Many moons ago, I attended NOCCA, a public arts high school. It was a unique experience going to my normal school in the mornings, then taking lunch at home every day before heading to NOCCA for the afternoon. I studied Visual Arts, which included ceramics, photography, printmaking, painting, drawing and more. However, it was grossly underfunded. The building was ancient and crumbling. There was no A/C, which in New Orleans is a most unfortunate problem. Piano students practiced in closets. We painted on the cardboard backs of newsprint paper pads. We had to bring our own toilet paper!
Years went by, and the school's more successful graduates (Harry Connick, Jr., Wynton & Branford Marsalis, Donald Harrison, etc.) gave NOCCA more and more credibility and finally the school began to receive the funding it needed. A state of the art new facility was built on the outskirts of the French Quarter, and I nearly died of envy the first time I toured it.
I graduated in 1989, and 3 months later, a little girl named Emilie was born. At an early age, she developed an untreatable hearing disorder, which led her to down the path of becoming a visual artist. By the time she was ready for high school, the new and improved NOCCA was ready. Before she graduated though, Hurricane Katrina had other plans for her, so she finished her education at an arts high school in Florida. Ultimately, she wound up in New York, pursuing her undergraduate degree at The Cooper Union School of Art in Manhattan. Then this past October, while stopped at a light, on her bike, an 18-wheeler driven by someone not licensed to drive that sort of vehicle jumped the curb and hit poor Emilie on her bike.
She survived, but her injuries have been horrific. And while her body should eventually recover, she's now blind. That is devastating for an artist! You can read more about her story and see pictures of her and her artwork by clicking here. I didn't know her, but I read about her this week in a NOCCA alumni newsletter. For some reason, I was particularly touched by her heartbreaking story. I donated what meager amount I could to her support fund, and I've donated two pieces of jewelry to the Etsy shop created in her honor. I also intend to create something special, specifically made for this cause - but I wanted to give what I could right now. After the holidays, when things slow down and I have more time, I'll work on it.
I have seen how so many wonderful jewelry artists pulled together to help fellow artist Andrew Thornton with his mounting medical bills after his awful bout with cancer. And I am hoping I can inspire at least a few of you out there to do the same for Emilie.
Thank you, and Happy Holidays!