Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Year of Voice

Every December, I typically do a mental rundown of my year: What did I learn? How did I grow? What have I accomplished? and so on. Yesterday I noticed an application on Facebook where you could design a page called “A Year in Status”. If you are familiar with Facebook you will understand what “Status” means, however, for all my readers who don’t have a Facebook page, I will explain. At the top of your profile page there is a box that says “Status” which is where you can write anything that is on your mind for the day. Share a thought or a quote or simply say, “I am making Christmas cookies with my kids today.” Your friends on Facebook will see this and they can click that they “like” what you said or make a comment on it. So, “A Year in Status” takes all the status comments you wrote through the year and puts them all together on a nicely designed page to share, for all to see. It was kind of cool seeing a whole year of my own comments on one page and it got me thinking about all the “Voice of the Artist” columns I wrote this year. I would like to take this last column of the year and call it “A Year of Voice”.

Create Love * Homeschooling Art-portunity * Inspire Forward * Art Windows of Healing * Love the One Your With * Life a Creative Adventure * Raising Artists * Creatively Green * Bragging Rights * Creative Communication * Found: Inspiration * Art That Brings Hope * Abundance Thinking * What is your sign? * Focus on Provincetown * Kennedy School Sets Young Artists Free * Summer Art * What Colors are Your Dreams? * Committed to Creativity * Life is Good * Fall Art * Beauty from Within * Art Rocks * Are We All Artists? * Thinking Makes it So * Creative Acts of Kindness * Just Say Thanks * The Gift of Art * You are the Boss of your Own Painting

After reading all the titles of my columns I immediately noticed that I started out the year with “Create Love”. As I think of who I am and the basic foundation of my thinking, Create Love is the perfect title to state what I want to come through in every column I write. I truly believe that love is all there is and the rest is an illusion. It is not so much what I say, but it is how I make you feel that will be remembered.

I crafted a prayer for you out of all my columns and have creatively summed up the year using their titles:

I pray that this year, of this artist, giving voice to create love has opened your awareness to inspire forward to bring the healing light of love to the ones you are with. Life is a creative adventure, whether we are raising artistic children or being creatively green, it is good to remember we are allowed bragging rights in the name of love. Creative communication is found inspiration and is an art that brings hope. Abundance Thinking is a sign of creative freedom that brings color to your dreams and the dreams of others. When we are committed to creativity, life is good and we bring out the beauty from within. It is then that we realize, that art rocks and that we are all artists because thinking makes it so. The bottom line is that creative acts of kindness, along with just saying thanks with a heart of gratitude, is a gift of art unto itself. Finally, I would like to say; this life you live, is a work of art and remember, “You are the boss of your own painting.”

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Gift of Art

One of my young art students came into my gallery yesterday with his mom to buy some art. The particular art he was interested in he had seen the day before when in art class. I noticed he kept going over to look at these new Christmas ornaments I had just got in from a local artist. He asked how much they were and didn’t act surprised when I said $25. They are intricate tiny scenes hand painted on mussel shells that are ready to hang on any Christmas tree or where ever you like throughout the year. The artist, Ruth Bacon, is from North Billerica but also has a home in Islesboro, ME where she has collected these mussel shells for years. She started out, last year painting lighthouses on them, but this past summer she began to get request to paint other places and homes on the shells. Her customers were so amazed at the detail that they would insist on paying her more money than she was asking for them. Ruth has been one of my art students for many years and I sold lots of her lighthouse shells last holiday season so she came back with a great driftwood display this year to show off her wonderful new collection of mussel shell ornaments. Included in the collection are paintings of the Billerica Library, the Bennett Library, the Congregational and Baptist church, Schooner Ships, New England Lighthouses and more.

My young art buyer took his time picking out the one he liked the best while his mom told me how he had come home from class the day before and asked her how many quarters there were in $25. He then asked if he could buy one of the shell ornaments. She told him he could and he proceeded to sit down on the floor quietly and count out 100 quarters to buy some art for himself. He then counted out another 100 quarters to buy one for his Nana, who also loves art. He looked and looked for the perfect one for his Nana and could not decide, so I showed him a lighthouse shell that had smoke coming from the chimney in the shape of a heart and he was sold. That was the one for Nana! His mom looked at me and said something that blessed my heart, she said, “How could I discourage my child from buying them when he so appreciates art?” As I put each masterpiece into a special gift box for him he lifted his two baggies of 100 quarters each onto my counter with a sweet glow in his eyes that gave new meaning to “the gift” of Christmas. I looked up at his mom and we exchanged knowing-proud-mom glances that wrapped the moment all up in the joy of giving.

