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September 08, 2011 - Image 53

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2011-09-08

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t- source credit union

Creating a

business

and a new

life in the

process.

At age 46, Maxine

Gardner discovered she

was an artist.

Maxine Gardner's
Artful Vision

Allan Nahajewski
Special to the Jewish News

M

axine Gardner of Huntington
Woods is reading a book about
metamorphosis — how before
becoming a butterfly, a caterpillar dis-
solves into gooey liquid inside the cocoon.
She can relate.
In 1994, her husband died at 41 of an
aneurysm. Her two sons, then 9 and 12,
became her total focus.
"Then when my kids were gone, I
crashed and burned. I didn't know who I
was:' she says. "I spent my life trying to be
liked as a kid, to be a good girl, marrying
the man of my dreams and being a good
mother." What next? She had no idea.
Flash forward to today. The butterfly has
emerged. A woman who could not color
within the lines has become a successful
artist, teacher, volunteer and entrepreneur.
Last year, she launched Artful Vision — a
boutique-style website enabling gift shop-
pers to buy American-made arts and
crafts and to choose a charity to receive a

portion of the profits.
Last month, she created a second ven-
ture — Visions of Israel, a website where
she sells photography from her visit to
Israel to raise money for Women of the
Wall, a group of Jewish women striving to
achieve the right to wear prayer shawls,
pray and read from the Torah collec-
tively and out loud at the Western Wall in
Jerusalem.
She also finds the time to volunteer
at Mariners Inn, a homeless shelter and
rehab facility in Detroit, where she pro-
vides art therapy. She will be honored as
the organization's Volunteer of the Year in
November at the Roostertail.
This is the story of her journey.
"I didn't discover I was an artist until I
was 46:' she says. "I knew I was creative,
but I couldn't draw a straight line, so 1
didn't think I was artistic. But I never gave
up. I was always trying one thing after
another."
In 2000, she discovered mosaics. "I took
old bowling balls and covered them with
iridescent stained glass, turning them into

gazing balls that didn't blow away:' she
said. In 2001, her bowling ball mosaics
were featured on HGTV.
Her life as an artist was under way. She
sold her mosaics at art fairs, taught classes
at her studio and traveled the state on
weekends, teaching at master gardener
programs.
"I loved the art fairs:' she says. "I loved
traveling and connecting with customers
and artists. But I herniated a disc in my
back. For four months, I couldn't travel.
I lost all my booth fees. I had no income
and my health insurance wouldn't cover
my recovery. I had to find another way to
create art and make a living."
In 2003, the Jewish Federation invited
her to its Artists in the Schools program.
"I called and said I was Jewish, I was an
artist, but not necessarily a Jewish artist.
Can I come to your program to see if next
year I could participate? But as soon as I
hung up the phone, I got the idea of creat-
ing the Ten Commandments in mosaics:'
She was accepted into the program,
which led to a mission to Israel.

"In Israel, I took photos. And as a mosa-
ic artist, I concentrate on the miniature,
not on the large. There were no people
in my pictures. It was all doors and win-
dows. My mother-in-law said, `You really
ought to be selling your photography.' So
I thought if I wasn't going to be able to do
my mosaics, maybe I could do photogra-
phy.
"The artists on the trip had an exhibit
at the Jewish Community Center in West
Bloomfield. I created a poster with photos
of eight doors and four windows. I called
it 'Israel opens a door to your heart and
a window to your soul: The response
was so significant it made me realize I
want to bring my work to more people.
Around that time, a friend opened a gal-
lery. I started showing in the gallery, and
I thought, no, that's too small, I want to
go bigger. I didn't want to go on the road
again. How else do I do this? It's got to be
the Internee
That's when the seeds were planted for
Artful Vision.
"The original idea was just to display
and sell my work, partnering with non-
profits. But six months after I started, gas
jumped to $4 a gallon. My artist friends
on the road were struggling. That got me
thinking: If my idea is a good one, maybe
I should make it bigger. Maybe it should
encompass lots of artists. I spent a lot of
time dreaming what this site would look
like."
Launched last August, Artful Vision now
features the work of 90 artists, one third
from Michigan and all from the United
States. When making a purchase, custom-
ers choose among 23 nonprofits to donate
a portion of the proceeds. Half of the
nonprofits are from Michigan. Recently, a
woman in Alaska bought children's dress-
up clothes on the website from an artist in
Colorado and chose to channel her dona-
tion to the Troy (Mich.) Nature Society.
Artful Vision keeps Maxine busy, but on
Thursday afternoons, she carves out time
to teach at the Mariners Inn.
"I love being with these men and shar-
ing my love of transformation:' she says.
"We create butterflies out of broken dish-
es. By taking things no longer useful and
transforming them into something beauti-
ful, the men became transformed. They no
longer see themselves as homeless or for-
mer addicts, but begin to see the creativity
within them. People compliment them and
offer to buy their work. Their work gets
exhibited. This is just part of what goes on
at Mariners Inn with art therapy."
She sums up her own transformation
this way: "It took a lot of time to discover
who I am. But now I feel radiant with joy
because I have evolved into a person I love
who is trying to make a difference in the
lives of others, helping make dreams come
true."
For more, visit www.artfulvision.com or
www.visionsofisrael.com .

September 8 • 2011

45

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