This week we handed the Zentangle Blog over to Jody Genovese, CZT, to find out what was possible when she asked herself, "How can I Help?"
Thank you Jody for sharing your story with us and the Zentangle community!
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Everyone who finds and practices Zentangle will tell you how much it has changed his or her life. I know what it has done for mine. The question is can you use it to help change someone else’s?
We’ve all heard so many stories of how other people have been able to use Zentangle to make amazing breakthroughs with children, elderly, veterans and even whole communities. Listening to or reading these accounts I was just amazed at this and though I believed every single story I heard, I wanted to experience it for myself. As I was getting my CZT certification in 2016 I remember thinking I want to be a part of that experience. If I could just help one person…
Fast forward to June of 2017. I had done some teaching and really enjoyed it, but I wanted more. I had tried making inroads at the hospital my husband works at but didn’t get too far. All of this would change during one of his work dinners. Usually I spend the night smiling and nodding and adding nothing to the conversation. This time would be different. Peter K. works on the foundation at the hospital and had arranged this particular get together. At one point he asked me what I do with my time, so I started to tell him about Zentangle. Normally this is met with an, “Oh, I’ve never heard of that, sounds interesting”, and the conversation ends there. But, he lit up, so I lit up. He wanted to know what it was, what it looked like and what I was doing with it. As we were leaving we walked out together and he asked me if I thought I might like to volunteer to teach it in some capacity at the hospital. I said yes and told him I hadn’t had any luck getting in touch with the right people so far. Turns out it was him.
The hospital had recently done a big renovation to their mental health clinic and he thought one particular program might be a good fit.
Within two weeks he arranged a tour of the facility with the Clinical Manager, Mary. She was also excited. She officially asked me to join and the process began. I would report to Laura, the supervisor of an out-patient program called PROS (Personalized Recovery Oriented Services). This program is for people who are nearing the end of their treatment program and are ready to get back into the community in whatever capacity that might mean for them. I would teach Zentangle once a week as part of the curriculum the clients could choose from.
Because this is a healthcare facility there were many things that had to happen before I could start. From August to December I took two exams required by the hospital for HIPAA and security, got a physical, updated my vaccinations, met all of the counselors, met the potential students, shadowed the counselors to become familiar with the program, and promoted my class. I was finally ready and would begin January 16, 2018. To say I was a little nervous was putting it mildly. These people expected nothing of me, but I felt like they deserved more than I had to offer.
Throughout my intake process the subject of supplies came up a few times because I stressed the importance of teaching with authentic Zentangle materials. As is typical in these situations budgets are pretty tight. I had mentioned to Laura that I met Peter O. from Sakura at ZenAgain in November 2016 and he had kindly donated materials for me to use in my cousin’s elementary school art class. She asked me if I could reach out to him. All I could think is what a big mouth I had. I did nothing for a week. I thought about telling her that I reached out to him and he said no, but I don’t lie, so I put on my big girl pants and emailed him. I reminded him who I was and asked him if I could trouble him for two boxes of Pigma pens because I didn’t think the Microns would be a good fit. He emailed me back right away and said normally they don’t do this because they get many requests, but because he remembered who I was and what I was trying to accomplish he could help me out. I sent him the address of the clinic and my contact info and he immediately called me. We had an amazing conversation about mental health, how to approach this and how to get started. He told me he would send me more than pens. True to his word he sent me a box that I could barely lift myself. To say I am grateful for him is an understatement. His only request was that I share my experience so that other CZTs who may be thinking of doing something like this will realize it can be done. After talking with Rick and Maria at Kripalu this past May, this is my opportunity to honor his request.
For the first two sessions (sessions run 12 weeks) my class has been Tuesday afternoons from 1:30-3:00pm. The classes are usually 45 minutes, so 90 minutes is foreign to these folks. I started with 10 people in my first class and after 45 minutes had several people just get up and leave. Once we straightened out the scheduling issue I was able to maintain anywhere from 6-10 people. The directors were amazed as after lunch this part of the facility empties out quickly. Some of the classes in the PROS program, such as mine, are voluntary, so though a class may be recommended by a counselor, it is up to the client to show up. The people I had were amazing.
After the first 12-week session we had a mini art show. The main campus wanted to include some pictures of this in the newsletter and when I sent them a photo of the work they couldn’t believe it had been done by the participants.