Give the gift of art this year to those you love and to others who can not afford to send their creatively gifted child to classes. Come make your own hand painted ornaments (one for you and one to give as a gift) on December 14th or 21st. Both Tuesday evenings are from 6:30 to 8:30 pm. These two workshops will be our first annual Art Scholarship fund raisers. The cost is $25 per person per workshop. Limited space so call today to reserve your spot and create the gift of art not only in your life but in the life of a child.

Contact Colleen at: Colleen Sgroi Gallery & Art Classes, 12 Andover Road, Billerica, MA 01821 Email: 978667-1009

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Just say Thanks

I remember a story of being thankful I heard when I was a little girl, in my CCD (Sunday school) class that has stayed with me all these years. It is a story about ten men who were healed of Leprosy and only one said thank you. Leprosy was a terrible skin disease that was incredibly infectious. There were strict rules which a leper had to observe. The person had to live outside the village away from other people so the disease would not spread. If the sores went away, the leper had to go to the priest to be examined. If the priest said that the man was no longer contagious, he could go back and live with his family.

Here is the story from the book of Luke. Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you whole.”

As a little girl I had no idea what leprosy was and yet the impact of this story stayed with me. Only one out of ten came back to thank Jesus for healing him and I wanted to be like the one who came back to “just say thanks“. Being thankful is not only a gift to the one being thanked but it is a gift to the one doing the thanks. When we say thank you we fully acknowledge what has been given. I believe that in this acknowledgement there is a kind of faith and it is in this faith that we are made whole. Whole with the gift, whole with the giver and whole within ourselves.

When Rob and I sit down to eat, Rob sometimes thanks God for the people who labored to grow the food we are about to eat. I love that! When was the last time you thanked your mailman or the bus driver who drives your child to school or the grocery clerk at the store you frequent? There are so many people who help our lives to go smooth and easy. Why not “just say thanks”? Last month I wrote about how my apartment got flooded and the staff here at the Villas helped me. I was thinking about all they did to set me up in a hotel, fix my apartment like new again and then send cleaners in to clean everything, right down to the windows. I wondered how many times a day they hear complaints instead of thank you‘s. So, I decided to send them a thank you gift and card. They were so grateful for my thank you gift and note and made it a point to tell me how wonderful it was. I have to say, that in this one act of sending a thank you gift, helped to turn what seemed like a bad situation into a good one. You see, once we realize that all there really is is love, we also realize that the rest is an illusion.

Here’s the thing about thankfulness, it acts like a magnet. When I am thinking about all the things I am grateful for, I begin to see my world from the cup is half full perspective and then it begins to grow into my cup overflowed. The opposite is true when I begin to complain. Suddenly the cup is half empty, and then fear sets in and before I know it, by golly, not only is my cup empty, so is yours! This brings new light on the words, “Perfect love casts out all fear”.

I would like to just say thanks to my readers, who have been following my column and for all your kind words of thanks and encouragement. One such reader recently wrote, “I've always enjoyed your column in the Minuteman...your philosophy is something I try to strive for in my life.” Thank you, Liz, for your beautiful words that encourage me to continue to speak from my heart.

I welcome your emails of what you are thankful for in your life. Please share them with me at:

Colleen is a teaching artist at Colleen Sgroi Gallery & Art Classes, 12 Andover Road, Billerica, MA 978-667-1009

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Creative Acts of Kindness

I received a card in the mail this week from my son, Joe’s, 4th grade teacher. On the front of the card are the words, “Thoughtfulness is always remembered.” Inside was a picture of my son with his friend when they were in the 8th grade, along with a lovely note that reads; “Hello Colleen, Had found this picture of Joseph and his friend the summer he visited Boca. Found it in my box of prayers. Had taken the two boys out for pizza. They made me smile. Thinking of you - Much love and joy, Bridget”

It was twenty two years ago that Joseph was in Bridget’s class. We had moved from Plymouth, MA to Boca Raton, FL in the middle of his 4th grade year. After a month or so of school it came time for parent teach conferences and I went in to talk with his teacher, Ms. Bonczyk. I was curious to know how he was doing since we were in a whole new state and school. When I walked into the room she greeted me with an enthusiastic “It is so nice to meet you Mrs. Sgroi!” I though, well, this is a good sign. She proceeded to tell me what a joy Joseph was to have in her class and could not wait to meet his mom because she could tell he was from a loving home and was adjusting wonderfully. I walked out of the school a very happy mom indeed.

