Making mistakes meaningful

Decorative circle with the words mistakes keep me humble in the centerI recently made a mistake. It is not the first and, for sure, not the last. It wasn’t anything huge (a wrong location in an event blog post) and not many people likely saw it.

I woke up to an email from someone letting me know. They did it in the nicest way possible, but my brain did what it always does when mistakes occur—it freaked out.

“OMG! What?! I can’t believe I did that! This is my professional expertise; how could I get this wrong?! Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I hope not too many people saw this and now know that I’m not perfect.”

Raise your hand if these thoughts crop up for you at the smallest error. Don’t be afraid.

Once I corrected the mistake I began to sit with the aftermath—the dreaded hours of analysis, the thoughts and feelings. One overriding question occurred to me: Why do we fear mistakes so much?

Unless we are brain surgeons, mistakes usually are not life or death situations (although we may feel like we are dying knowing others have seen that (gasp!) we are not perfect. In fact, mistakes are necessary and have great meaning in the process of growth.

If we don’t do anything, we don’t have to risk being imperfect. And, the irony is that we are all imperfect; we are a connected community in that way. Mistakes happen when we are in the process of doing things—routine things as well as unfamiliar things. In art, we welcome “mistakes” as “happy accidents” because we realize how powerful it is to try something, get it “wrong” and then problem-solve when the unexpected arrives—be it a stray line or random splatter of paint.

Mistakes make us aware and make us slow down the next time They keep us humble and remind us that there is no perfection anywhere or in any person. If we can remember this and be OK with it, perhaps it will help us be kinder to others when they make mistakes. Kindness begins with self.

What would happen if we all were more gentle with ourselves and forgave our own mistakes when we made them and looked for the lessons in the particular situation? Would that help us to forgive the mistakes of others more easily if we practiced on ourselves?

It’s worth a try, right. However, I don’t think that “I-want-to-die” feeling when I discover my mistakes will go away any time soon because it has been a natural default for so long. I’ll just consider it a growing pain.

(P.S. If you find a typo here, please forgive.) 🙂


Connection Presentation Uncategorized

Seekonk Public Library multigenerational event

I am so excited to share that the Seekonk Cultural Council and the Massachusetts Cultural Council have awarded me a grant to facilitate The Community Circle Project at the invitation of host  Seekonk Public Library in Massachusetts. The free virtual event will be on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. There will be two sessions, one for families and children at 5 p.m., and one for adults at 6:30 p.m.

The program will be held virtually via Zoom and is open to adults and families with children of all ages.

Participants in both sessions will engage in the relaxing project that I created that uses art making and conversation to build a sense of community. Using the simple shape of a circle and basic drawing supplies, we will create art that reflects our thoughts or feelings and shows us how we are connected to each other.

No art experience is necessary. Registration is required. Space is limited. All are welcome. I would love to see you there.

I am so thankful to the Seekonk Public Library for hosting this event and to the Seekonk Cultural Council and the Massachusetts Cultural Council for providing funding for the program. I want to especially thank Sharon Clarke (librarian, youth services) and Michelle Gario (senior librarian, adult services) for inviting me.

Presentation Remote learning Uncategorized

Family Paint Night

I continue to be so grateful for the opportunity to help create connections all over the country through The Community Circle Project. Friday evening, on February 26, it was my honor do this as the guest artist at “Paint Night: Your Family is a Work of Art.”

The virtual night of family art making was made possible by the generous support of a grant from the Foundation for West Hartford Public Schools and the Office of Equity Advancement.

There are so many challenges in the world but, luckily, there are so many good people focused on positivity and connection. That long list includes the folks who made the paint night possible and  successful: Penelope Drown, a visual arts teacher at Charter Oak International Academy in West Hartford, Conn.; Pamela Murphy, visual arts supervisor for the district of West Hartford; and Timothy Kessler, secondary remote learning principal for the West Connecticut Public Schools.

Penelope first learned about The Community Circle Project from Nasco Education (where I facilitated the project during a Maker Monday event at the invitation of the wonderful Kris Bakke, customer engagement manager at Nasco Education). Penelope reached out to me to find out more, and that interaction led to my guest artist presentation during the Family Paint Night series.

It was so inspiring to work with Penelope, Pam and Tim. Their professionalism and passion for supporting families is truly impressive. I was touched to be virtually invited into the homes of nearly 30 families to engage in creativity and work on circles that highlight what family members value most.

Families are, indeed, a work of art. They are portraits of the past, the present and the dreams for the future. Families shape the world generation after generation with the choices made and the values that are passed forward. In that way, we are all a part of a global family.

During my presentation, I shared a quote by Martin Luther King Jr. that perfectly expresses this idea (imagine the world if we all lived these words):

“It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. We are made to live together because of the interrelated structure of reality.”



Ohio students create more than 100 circles

Decorative cirlces
From Miamisburg High School in Ohio

Judy Hayes-Casey,  a family and consumer sciences teacher at Miamisburg High School in Miamisburg, Ohio, teaches Career Prep, 10th grade, and Viking Prep, 9th grade. She reached out to share beautiful circles created by her students as well as a beautiful story:

“This year when we started in-person instruction we were asked to take the first three days of school to focus on the social emotional aspects of our students and not content. I participated in your Nasco “Maker Monday” presentation this past summer and immediately knew I wanted to start the year with your Community Circle Project. 

“All of my classes participated in the project and they each made one circle giving us a grand total of around 110 circles. The prompt I used was simply, ‘What did you learn during The Covid Quarantine of 2020?’ I made a template and copied on card stock. 