There are a few people I consider my ‘regulars’ and they have all given me permission to write about them and share pictures of their work. Like tangles have colorful names, I decided to name each person using a tangle that describes them as I can’t use their proper names.
Hurry (because he draws very fast): He is quiet and kind. He looks at you out of the corner of his eyes. Most of the time he gives a one-word answer or just nods when you talk to him. He sits in the cafeteria and waits for class every week. The receptionist told me he sometimes asks to make sure I am coming. Initially he would wait for me to go into the art room and then stand at the threshold of the door and wait for me to invite him into the room. Every week I would tell him he didn’t have to wait, and he was welcome to come in. After about two months he started bounding into the room. When I compliment his work, you can tell he wants to smile, but just gives you a little at the corners of his mouth. In April he began talking. He had never initiated a conversation with me and he came into the room and started to talk. It felt like a real breakthrough. That same day we had two new ladies in the class and he told them they couldn’t make any mistakes and if they stuck with it their lines would get better like his have. I was so humbled I had all I could do to not cry in front of them. I literally felt my heart smile. In a recent class we worked on Dingbatz. I asked the class if they knew what a dingbat was. Purk and Facade pointed to each other. Hurry hesitated a moment and then yelled out..Edith Bunker!
Purk: (because she is always ‘perky’): She is my ‘Zenterior Designer’. Each week she arranges the class tiles in the mosaic. She fell in love with Zentangle and has integrated it into a regular practice outside the program. She is kind and eager to learn and helps me clean up every week. She made a portfolio of all of her tiles and I could see the absolute joy in her face when I made a fuss over it and paraded it around to show anyone and everyone at the clinic. It was a work of art. Purk graduated the program on July 6th and she will be missed.
Facade (because what you see isn’t what you get): Walking into the first class he proclaimed that he could teach this Zentango because he had tons of art experience. He is someone who wants to be respected and looked up to and someone you would never expect to show up for every single class. Tattoos, chains, a do-rag, rings that cover every knuckle and a big heart. He always has a wise comment, but I’ve learned not to react or reply. I might be a better poker player after this... He carries every tile with him and creates a mosaic of his work after every class, which he makes me take a picture of every week. Now that Purk has left, he arranges the mosaics, helps me clean up, and helps me with new students who need a little extra help if I am working with another person. He still calls it Zentango…
Amaze (because she was always amazed when she did something right): She had done Zentangle like work in the past. Her first class she used an eraser. I said nothing. The next class she started to again. I asked her not to as we didn’t use them. She put it away and as she was working she said the pencil line was in her way. I encouraged her to ignore it and told her it would disappear. She didn’t like it, but I asked her to trust me and if she really couldn’t get past it this time I would let her use the eraser the next time. She finished the tile and realized the line had disappeared. She was amazed. On another tile we were doing bales and she said she had made a mistake and done it wrong and wished she could erase it. I looked at her tile and told her she had done a perfect florz. “Really?”, she said. “That’s amazing.”
Punzel (because she always had her hair in a braid): She loves Zentangle. Her lines have improved, and she lights up when I tell her this. She tells me she appreciates that I say there are no mistakes because she has taken other classes where she is told she does it wrong. No mistakes I tell her..ever.
This feels like what I am meant to do with Zentangle. Saying I love this art form doesn’t really quantify what it really means to me. It feeds my soul. I think a lot of you know what I mean. Sharing it is the only way to keep growing that feeling. Step 1 is gratitude. I will forever be grateful to Rick and Maria, Molly and Martha and the entire Zentangle crew for creating it and for continuing to make it fresh and fun and joyful. I am also truly grateful for Peter from Sakura who not only donated supplies but offered advice and support and to Peter from the hospital who facilitated this for me.
I sincerely hope the people in my class have gained something from this. I can selfishly say I have gained more. I have learned truly you cannot judge a book by its cover. Patience and kindness go such a long way. A smile and a compliment may mean the difference between an okay day and a good day. Every line of ink that has helped me get to this point has been worth it.
If anyone is thinking about using their CZT certification to do something like this, it’s definitely worth the hurdles you may need to jump just to get in the door.
Jody Genovese, CZT 24 & 28 (New York)