However the story does not end there. One day during the following school year, when my Joseph was now in the 5th grade, I received a call from Ms. Bonczyk. She was in the hospital having had bit of a physiological break-down and needed to talk to someone. She said she always felt a kind of peace around Joseph and also felt it with me when we talked during parent teacher conferences and wondered if I would come and visit her. You can imagine my surprise and yet my heart went out to her and I said yes. We fast became friends, as I visited her many times in the hospital until she got out. She then became like family and we would include her in dinners and such. After four years in Boca we moved to Williamsburg, VA but we kept in touch and when Joseph went back to Boca to visit his friend, Bridget took them out for pizza.

Zooming eighteen years to now I get this card with the inscription “Thoughtfulness is always remembered.” and I am reminded of the words of Maya Angelou, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche argued that kindness and love are the "most curative herbs and agents in human intercourse". I remind myself of this daily and I listen. Listen? Listen to what? Listening to the needs around me is only the first step. It is when I listen closer, that creative acts of kindness start to seep into my thoughts. Sometimes I get so caught up into my to-do-list that I ignore those thoughts of kindness. However, the more I act on these thoughtful intentions, the more I see how it is just what that person needed. Then I get a hit of joy from listening to my inner voice of love and I receive love in return.

I believe we all hear that still small voice of kindness that sounds something like this: “Your friend’s mom is dying and she is taking care of her and you hear that little voice go on to say “Go over to your friends home and clean her house”. What do you do? Sometimes the mind will take you right out of the game with thoughts like, “I don’t have time to clean my own house, how can I make time to clean hers?!” Or maybe the mind will be a bit more crafty and say, “Oh she would think I am insulting her by going in to clean her house, as if I think she is not a good house cleaner.” Oh yes, I know the ego can turn things around to make it seem like it would be far more noble to NOT insult your friend then it would be to take a chance that your act of kindness may be just what she needs. My answer is this: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” So it is not the act itself that effects them, but the love behind the act? Hummm, I can do that! Imagine hearing your friend say, “Wow! No one has ever done anything like that for me before, thank you so much!”

According to Anthony Robbins, "we are all driven by the need to fulfill six human needs. These 6 basic human needs are not just desires or wants, but profound needs which serve as the basis of every choice we make".
1. Certainty - This is the need for security, comfort and consistency
2. Uncertainty - This is need for variety, challenges,
3. Significance - The need to feel important, needed, wanted and worthy of love
4. Love and Connection - The need for feeling connected with and loved by other human beings.
5. Growth - The need for constant development emotionally, intellectually and spiritually
6. Contribution - Giving beyond ourselves and giving to others.

He goes on to say that the first four anyone can find even if they are in a street gang, but it is the last two, growth and contribution, that bring true happiness.
So the next time you hear that little voice suggest a random act of kindness, follow it where ever it may lead and you will find happiness and joy in you and in the lives you touch.

Colleen Sgroi is a teaching artist at Colleen Sgroi Gallery & Art Classes, 12 Andover Road, Billerica, 978-667-1009

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Beauty From Within

A few weeks ago I got an invitation to The Heart of Billerica Awards: "A hero is defined simply as one who sees what needs to be done and just does it... "
Much to my surprise one of the mom’s of a student at my art center, Jen Croce, had nominated me for this award. Last night as I sat with my friends listening to the amazing stories of the nine other recipients for this award, I felt so honored to be amongst the beautiful people of this town. The disabled man who picks up trash on the sides of Boston Road everyday so others will not get hurt riding their bikes as he did. The wheelchair dancers who do not let a silly thing like a wheelchair stop them from dancing and then turn around and give funds they raise to others in need. The mom with an autistic child, who in fighting for her child’s better tomorrow, creates a better tomorrow for others like her own beautiful son. The couple who give their time coaching baseball for special needs children. These are just a few of the stories of the everyday heroes I heard last night.

Here is an excerpt from Jen‘s speech: “I am truly grateful to Colleen for all her help and support with the home schooling movement. Colleen has not only helped me and my cause. She also helps this town by sharing her time and talent. Her gallery is a safe haven to learn the joy of creating art. Her paintings are scattered throughout town at places like the library, here at town hall and on Enterprise Bank. Her art has brought happiness to cancer patients at Mass General Hospital and helps people relax at Logan airport. I find myself feeling inspired each time I look upon something she has created and I am sure I’m not the only person that feels this way. Thank you Colleen for all you have done for me, the home schooling community and this town.”

