By Christina Shepherd McGuire
Former Teton Valley resident Kelly Sullivan, a painter and creator of the Mighty Fingers Facing Change experiential art program, has been involved in collaborative art for over twenty years. Following her grandmother’s mantra, “Don’t be shy with the paint,” Kelly specializes in “finger smears” on life-sized canvasses. Her Mighty Fingers project, designed to inspire adolescent girls and celebrate individuality, brings teenage girls from around the world to gather, design, and execute the first-ever global FingerSmear.
Earlier in 2013, Kelly brought her program and giant smear-in-progress to Teton County, Wyoming. The stop—sponsored in part by pARTners, and hosted in collaboration with GAP, Journeys School, Alta Elementary, and the Art Association of Jackson Hole—was one of the four locations she’s visited thus far (the others are Guatemala, San Francisco, and Edmonton, Alberta). I recently caught up with Kelly mid-stream to get the gist of her empowering collaborative art project.
What is the Mighty Fingers Facing Change Project?
The project is a two-part experiential art project designed to encourage self-discovery and collaboration. First, each girl is given a bag and guided through visualization exercises. She then writes about her life, her strengths, her community, and the global community, using words and symbols. Then, she flips the bag over and creates a self-portrait.
Part two of the project, the FingerSmear entitled “Abundance,” aims to unify communities on both a global and local level. Participants paint with their fingers on a master canvas, adding something that symbolizes their community.
What happens when the project leaves the participating locale?
The Mighty Fingers project provides ongoing enrichment to the lives of the girls involved. I carry individual letters from locales to keep the girls connected. Girls can follow the journey via Facebook and the blog as it heads off to foreign places like Indonesia and Uganda. Additionally, a video documentary created by videographer Toni Tru will chronicle the project. You can view the videos, including the Teton County segment, online at mightyfingersfacingchange.com ; click on Videos and Pictures from the Road.
So, what’s next?
Currently, I am working to build the next batch of funding for future stops like Afghanistan, Indonesia, and the Philippines. The production and logistics, including funding, are challenging. But the work, when I’m in it, is as good as it gets. I am determined to move forward—this time at a slower pace. I want to be able to slow it down and experience it on a deeper level myself, [artistically speaking]. I want to take some time in each location to do my own work…paint, write.
The Mighty Fingers project truly is a gift of art. We wish Sullivan well as she continues the next phase of her journey enriching lives. Check out one of her local smears at Alta Elementary or the Driggs City Hall.