community,” she said.
These supplies help them offer a free art class at the Moke Hill Library once a month that they call Oodles of Doodles. “Oodles of Doodles has been going about a year now,” Anne said. “It happens the third Friday of every month at our library here in Moke Hill. It goes for two hours and you can drop in for however long, or stay for the whole two hours.” She offers guidance if people want it, but she said that usually people know what to do. It’s open to all ages, and it’s free. Anne and Will offer a different project every month, ranging from painting rocks, to drawing, to making aluminum Christmas ornaments inspired by their trip to Mexico City. But you don’t have to do the project if you don’t want. “We have stations where people just sit and color,” she said.
Since the Covid-19 shut down, Oodles of Doodles hasn’t been able to meet in person, so Anne has been trying to figure out how the community can still enjoy art together. She created a froggy coloring sheet that’s available to download on their Facebook page; printed copies were available to pick up outside at the library.
Summer Art Camp
The complications of Covid have impacted another long term commitment that Anne and Will oversee: Summer Art Camp.
Five ears ago Anne and Will took over Summer Art Camp, a low-cost way for local kids ages 4 to 16 to learn about the arts. Sponsored by the Mokelumne Hill Community Historical Trust, Summer Art Camp had been nurtured by Ed Cline, and Anne and Will were receptive to his vision of the future.
Ed’s dream had been to make it a fine art camp with music, dance, theater, and art, so Anne and Will set out to expand. “A couple years ago we were able to find a drama teacher and a music teacher,” she said. The core of what Anne teaches at the camp is visual arts. “I concentrate mostly on modern art,” she said, “although we have done things like portraits made by painting with vegetables ala Archimboldo, a Renaissance artist.. I’ve taught about Renaissance art. I teach everything from drawing to painting to collage.”
This summer—Covid Summer—presents a challenge. Traditionally Summer Art Camp meets in the Moke Hill Town Hall, where they have room for around 70 kids. “But this year because of this new normal, we can’t meet in the town hall,” Anne said. She’s working on art kits made up of inventory they’ve been amassing over the years from donations and careful purchases. “If anyone wants an art kit this year, there will be no charge,” she said. “I'm putting together kits for 30 kids. Each kit will have watercolors, some drawing, and we like to focus our lessons on particular artists.” The kits will be distributed through Mokelumne Hill Elementary and Toyon Middle School.
Working at home
For her own private art practice, Anne has been enjoying staying at home time very much, and has been productive, working on mosaics, jewelry, Oodles of Doodles projects, resin, drawing, and coloring. “I painted over 150 rocks for the Kindness Rocks Project,” she said, referencing the popular internet rock painting phenomenon. “I’ve been shipping boxes of rocks all over the country to friends and family. I shared 50 rocks in town over Easter.”
“The last couple of months I got to do whatever I wanted.”
Anne admitted that when she deactivated her social media accounts (Will runs their Facebook page), it helped to free her creative spirit. But she’s also just loving retirement. “I’ve have been so liberated by no longer making art for commerce. If I have pieces for sale, it usually goes to charity. I’m not a commercial artist anymore!”
“I’ve also been a little aimless,” she admitted. “It has been nice to do what ever I want to do.”
Isolation has given this ceramic artist time to think
For ceramic sculptor Marlene Bradford, the nation’s isolation order during the time of Covid-19 has been a time of introspection about her art. “It’s been great having the time,” she said. “I enjoy working by myself. Although I also enjoy having company.”
This enforced time-out came just as Marlene started to pull back from perpetual activity. For the last seven years, she’s been a popular teacher of clay sculpture at Quyle Kilns, where she has instructed many in the skill of how to roll, knead, bend and convince clay to take animal and human form. But recently she gave up teaching regular classes, preferring to teach small groups or individuals on request. “I’ll be 87 in June,” she said. “I don’t have the energy I had before, or the patience.”
When you take a class from Marlene, you tap into a life dedicated to art. She has always been an artist, and she returned to college in her 40s to complete a major in art. Clay is her first love. “I like the way it feels. I like being able to move it around and change it back and forth and create my ideas using the clay.”
Her ideas, brought to life in clay, bring smiles to viewers. She still has a big presence at Quyle Kilns, where ceramic faces and animals peer from the walls, smile mysteriously, and catch your gaze and make you smile. Making the viewer happy is what Marlene intends.
She doesn’t strive for strict accuracy in her animal sculptures. Instead, she tries to express her feelings about them. “I really want to bring joy through it, and have people enjoy looking at my pieces.”
“The reason I say that is because there are many pieces of art that are not about joy. They are expressions of sadness and illness. That isn’t what I want to think about and express. I enjoy trying to reproduce the shape and idea of different animals. And again, I want them to look peaceful. With them I want to express some kind of good thoughts.”
Her portraits of people reflect not just a physical likeness but also the emotional personality of the subject. She honed her accuracy with acts of generosity. “I started having people I know pose for me so I could practice. I said if you like it I’ll give it to you. That’s how I got my technique worked out.” Her commissioned portraits of two doctors—Dr. Milton Ben Smith and Dr. Dante Albasio—greet people at Mark Twain Medical Center.
Now sheltering at home, she spends time in her studio in Murphys working on a series of pieces intended for totems, large pieces of art that comprise animals, figures, and objects.
Isolation has given her a chance to delve more deeply into her work. “It’s a chance to concentrate on your own ideas and think about what you’re doing. Often we want to discuss things with other artists or teachers. This is a good time to really look inside of ourselves and try things and see if they’re going to work. And figure out how to do something, or what we want to do. What you want people to think about it.”
Keep working during this time. “If you start something, it will be on your mind. You’ll be thinking about it and then you’ll want to get back to it.”
She welcomes the chance to pull out her own ideas and not be influenced by another person. Isolation has made her more thoughtful, sometimes changing her creative plans overnight as she’s slept on an idea. Isolation has made her work more deeply personal.
And so the work goes on, although she admits that she hasn’t been working everyday. “There are other things to think about. The garden. Friends to talk to.” But she encourages others to work creatively during this time. “If you start something, it will be on your mind. You’ll be thinking about it and then you’ll want to get back to it.”
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