“I can’t tell you how much my students enjoyed this project. Many of them were so proud of their circles they took pictures to show their families. I also noticed them showing with their friends while pointing to their circles. But the best part of the project was listening to the kids talk about what they went through during quarantine and how their lives changed. 

“Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful project with Nasco and allowing teachers across the country to share with their students as well.”

Don’t you just love this artwork and Judy’s imaginative way of photographing these? If you would like to participate or request a facilitation of this project, reach out to me using the contact form.

Please follow The Community Circle Project on Instagram and Facebook.


Teacher Anne Hoffman’s classes create circles

When students started school this fall since the mid-March break due to the pandemic, Anne Hoffman, a teacher at Wood Oaks Junior High, in Northbrook, Illinois, used The Community Circle Project to help build a sense of connection and unity among her sixth and eighth grade classes and beyond. 

“I engaged students in a discussion about all the events that we have been experiencing and/or seeing in the news. It was quite a powerful experience for everyone to see it all as a whole, which at first was quite overwhelming. As we continued our discussion, however, we were able to see that there was indeed a lot of good that we could squeeze out from all of the crises. I was so impressed how each student gave such deep thought to what positive they could take away from what has been going on.”

Right before holiday break, Anne offered students the choice of two prompts that were perfect: “What does this upcoming holiday season mean to you?” “What is your hope/vision for the new year?”

Here are some of the wonderful results from all the prompts.

Reflection Uncategorized

Behind the scenes of my creative process

Decorative circle on canvas with the words our lives are connected
“Our Lives Are Connected” mixed media on 12 x 12 gallery-wrapped canvas

Friday night, I was so fortunate to have the opportunity to be the featured visual artist during Rhythm Visions Production Company, Inc.’s virtual open mic night on Facebook. I was invited to paint live for an hour during the performances. I was so honored to be considered. Of course, I said yes. (A special thank you to Renita Martin.)

It was one of the most unusual and amazing evenings I have ever been a part of—so full of overlapping energy, talent and diverse creativity. It was great to be able to share my vision for The Community Circle Project and to create the circle that you see here during a live event.

I say that now—after. You should have seen me leading up to the event.

In case you have ever wanted a look behind the scenes of an artist’s creative process, here is mine when a kind person requests my artistic skills. And, I’m only showing you because all of us on social media tend to make things look so pretty and easy. But that is not reality. Here is my reality. Raise your hand if you can identify.

My creative process goes something like this:

Requester: “Sandy, can you/will you/do you know how to [x, y or z] and have time in your schedule to do so?

Me: “Absolutely, yes.”

The result? My schedule is wide open. I do [x, y or z].The project turns out beautifully. Everyone is happy.

Now, here’s what happens behind the scenes, the part that you don’t see—after I have told the requester yes and before the end result.

Me: “Oh, God! What did I do?! Why did I say yes?! I have no idea if I can do [x, y or z]! What is wrong with me! This is going to be a disaster! I have a million things on my schedule right now. I don’t even think I am an artist! Who said I’m an artists?! I’ve seen the beautiful work of other artists and I’m not as good as they are. I should tell the requester to get one of those artists. Damn it, why did I go on a diet?! I need to eat my way through this unreasonable fear of disaster, but that’s way too many carbs! Get. It. Together. Girl!”

Then, I Google and YouTube my eyeballs off to figure out anything I don’t know. I practice, practice, practice whatever that thing is, or come to realize that, wait a minute, yes, yes, I do, indeed, know how to do it, that I have been doing it all along, and I need to trust the process and myself.

The result? The project turns out beautifully. Everyone is happy.

Now, will I remember this and skip all the behind-the-scenes drama next time I’m offered something? Probably not. That’s part of the excitement. But I want to always remember that I am enough. Always. (So are you.)

What does your creative process look like? Where does your fear show up and how do you tackle it?



Inspired by circle interpretations

Abby Rovaldi

I am so inspired by the circles that people are sharing with me in response to the prompt: What are you learning during this challenging time?

When I created The Community Circle Project I shared my particular approach for making circles that incorporate words and designs. As more and more people participate in the ongoing collaboration, so much creativity and talent is coming forth. And it warms my heart.

The circle above, a mandala, is a recent one from Abby Rovaldi, who is the programs coordinator at the Attleboro Arts Museum in Massachusetts, an amazing artist, art educator and awesome human. I love, love, love her mandala and I’m honored that she has participated.

If you want to participate, please reach out to me using the contact form on this website.

Reflection Uncategorized

Good conversation

Everyone eats. What we eat and why sheds light on who we are and our experiences. Food is a language that we have in common.

When we have conversations about food we have an opportunity to allow others to get to know us and our families and to see that we are all similar in many ways, even as we see how our culinary backgrounds differ.

Something as simple as a vegetable can elicit fond memories and provide a narrative to share information about our culture, heritage and upbringing.

Take for example okra. Okra takes me home to my childhood growing up in the south.

My mother steamed okra and cooks it in collard greens and field peas. My daddy uses it liberally in his famous seafood gumbo. And one of my favorite restaurants that still visit when I visit my family serves the best fried okra you will ever taste.

I’m always surprised to when I see it in the grocery store here in the north—fresh, not frozen. The same applies when I’m in the cereal aisle and see grits on the shelf.

When I cook fresh okra, I slice it really thin and pan fry it in just about two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, adding just a little bit of salt and pepper. I patiently wait for it to develop a nice brown crust before flipping it over.

When I told my mother about this recently during one of our Saturday phone calls, she called it “fancy cooking,” said she only knows how to “boil it” and wishes that she could cook it as well as her mom, Big Mama, did. It made me laugh because I’ve always wished I could cook it as well as my mom.

That’s just one vegetable. What foods conjure up special memories for you? What stories do they tell about you, your family and your roots?



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