A Little Time and a Keyboard: Critters and COVID Whimsical Yard Scenes: Western Suburban Artist Kathy Steere Shares Playfulness and Hope

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Critters and COVID Whimsical Yard Scenes: Western Suburban Artist Kathy Steere Shares Playfulness and Hope

Critters and COVID: A Western Suburban Artist Kathy Steere Adds Whimsy and Hope

Critters and COVID: A Western Suburban Artist Kathy Steere Adds Whimsy and Hope

Recently, I learned about Kathy Steere, a local fabric and mixed media artist, who has been spreading joy and hope in her West suburban neighborhood with whimsical ever-changing yard scenes. Initially when the shut down began, she started to sew masks and offered them free to the community. Soon after, she learned about a scavenger hunt idea in her area and was drawn to the concept of creating an ever-changing scene. I have been totally inspired by how Kathy has spread positivity, joy and community during this difficult time through her scenes and masks. I am so happy to share Kathy's story with you and we both hope this offers you some light during these times. Kathy wrote a beautiful piece about her playful critter scenes.  Learn a little more from the artist herself and don't forget to check out Kathy Steere's art and the prompt she has left for us:


Critters dancing around the May Pole created by Kathy Steere. Image credit Cheryl Rausch.
Critters dancing around the May Pole created by Kathy Steere. Image credit Cheryl Rausch.

A Journey Begins......

When the world started shutting down in  mid-March due to the pandemic, I knew I had to do something for others, but what? Some of the groups I belong to sent out requests for masks. Once I met a March 31 deadline for another project*, I started sewing masks. I chose to offer them to the neighborhood first. They were free for anyone to take.

Artist Kathy Steere with her mask display. Image credit Cheryl Rausch.
Artist Kathy Steere with her mask display. Image credit Cheryl Rausch.
While I was sewing, I felt a very strong connection to my grandmothers as I reflected on their stories of rolling bandages during World War II, giving freely of themselves and their time to "help the boys."

Many people have expressed their appreciation for the masks. Most verbally, though some took the time to handwrite notes. A few gave cash or other tangible gifts. The money surprised me. Have to admit, I briefly considered putting out a donation jar, but that just felt wrong and contrary to what the mask making was all about. So I didn't. It was the right decision.

To date, I have made over 200 masks including child size.

New critters display! Image credit Kathy Steere.
New critters display! Image credit Kathy Steere.
Creating an Ever-Changing Scene

The spark for the lawn display was a neighborhood email proposing an outdoor "scavenger hunt" with suggested themes for certain dates to give families some variety and interest while they walked. The "hunt" held no appeal to me, but the idea of a changing scene was intriguing.

"King of the Hill" fox on top of a pile of wood chips. Image credit Kathy Steere.
"King of the Hill" fox on top of a pile of wood chips. Image credit Kathy Steere.
Over the years I've accumulated a lot of outdoor critters such as a plastic owl, a resin fox and a  concrete seagull. On March 31, the fox appeared at the top of a pile of wood chips. The next day, the owl challenged him to be "King of the Hill" and it went from there.

Each day something changes. I take a photo and send it to my toddler grandkids to provide them and their parents a few moments of distraction. Passersby offer enough smiles and positive comments to encourage me to continue. It's keeping me entertained as well!

Critters celebrating Easter!
Critters celebrating Easter!
A Cold Snap Inspires a Sweet Scene:

Easter provided a good focal point with plastic eggs hanging on a nearby small spruce tree. The cold days following Easter also proved inspirational with two inflatable bunnies wrapped in a giant scarf huddled by a "fire."

Bunnies huddled by a fire during the cold days after Easter.
Bunnies huddled by a fire during the cold days after Easter.

I did give a heavy sigh when the stay-at-home order was extended to May 30, but where's the fun if there's no challenge?! So...what's in May? Well, May 1 is May Day (not that anyone know what that is anymore but it needs a May Pole to dance around), then a family birthday (need a cake), then Cinco de Mayo (G-rated party time), then Mother's Day (flowers!), then another family birthday (twins -- two large critters debut), and high school graduations would have been some time after that (statue with a cap and gown). Challenge accepted and overcome -- in about the amount of time it took you to read this paragraph, Mother's Day will start a rotating exhibit of my artwork that has been reproduced on vinyl banners.

A May birthday means a birthday cake appears! Image credit Kathy Steere.
A May birthday means a birthday cake appears! Image credit Kathy Steere.
We live in a picture postcard, lots of trees and not much traffic. Our neighborhood is a glorious bubble in a scary world. People are out walking and talking and meeting each other (six feet apart, of course). The critters and masks are easy conversation starters and are not controversial.

What looks different in each critter picture? Image credit Kathy Steere.
What looks different in each critter picture? Image credit Kathy Steere.
Yes, I am as ready as the next person for the pandemic to be gone, but it's not and won't be for a while. In the meantime, I offer a smile and a spitcatcher to those who pass by. The critters will let me know when it is time for them to sail off into the sunset.

Life is good. Enjoy each day.

Update:

Kathy has shared with me her Critters and Graduation scene! Such a wonderful way to support and celebrate our 2020 Graduates! Thank you, Kathy!


Graduation Critters by Kathy Steere
Critters celebrating the 2020 Graduates! Image credit Kathy Steere.


Congratulations to all of the 2020 Graduates by Kathy Steere
Congratulations to all of the 2020 Graduates! Image credit Kathy Steere.
* The project with the March 31 deadline was a solo show small quilts and fiber art. To view that virtual show and find out more about Kathy and her art, go to www.katesfunart.com.

Kathy Shares With Us An Art Challenge! An Art Prompt To Try:

Dig out whatever art or craft supplies you already own and figure out new ways of combining them. Experiment, play, lower your expectations – have fun! Some of my favorite pieces have sprung from having no expectations of success. (Others have ended up in a drawer.)

Thank you to Kathy Steere for sharing your inspiration with us and thank you so much for creating so much joy and frivolity during challenging times!

Critters and COVID Whimsical Yard Scenes: Western Suburban Artist Kathy Steere Adds Playfulness and Hope








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