Jeszica Jean is an artist and educator who loves to play. They work with community creating and reflecting on spaces of connection, working in all mediums as they make art to learn about the world. They make their artwork to connect with themself, others, and their community, and to cultivate spaces in which others can engage and make their own meanings. They have worked in playwork, facilitation, studios, photography, cooking, mural making, ceramics, makerspaces, creative dance, textile art, museums, libraries, and public parks as a teaching artist. Their work is really simply about creating a life full of intention in the hopes of inspiring others to do the same.
What medium are you currently working in?
I love exploring how materials communicate and how to work with a variety of skills, tools and mediums. Every tool has a time. Summer is good for painting. I just recently completed crocheting my first free form dress for my birthday and have recently been painting a lot. I am currently working on a large-scale outdoor mural.
Please describe your current project.
I am currently continuing work on my community mural project People/Places. This current mural is the second community mural I have had the opportunity to create in the Tri-Cities since I moved here, and I am really honored to continue with this work. I'm excited to have our outdoor mural be in downtown Kennewick in the Arts District at the new Kennewick Public Market at Columbia River Warehouse (located at 10 E Bruneau Avenue, Building C).
I'm really excited to be working with such a great group of folks and represent the awesome community and vendors that are at the public market. The mural will be on Beech Street along the parking lot wall to greet folks at the main entrance. I am facilitating as a teaching artist our Summer Sunday series: FREE community mural workshops. All are invited to collaborate and contribute to this community mural project by adding their own five-sided figure (or ‘person’) to the wall. This is community driven, so each individual joining this will really affect and change the scope of the mural and how it shapes up. I'm also really excited to have the mural just happen to be in an area where we’re going to see more murals coming up. For example, local artist Heidi Elkington just completed an awesome mural for KIE Supply. I am looking forward to this summer project and connecting with new and old friends every Sunday 12pm–2pm until the last weekend of summer on Sept 18. ALL are WELCOME!
This is so incredible! What inspired this project?
I started making these paintings in 2017. I sold my first one which was a mixed media encaustic at a group show at the San Diego Art Institute. Over the years, I kept finding myself revisiting these people and gestures. I started capturing the positions I would find myself in and observed my roommates in as we quarantined together. When I moved up to the Tri-Cities, I kept thinking about this people pattern and how we fit in. I was able to collaborate with a few friends I made to make our first community mural happen at the Uptown Theatre in October 2021. I don't make art just for my own experience of making; I use art to invite and empower others to embolden their own creative potential and share the power we all have to create and shape our realities. I love that this project invites a participant to choose to harness that and make a mark as a part of a larger group. Agency in play is everything.
Please describe your technique.
First I observe.
I fiddle, fit, mix, match, mold, mash, move, and meddle…
Then I observe.
Then I might melt, stir, swoop, sweep, smooth, set, clamp, hit, folly, fool…
Play and observe.
Observe and play.
Do you have any routines or rituals that help you get into the space to create?
I have my studio (which is a spare room in my apartment with all my supplies), and I go there when I want to just make. Having an accessible and designated space helps me to get into flow. I make sure that creation and analysis are kept as two separate processes. I feel like one of the biggest creative blocks is that folks tend to want to analyze as they create, but they are two separate processes. You create and then separately, afterwards, analyze. This helps prevent that inner critic from stopping you before you've even started.
How do you deal with moments of feeling less than inspired?
I move through them. Like I said, there is a season for everything, and part of being an artist is making ample time to do nothing. Schedule your breaks. Give rest and add more rest time. We really shouldn't give in to any feelings that demand that we are only valuable if we are able to ‘produce’. Biggest thing is DO NOT COMPARE AND DESPAIR. Comparison is the thief of joy. I have gone periods of weeks to years where I ‘don’t make art’ and that is more than OKAY; it's actually encouraged.
If I'm uninspired, I will write in a journal, make meals, read books, and move my body. Winter is my season of resting and I don't put pressure to show up with my art like it's a job. I commit myself to myself but I learned a long time ago about the difference between making something you love a career, a job, a vocation, and a hobby. It's our choice how we prioritize what we do in a day. I let my art live in an enjoyable space of hobby and vocation land for now, knowing that I am in charge of how I chose to expend my time and energy.
What inspires you?
I am inspired by people and by places.
Who are your favorite artists?
Describe your artistic philosophy.
My personal and artist philosophy is centered around playwork, so I will share the playwork principles.
The 8 Playwork Principles:
- All children and young people need to play. The impulse to play is innate. Play is a biological, psychological, and social necessity, and is fundamental to the healthy development and wellbeing of individuals and communities.
- Play is a process that is freely chosen, personally directed, and intrinsically motivated. That is, children and young people determine and control the content and intent of their play by following their own instincts, ideas, and interests, in their own way for their own reasons.
- The prime focus and essence of playwork is to support and facilitate the play process, and this should inform the development of play policy, strategy, training, and education.
- For playworkers, the play process takes precedence, and playworkers act as advocates for play when engaging with adult-led agendas.
- The role of the playworker is to support all children and young people in the creation of a space in which they can play.
- The playworker’s response to children and young people playing is based on sound, up-to-date knowledge of the play process, and on reflective practice.
- Playworkers recognise their own impact on the play space and also the impact of children and young people’s play on the playworker.
- Playworkers choose an intervention style that enables children and young people to extend their play. All playworker interventions must balance risk with the developmental benefit and wellbeing of children.
I love your focus on play. This can be such a difficult thing to allow ourselves when culturally there is such a high value placed on ‘’productivity’ even at the expense of our mental or physical health. How do you combat that? Do you have any tips or tricks to help people incorporate more play into their lives?
I think play is so important to me and my work because of the ways that it has been devalued in our society. Play is devalued in part because we dehumanize children as whole people. This couldn't be farther from the truth; children are, in my opinion, the most human version of ourselves. Play and children are also devalued as they are relegated to the realm of femme labor, which has been historically underappreciated under capitalism.
To focus on play, try to get into the mindset of a child. A child's whole world is play. Prioritize play everyday. Become an advocate for play and playwork in our communities. Make time everyday to do something, anything, that you enjoy. Play is such a broad and individual experience. Go for a bike ride, go rock climbing, put your feet in the water by the river, skip rocks, dance, make a daisy chain, devour that ice cream cone, and swing on the swings whenever you pass by a set. Pick up some sidewalk chalk and make a mark. Carry bubbles in your purse and blow them on your lunch break. Remember that within you is an entire child version of yourself with urges to explore, enjoy, and discover the newness of the world. Look at things with fresh eyes as often as you are able and stop the normalization and practice of adulteration of our lives by challenging adult-led agendas.
How can our community better support artists?
This community has so much that can be done to better support the artists working and living here. Support can be as simple as a repost or share on social media of their event, buying a small print or a large original, going to shows, creating a space for shows, offering opportunities, hiring artists for a commission, asking about our upcoming projects, and recommending artists you know to your friends. Talk with us and develop art networks so we can support one another. Create collaborations and moments to connect. Hire us for consulting, include us in your curated group shows, and commit to supporting living artists in a tangible way by doing at least one of these things (or more) regularly and consistently.
She is an artist, art instructor, and facilitator in Tri-Cities, Washington. Her work explores the themes of connection and intergenerational stories through experimentation in painting, photography, installation, and sculpture. Ashleigh is passionately dedicated to facilitating accessible arts programming in her community.