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Create, Collaborate, Celebrate!

Maclay Hosts Annual Celebration of the Arts With Guest of Honor Mavis Stevens

Photo courtesy of Mavis Stevens

Every year, Maclay students come together for Celebration of the Arts (COTA) and celebrate the importance of observing, appreciating and creating art of all kinds.

COTA is certainly not a new thing for the Maclay community. Beginning in 2016, it is now an annual tradition on campus that many look forward to every year.

“About ten years ago, Mr. Milford took over as head of school and he challenged Mrs. Thomas [Maclay theatre teacher] and I to help make the arts not hidden,” middle school art teacher and organizer of COTA Kim Daniel said. “We thought long and hard and decided a "Field Day" for the arts was the way to go. This spawned other ideas over time.”

This year's COTA has a theme of embracing neighborhood block parties and promoting camaraderie among neighbors. This One School block party will take place on the football field from 12-2 p.m. on March 1, a lively event allowing people to come together, celebrate and strengthen bonds. It will include booths with plenty of artsy activities, along with some special guests coming to speak to the students.

Among these guests is renowned folk/fiber artist and now celebrated author Mavis Stevens, who will be coming to Maclay for COTA and speaking about her debut book, “Last Chance Trailer Park.”

Stevens has been creating art for almost all of her life, starting out at seven years old after being inspired by folk artist Eddie Martin at a street fair. Then, by watching her mother and her mother’s friend knit and crochet, Stevens decided yarn was her medium. She knitted, crocheted and embroidered, and when her cousin suggested she sign up for a festival at 15 years old, she found her career path.

“I feel I am called by a higher power to do what I do,” Stevens said. “My work has taken me places and introduced me to people that are beyond any dreams I could have ever had. I am humbled to live such a wonderful life.”

When she was a senior in high school, Stevens met Mrs. Daniel, and her sister Karen, by teaching them art for a school program. The positive influence of maintaining old relationships is why Daniel was inspired to invite Stevens to COTA this year.

“This upcoming Celebration of the Arts Day at school presents a perfect opportunity to share Mavis' story with others,” Daniel said. “By highlighting her journey and the impact she has had on her students, customers and clients over the years, we can emphasize the importance of promoting arts education in schools and our communities. The arts provide students and community members with a unique outlet for creativity and self-expression, and they play a vital role in fostering critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Her book is all about community as her main character, Lucy, shows us.”

Because of her immense passion for creating art, her long-time friendship with Daniel as well as her journey to publishing a children's book, she seemed to be the perfect guest to celebrate the importance of creating art through her book “Last Chance Trailer Park.”

“Celebrating art is important because it allows us to express ourselves in creative ways,” Daniel said. “Art brings people together and helps us understand different perspectives. It's a special way to communicate without words and to show emotions that might be difficult to express otherwise. Art also makes our world more beautiful and interesting. Celebrating it reminds us of its importance and encourages everyone to be creative!”

Stevens wrote and self-published the book, after working on it for 13 years. She opted to self-publish it, with the help of illustrator Maruf Hasan.

“It all began with the roughest manuscript you could imagine,” Stevens said. “Over time, I had to make changes because references became outdated. For instance, mentioning 'area codes' in conversations lost relevance with the widespread use of cell phones. I kept jotting down notes and stuffing them into various drawers, and I still stumble upon them to this day! Two years ago, I faced a diagnosis of breast cancer, which made me rethink EVERYTHING in my life! Today, I am cancer-free! When I finally got that book in my hand, pure joy!”

After years of hard work, “Last Chance Trailer Park” is now published. Stevens will be bringing her book and its message with her to Maclay for COTA 2024. The importance of celebrating art is a prevalent theme in her life and translates into her work. The Maclay community welcomes her with open arms to share her journey with art and inspire the students to create art of their own.

“The overall message in my book is community: Taking care of each other and ‘doing life’ together,” Stevens said. “Life does not always go the way you expect. There is no direct path; there are always people around you who will guide you. They aren't who and don't look like what you think they will. The community you find yourself in is precious, be it school, neighborhood, family, or wherever ‘two or more are gathered.’”


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Andy Poll

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