Last night I went to the first of what will be a monthly series of art by "Pop-up Studio," a group of artists who are able to do their work in part thanks to a grant from the Lackawanna County Arts & Cultural Department. The first event was entitled, “Sugar: A Borrowed … Landscape” constructed at the Connell Building, in retail space no. 2.

I attended last night knowing nothing other than location and time. I wasn't sure what to expect. When I arrived and was greeted by Valerie Kiser she asked if I brought my sugar. People were apparently encouraged to bring a cup of sugar. I didn't know this but I was still able to enter and enjoy the art. Brown cardboard boxes of all sizes were stacked, taped together. The center piece in the room was "The Machine" which was also made of boxes and was a container in which people could pour their sugar. There was another box next to it named "The Pit." On top of the box was a lot of sugar and even some sugar cubes that someone brought. People played with the sugar and added to it as the night went on. Then there was a little doorway into another area of more boxes. Some of the boxes had white string lights in them and I personally loved that. I'm a big fan of lights like that. In fact, this year at Christmas time I strung white lights in my kitchen under cabinets and on my windowsill in a clear mason jar and under beautiful vanGogh vodka bottles (empty now of course) to light up the gorgeous artwork of vanGogh that's in every bottle. I enjoy the look of the lights so much that I'm going to keep them up all year. So I really liked seeing boxes being used as a decorative source of light. In fact, I was so inspired by the look that I'm cutting up some boxes I have and plan to copy the idea and put string lights in them. I think it's a nice alternative to a table lamp.

In this second "room" there were black Sharpies for people to pick up and use to create their own graffiti or art on the boxes. Of course I decided to write a few things. As a one-woman band, I'm always looking for creative ways to promote what I do so of course I had to write "Laugh to Live" with a smiley face and put my website and I attempted to draw a frog but it turned out to look more like an owl with elephant trunks for arms. So then I drew a wine glass and wrote "Keep Wine-ing He Might Start To Look Like Prince Charming" - the name of my current comedy tour of wineries (was that too much? should I be embarrassed that I plugged my own art?). And across the room on another box I drew a smiley face and created hair with a series of "Ho ho hos and Ha ha ha's and Hee hee hees" - a reference to the laughter yoga exercises I do :-)  Hey, if people smile and laugh then that's good for us all, right?!!  There was tea and coffee set up on boxes and then there was a little seat tucked in the boxes on one side that was like a bathroom or seat in a telephone booth - cozy and beckoning for people to draw, sit, relax. Bubble wrap hung to create a makeshift ceiling.

It was fun to walk around and wonder about the meaning of the art and if anything else was going to happen. Art is subjective so I'm sure opinions and impressions of this first Pop-Up Studio varied from person to person. Everyone there seemed to be having fun and interacting and that's what these events are all about. I was very happy to see a nice size crowd in attendance on a cold night in downtown Scranton. For me, the best parts of this event/display/artwork (not sure what to call it which is actually a cool thing - because it's different, fresh) were the encouragement and permission (that we seem to need as adults) to be playful by: doodling on boxes with the Sharpies, crawling under or in boxes and playing with the sugar; and the community aspect. People were talking. Some talked about the art and others just chatted. Anything that helps us think differently, come together and communicate is a great thing. I had fun and I look forward to seeing what Pop Ups next month!!

After about 40 minutes or so enjoying the vibe of the Pop Up, my friend Tony and I headed over to Jack's Draft House in the East section of Scranton for drinks and snacks where talk of art continued. The best part of the evening was that I got to take home my own art. Tony gave me my Christmas present - a watercolor he did for me of the Eiffel Tower. I absolutely love it. It's full of life and color! It's the Eiffel Tower, how could I ever not love it! And it was created just for me. There's no better art or gift than that. Sweet, like sugar.

  For more information on Pop-Up Studio, visit

"I feel there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people."
My favorite artist, vincent van gogh.

I am so pleased to be a recipient of a 2012 Lackawanna County Arts and Culture Grant. Last night I attended the ceremony held at the Scranton Cultural Center and I felt so pleased and proud to be among so many prolific, talented people. 

I love art. I love supporting First Friday in Scranton and talented artist friends. I didn't use to consider myself an artist because I cannot paint or draw but then I realized that I was being way too narrow in my view of what art is. I'm sure that people's ideas and opinions on what is art or who is an artist varies. I think a simple definition of art is anything that is put forth as a form of individual expression. I would add that art also has the amazing and special ability to captivate people's attention, to engage their minds, hearts and souls. Art is the focus of conversation, controversy, arguments, battles and often the centerpiece of love and pain.

I now think of myself as an artist. I write. I write comedy. I perform comedy. I express my creativity in very colorful, fun ways. I have vision. I connect dots to bring things to life. I balance business and creativity and that, I am quickly learning, is an art in and of itself!

As a recipient of one of the grants awarded by Lackawanna County this year, I will write a children's story called "Wartz and All." I will reunite with Clarks Summit artist Mindy Mendicino, who illustrated my first book "He's Not Prince Charming When..." to share my vision with her and direct her in illustrating the characters for Wartz and All - the story of animals living near a swamp  - a setting inspired by a real swamp along a Lackawanna trail in Archbald. Together, Mindy and I will create a book that is intended to spread the message of acceptance - accepting one's own "warts" or flaws and accepting others' so we can get along, respect one another and form valuable relationships. Once the book is finished I will give copies to each of the County's 10 locations and I will do two public readings. The first reading is planned for National Trails Day on June 2 on the trail in Archbald and the second is scheduled to take place in November - a time recognized for Anti-bullying events - at the Nancy K Holmes Library in the Green Ridge section of Scranton. 