I listened as my eyes and filled with tears and my heart with the joy of knowing my life is making a difference in the lives of others. This has been my dream for as long as I can remember. Thirty-six years ago, at the age of seventeen I was voted the prettiest girl for the class of 75. I was told by the yearbook staff before it was made public. I remember feeling sad about it, wishing I had gotten friendliest or something to that nature, something that had to do with what came from my heart and not how I looked. I believed that true beauty came from the inside-out. So I spoke with the teacher who headed up our yearbook and told him to please give the prettiest award to the next girl with the most votes. From that day forward I set my heart toward loving others and being beautiful from the inside-out. Sitting there last night, listening to Jen, receiving citations from both the state and the town along with The Billerica Green “Heart of Billerica” award, I realized I am creating just what I set out to do. My sweetheart calls me “The Queen of Love” and this beautiful award was one I humbly accepted with joy.

A special thank you to my dear friend Liana, who created this amazing evening of love. You, my friend are a shining example of “The Heart of Billerica” and I love you.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Committed to Creativity

While sitting in the waiting room of my dentist office this week, the cover of Newsweek caught my eye: “Creativity in America“. Inside I found an article entitled, The Creativity Crisis - For the first time, research shows that American creativity is declining. What went wrong and how can we fix it?
They definitely had my attention now. My concerns over the decline of the arts in our schools were confirmed when I read the following statement, “Kyung Hee Kim at the College of William & Mary discovered this in May, after analyzing almost 300,000 Torrance scores of children and adults. Kim found creativity scores had been steadily raising, just like IQ scores, until 1990. Since then, creativity scores have consistently inched downward. “It’s very clear, and the decrease is very significant,” Kim says. It is the scores of younger children in America—from kindergarten through sixth grade—for whom the decline is “most serious.”

If you follow my columns you all know I am all about “Loving What Is”. So, if creativity is on the decline in America, or bringing it closer to home here in Middlesex County, what do we have right here in River City (Billerica) that is already in place that encourages creativity?

If you are looking to give voice to the visual arts in the form of painting, drawing, cartooning, animation (new class this fall) and mixed medias, we have amazing teachers here at Colleen Sgroi Gallery & Art Classes. We have classes for adults, teens, children of all ages and I even offer a senior citizen class at a great discount. If you are home schooling and want to bring your children to do art with other kids we even have an art home schooling program.
Now, if you or your kids are musically inclined, there is BTL Music School two doors away from me my art center on Andover Road. Parents have been coordinating their kid’s classes with art and music around the schedules of classes we both offer.
Another creative avenue is acting and drama found at Atlantis Playmakers, which is located at 380 Cambridge Street in Burlington. They offer acting classes for adults and children.
Then, thanks to shows like “So You Think You Can Dance” the creative flow of dance has made a huge come back into our culture. I love that show. Just in Billerica alone there is Sally Gould Dance Center on Boston Road, Gotta Dance on Chelmsford Road and Ellen’s School of Dance on Boston Road.

The value of expression through the arts is one that is hard to measure. So let me just share what I see. I see kids with learning disabilities gain self confidence as they tap into their god given creativity. I see teens who are struggling for identity find peace through the sometimes dark tunnel of the teen years. I see adults who have lost loved ones find solace in painting in a group of like minded people and create friendships to last a lifetime. I see adults, who always wondered if they could paint, find joy in the creative process. I see lives enriched everyday. I see!

If you would like to “see” too, make a commitment toward creativity this year and email me to tell me so at: Together we can bring a heightened awareness to the power of creativity to ourselves, our children, our community, our country and our world. For it is in this very way, we are like our creator.

Colleen is a teaching artist at Colleen Sgroi Gallery & Art Classes, 12 Andover Road, Billerica, MA 978-667-1009 Email:

Monday, June 7, 2010

What's Your Sign?

Being an artist, I am definitely a visual person. There are two things that make me stop and pay attention to the moment, rainbows and butterflies. God said, “I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.”. He goes on to say in the book of Genesis, that when He sees it, He will remember. I believe I am made in His image and if God needs signs to remind
Him, then maybe I do too.

