Celebrating a Community Hero at the Art Academy
Looking back on a less-than-stellar 2020, the Art Academy’s Academic Dean Paige Williams can identify at least one bright spot. In the middle of team-teaching a senior thesis class last semester, she received an unexpected honor.
“We were interviewing [Lindsey Whittle] for our class—as an alum and an active artist in the community—and at the end of the interview [co-teacher Matt Hart] asked Lindsey if she had any recent projects she was excited about…”
So Whittle began describing her work as a Lead Artist for the local nonprofit ArtWorks, where she guides groups of paid Youth Apprentices in making art for the community. In the spring, they sewed face masks for essential workers, and over the summer they made personalized flags for one-hundred locally-nominated Community Heroes across Greater Cincinnati.
It was at this point that Whittle, who was being interviewed remotely, burst through the classroom door to present Williams with a Hero Flag of her own making, designed to honor Williams’ above-and-beyond contributions to the Art Academy over the past 30 years. She was surprised and blown away.
“She is always present for anyone who needs her at the Art Academy,” says Whittle, explaining her nomination of Williams. “And I feel like she just went really above and beyond during the pandemic […] She never asks credit for it, or asks for anybody to notice. She just naturally steps up and supports people.”
Williams stepped up, for example, to help coordinate the countless logistics involved in keeping a school running safely during a pandemic. This meant establishing new systems, regulations and room sign-ups; installing touchless toilet flushers and water filters; and acquiring all the necessary PPE.
“We formed a COVID task force, and we meet every week. And every decision we make has to be reconsidered and can change at any minute,” says Williams, admitting to some sleepless nights. “The reason it worked [last semester] was because students followed the guidelines […] I’m really proud of them. They were awesome.”
Williams’ respect for students comes through in her unofficial status as “Art Mom” and ally, which Whittle highlights on her Hero Flag. The flag’s design also reflects her love of painting, jogging, and keeping a sketchbook.
“I have this thing where I’m obsessed with paint chips from the paint store,” Williams adds, explaining the flag’s yellow paint-chip backdrop with embroidered color names. Then there’s the shimmering silver grid—a nod to her 2018 mylar installation at the Carnegie.
“I have just always looked up to Paige as an artist and teacher ever since I was a student there,” sums up Whittle (AAC ’07), who is now an AAC faculty member, teaching classes in Garment Design and Performance Art.
The Community Hero Flags were installed on Central Parkway, and two Art Academy students were among the apprentices who made them. Both LaDe Richardson and Lauren Fredrickson were recognized by ArtWorks for exceptional work, and Richardson was designated Top Apprentice for 2020.
“I feel like this [past] year gave us a lot of opportunity to see things in people that maybe cause us to lose hope… to stop believing in people a little,” says Whittle. “[But] ArtWorks was like ‘no, there’s still a lot of people that we should be inspired by.’”
(with special thanks to the National Flag Company for supply donations)