The book will be aimed at children ages 5 - 8 and will allow them to put their own mark on it by coloring the characters and engaging in some other fun activities included. I hope that children and adults enjoy the story and remember the message that we all have warts but we can still love each other "Warts and All."

One should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art.
Oscar Wilde

In art the hand can never execute anything higher than the heart can inspire
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.
Thomas Merton

It's often been featured in movies. This year it was the whole premise for a movie. And every year many of us spend time thinking about what we'll do to celebrate. I'm talking about New Year's Eve. For much of my life I've spent New Year's Eve with good friends celebrating at house parties. Food. Drink. Laughs. Good times. I was often sans date but I was never curled in the fetal position crying because I had no lover to kiss at midnight. In fact, there's really only two NYE I can recall when I did have someone special to kiss at midnight. And on one of those NYE's I ended up screaming and yelling at my guy because he just had to call his ex-girlfriend only minutes after midnight to wish her Happy New Year. I believe he told me she had broken her leg and was in the hospital so that was all the more reason she needed to hear his voice. Now, don't think I'm heartless but this woman was the topic of 90% of our arguments and let's face it, it wasn't really about her at all. Rather it was about my ex-boyfriend's behavior and my ridiculous notion that he might change and my willingness to put up with the behavior and punish us both with my tantrums of yelling and throwing things (I'm not proud but I would throw my shoes, keys - nothing too big - I would have thrown him but I lacked the strength, in many ways). Okay, this story is taking a turn that I didn't intend so let's get back to New Year's Eve as my topic. 

Every year I secretly hope that I'll be doing something fabulous on New Year's Eve, even though I know it's just another night and I would have to seek out or create those fabulous things. Let's face it, I'm not living in a Romance Novel. (Umberto isn't going to descend from the sky with his hot Latin body and whisk me away on his yacht to an island of riches and happily ever after where we make our own fireworks for the New Year and I wake up to the booming success of my business, etc.)  I guess part of me does believe NYE deserves its special status because it is the night when we say good-bye to the previous year, whether characterized as good or bad, and we have the chance to shift our focus and actions to all the plans and dreams we want to fulfill in the year ahead. I'm in that phase of my life now in which most of my friends are married and most have children, which has meant a lot of changes to my life as well, that I didn't ask for. For the most part, it's fine. But it does affect or impact the plans I make. So this year when I received a facebook invite to a NYE yoga class at Mission Yoga, a new studio opening in downtown Scranton, I thought I might attend. I wasn't convinced it was going to be the best way to spend my NYE. I did think about it for a long time and kind of waited to see what else came up. But the more I thought about it, the more it seemed like a great idea for me to choose to spend my NYE doing something really healthy for my mind, body and spirit. Truly, is there any better way to welcome in a new year than to be very peaceful, centered and healthy?! Yet there was still that part of me that wanted to dress up, put on more make-up than usual and sip champagne. I was invited to a house party that I'm sure would have been the usual food, drinks, conversations with nice people but I was thinking that yoga was sounding like a really good idea. There was just this twinge I was feeling that somehow I was a loser for making plans with myself for NYE. And now all I can say is "Shame on me for not thinking I am worthy of plans to do something healthy for myself."

The yoga class started at 10:30 PM and I knew that if I didn't leave my house until 10 PM that I wouldn't leave my house, period. You see, I am in a relationship. I'm engaged in a pretty serious relationship this winter with my couch. (The longer I sit on it, the more attached we get to one another.) I thought that I would visit some First Night Venues before the yoga class. Again, there was this twinge or little voice in my head that was whispering that I would look like a loser to other people if I were to attend these venues alone. But then I told myself, "If I lived in NYC or another larger city I wouldn't even think twice about going out alone. I just happen to live in a smaller city where coupling is more the norm."

I left my house around 8 PM Saturday night to head to the Steamtown Mall where I bought my First Night Button. I then headed to Afa Gallery to hear the talented little Ms. Mollie Edsell play guitar and sing. As always she was adorable and quite good. Then I went to the Federal Building to watch my friends in the group "Here We Are In Spain" perform improv. Even though there were pillars in my way for pretty much the entire show, I still enjoyed the show from an aural perspective. I perform improv and have performed with these guys before so it was kind of fun to just imagine what the visual antics were taking place. After the show I had the chance to speak with a friend I haven't seen in years and then I headed to Mission Yoga on Spruce Street. As I suspected and somewhat feared, because I still house my 5-year-old self filled with social anxiety walking into kindergarten class filled with people I don't know, most people there knew other people or at least had come with friends. I was the only "loner" so-to-speak but that was no big deal.

The almost 90-minute yoga class was amazing. Kelly and Alex, the owners of Mission Yoga, were very welcoming. Kelly led the class and I really enjoyed it. It was a challenge at times and it was beyond peaceful and replenishing at other times. As party horns blew outside, I didn't for one second wish I had a drink in my hand or that I was tuned in to Ryan and Dick counting down to midnight. As the class ended we were able to enjoy the fireworks going off outside above the courthouse. It was the perfect end and beginning for me. I left the yoga studio and watched the fireworks outside. The beautiful bright purples and greens were so pretty. I was in a state of zen and felt truly healthy and glad about the choice I had made  for myself to spend NYE in downtown Scranton and more specifically that I had ushered in 2012 doing something healthy for me. I hope that I continue the practice of making many more decisions that have me and my health and prosperity at the center. When I am happy, healthy and prosper, I can help others through my gifts! 

Happy New Year - I hope you'll enjoy 2012 by visiting many beautiful people and places in Scranton!