When my marriage of thirty years was ending, I found myself going through one of the most painful times of my life. Summer had come, my house was on the market and I would escape on the weekends to my sister’s place on Lake Winnisquam, my place of refuge. One of my side effects was terrible stomach aches. One morning while in pain, as I sat alone on the patio overlooking the lake, I prayed that my stomach would stop hurting. I felt something flutter by my face. Opening my eyes, I saw about ten butterflies flying around me. A peace came over me as I watched these gentle creatures. I put out my hand and one landed on my finger as if to say, “All is well“. It was then that I realized my pain had disappeared. I thought of the card my sister had recently sent me with these words by David Thoreau, “Happiness is like a butterfly: the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.” How true those words have become for me. Now, every time I see a butterfly, I smile and remember happiness comes softly and when I am not even looking, there it is.

I was reminded of this again in the past week. It was the middle of the night as I lay in bed praying about something I was giving over to God and deciding not to worry about. No sooner had I prayed that I could hear my cell phone out in the other room sounding off that I had just received a text message. Curious, I jumped out of bed to see what was on my cell phone screen. I opened it to see a picture from my sweetheart, who was across the country on Lopez Island, WA - a quadruple rainbow! Not one, not two, not even three, but four rainbows in the clouds. I looked up to God and smiled and said “OK, I’ll let these worries go too!”

I love that God is so personal. He knows what speaks to me. I understand that my experiences might or might not speak to you and what speaks to you, your sign, might mean nothing to me or may be a healing gift.. That is exactly how I view art. Art is personal to the viewer. What you love in a piece of art is unique to you and your taste. I create from this same place, knowing that what I create will speak to those who have the eyes to see what connects me to them in my painting.

God is personal with signs. Art is a personal sign. Life gives us personal signs. What is your sign?

You can write to Colleen and share your stories about your signs:
or stop by the gallery to chat. Great experiences and gifts for kids and adults. Visit Colleen Sgroi Gallery & Art Classes 12 Andover Road, Billerica, MA; 978-667-1009

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Inspire Forward

Who are the people in your life who have inspired you?
My parents bought me my first charcoal art kit when I was in the fifth grade. I followed the instructions and drew the covered bridge. My mom framed it and hung it on the wall and the message I received was inspiring and clear: "My daughter is an artist." At least that's the message I got. Thanks Mom for believing in me. When my oldest son, Joe, was in the second grade, a special teacher wrote on one of his stories, "Remember me when you are a famous writer". Joe went on to be an English Major at Suffolk University and is today, an amazing writer.
Now I want to tell you what, the mom of one of my students told me, what I would like to call, an "Inspire Forward" story. This mom works in a hospice home and takes cares of and has become very fond of a 102 year old woman named Bessie. Bessie is an artist, so she showed her one of her daughter, Ali's, drawings. Bessie looked it over and very quietly she began to critique Ali's drawing in a very constructive way. All through the summer, drawings went back and forth from Bessie to Ali through the mom. Ali loved getting instruction and would make the changes before sending it back to see what Bessie thought. Then one day, Bessie had a special gift for Ali - a box with all her own personal art supplies that she no longer was using. Ali was thrilled to receive such a wonderful gift but Ali's mom told me that the true gift was the passing on of Bessie's belief in Ali that said, "You are an artist."
Ali is now one of my students and I get to take over where Bessie left off. To be the inspiration in the life of another is truly a gift and I am thankful every day for this privilege.
So how do we Inspire Forward?
It starts with you. Think about the people who have inspired you and, from that place of gratitude, take actions that inspire forward a similar feeling. It takes being present - really be "in the now", noticing others and listening with an open heart. I know that when I listen to that still small voice inside that comes from a place I call "other than me", I will hear what the person in front of me in the moment needs. Sometimes it is just to listen. Other times it's a kind word or a card or an email. Sometimes I offer to barter when I know the person can't afford classes just to say, "Hey I think you have talent." I offer discount classes for seniors to say, "Come try painting, if you always wondered if you could paint, it's never too late." I inspire forward.
I would love hear about how you have "Inspired Forward". Send me your stories. I will pick one and write about it in one of my upcoming columns.
Email me at If you are interested in discount Senior painting classes, come to one or more Thursday classes, 1:30 to 3:30 PM, Colleen Sgroi Gallery & Art Classes, 12 Andover Road, Billerica, MA. Visit Call 978-667-1009 for more information about "Voice of the Artist", creating happiness and success with art and" Inspire Forward".