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Published in the Columbia Daily Tribune 9 July 2006

Danielle Eldred

Danielle Eldred is paying her dues.  And she knows it.

Eldred is currently the City's C.A.R.E Gallery Coordinator, working with local youths 14 to 18 who have been hired to participate in community art projects this summer.

She was also heavily involved in facilitating the 2005 True/False Animated Documentary Workshop, after having taken the workshop the previous year.

And before that, she worked at Legacy Art.  (Full disclosure:  she was an employee of mine, and became a friend.  We've remained in contact but I can't claim that we've been close for the last couple of years - life intervenes, people move on.)

In all of these roles, the young MU graduate has been learning as she teaches, expanding her artistic horizons.  Initially she was predominately a ceramicist, building interesting rectilinear sculptural pieces with a fine attention to surface patinas.  Then she moved into drawing, and animation (as noted above), and last week she was working with the C.A.R.E. Gallery artists on painting chairs.  Yeah, chairs.  For the Rainbow House.  And she was excited by the reaction from not just the C.A.R.E. program participants, but by the public.

"People saw the chairs out front of our building, drying, and had to come in to see what was going on," said Eldred when we got together recently.  "It's great to be downtown in our new building, even if it is just for the summer.  It was really good for our artists to get that kind of feedback - to see that what they were doing matters to people."

The C.A.R.E. Gallery, begun in 2000 largely through the efforts of Ned Vail and jointly sponsored by the Office of Cultural Affairs and Parks & Recreation, has bounced around from location to location.  This summer it is in a small storefront at 223 N. 9th which provides just enough space to accommodate the participants and their works.  Eldred, with artist Catherine Gleason, provides instruction and direction for the young artists in the program.  In addition to the chairs for Rainbow House, they'll be making inflatable sculptures and paper lanterns for Camp Hickory Hill.  The program will culminate with a show at the new PS: Gallery on Broadway the evening of Thursday, Aug. 3rd.

"It makes a difference," said Eldred.  "I wish we had the resources to be open year-round, to just provide an artistic outlet for the participants during the school year, even if they were not here as employees."

Eldred, whose own work and artistic interests are currently focused on the commonality of human experience, knows full well the difficulties any artist faces.  Even in her current position, which she loves, she isn't working full time.  We discuss the prospects she has, of whether graduate art school is an option ("not until I know why I would want to go - what things I would want to learn, what artistic problems I would need to solve"), or whether it would just make more sense to be mercenary and get a MBA or JD, concentrate on being an artist once her financial future was stable.  It is a path I have recommended to many, and Danielle knows this.  We also talk about making arts education a full-time endeavor at the High School or Junior High School level, because she enjoys working with that age group.

But for now, she is content to concentrate on the needs of others, to help them learn, and in so doing to learn more herself and about herself.  It is paying her dues as an artist, which will stand her in good stead whatever she decides she wants to do next.

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all work © James T. Downey, 1993-present
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