By Johnna Laird
When case manager Jenny Lin convinced my daughter, Kendra, to take her afternoon art class, she opened incredible doors for Kendra. New to FCSN, Kendra was a less than enthusiastic art student, but Jenny persisted and Kendra blossomed.
At the same time, I was attending Family Seminars that Anna Wang, Vice President of Enrichment Programs and Community Relations, who repeatedly promoted the idea that parents must be the mover-shakers to help their adult children establish themselves in vocations and avocations. I listened carefully as she brought in speaker after speaker, including a parent in Newark who opened an ice cream shop to ensure that her adult son had work and friends. My husband and I had tried a vending machine business with our daughter but that had not worked out. Before FCSN, we had enlisted Kendra in a few volunteer experiences, but none had led to a passion and none had led to work.
The more Anna talked about the role of parents the more I felt determined to somehow help Kendra. When I saw the poppies that Kendra painted in Jenny’s afternoon art class, I saw a possibility – the possibility of turning the painting into a greeting card. I loved the colors and the simplicity of the flowers blowing in the wind.
While making a little pocket money would be good for her, I realized it would be a powerful experience just to have an interest that would break even. I had no idea the opportunities that this would create. After a couple of false starts, I found a print shop in Santa Cruz that was willing to help, even printing business cards and enthusiastically welcoming me each time I came with a new piece of art work. A friend took a picture of Kendra to go on the back of her cards, giving some credit to FCSN.
When Jenny ended her classes, Kendra continued lessons with Daphne Devine. When Daphne moved on from FCSN to another program, Kendra continued twice monthly lessons on weekends with Daphne.
Events happened so quickly I can barely remember them all. I entered Kendra’s work in the Alameda County Fair with her permission and with the idea of helping to show capabilities. She received a number of ribbons that encouraged her. Olive Hyde, the art gallery in Fremont, published a call for artwork for its holiday show and Kendra entered without my knowing. She was invited to participate in the holiday show and presented 15 different card designs.
Wei-Jen, the editor of the FCSN newsletter, heard about Kendra’s paintings and encouraged Friends Coffee & Tea to showcase Kendra’s art for three months in spring 2018. Customers bought cards and even though her artwork wasn’t for sale two paintings were sold accidentally to a family in Berkeley. With these encouraging responses, we joined the Fremont Art Association to allow Kendra to sell her cards at the shop in Niles. Two months later, the Art Association called asking Kendra to create a mini-show. Thirty of her paintings went on display and for sale from June to September in 2019. Five paintings sold, and the Berkeley family agreed to lend the paintings they had acquired, a cow and an elephant, for the mini show. A painting that had been commissioned for a family member in North Carolina was shipped back in time for the Fremont Art Association show.
Kendra once again entered new creations at the Alameda County Fair, but this year, there were no ribbons, only the comment to bring back the art work to accompany the cards which we could not do this year because practically every painting was on display at the Art Association.
Every month Kendra asks, “How much did I sell?” Every sale matters to her. When Hope Church, next door to FCSN, has held its yard sales, Kendra makes sure to sign up. At the last sale, she earned $20, sitting for four hours to sell 10 cards. But during that time, people came up and complimented on her work. Every time someone says, “I really like your artwork” she feels encouraged, and she beams.
None of this could have happened without FCSN and the village that FCSN has brought together, people of goodwill who reach out to encourage and nurture possibilities.