Of Superheroes and Venerated Trees

Chilean Artist-in-Residence Daniella Pizarro Works with Youth and Age
It has been a busy week for Chilean artist Daniella (Dani) Pizarro: costuming superheroes and dressing trees.  Dani is one of the foundation’s Creative Fusion artists, here in residence with the Rainey Institute

For the past weeks, Dani has been working with the very young children in Rainey’s afterschool program, empowering them to believe in themselves as the superheroes of their own lives, and creating masks that embody their superhero character. The joyous, paint-splattered workroom at Rainey and the smocked and equally paint-splattered children were featured in a short story broadcast last week on Fox 8 Cleveland. The smiles on the faces in the photos below show how much fun these children were having at the same time they were thinking about and learning to take pride in who they are and who they can become.

“We all need superheroes,” said Dani, who works with impoverished street children back in Santiago, helping them to find strength and purpose in lives often lived without much hope of either.

During her three-month stay in Cleveland, Dani is living at Judson Manor.  There she also interacts with the residents of this retirement home and has spent time developing a project to “dress” the trees that stand outside Judson’s beautiful building on the edge of University Circle. Dressing the Trees is a tradition in many countries from India to England to Mexico and by Native Americans. In South America, it is a tradition that is usually practiced as part of a young woman’s coming-of-age ceremonies. Dani learned that the trees across from Judson were about the same age as the residents of the Manor and thought this would be a lovely way to both honor the trees and the residents, and bring a bit of her cultural experience to Cleveland.

She collected fabric donated by the Judson residents and cut and sewed it into large quilts that turned into colorful swaddling for three of the trees. Several residents worked with Dani on the project to help fashion the tree dresses. They now stand in a small area where she hopes people would come and sit and reflect on life and nature and time.