Color Me Happy

by Holly Schaffer, Community Relations Manager

On the day I met her, 16-year-old Amariah told me that she’s had dreams about her work hanging in an art museum. It came as no surprise, then, that she had a lot to say about creating art. “I hope to bring color and joy to others through my paintings and inspire them to do what they love,” she told me, enthusiastically.

Amariah and I sat down to talk about her first art display, which hung at W. Anne Gibson-Esmond Station Library October 1 through October 21, 2022. The display, called Color Me Happy, featured a series of bright abstract acrylic paintings that matched her lively personality, which I noticed right away when I saw her teal blue, galaxy tie-dyed shoes.

At a previous visit to the library with her mom, Javare’, Amariah saw artwork from one of the Vail School District’s elementary schools on a bulletin board. “Would you like to share your work with the community?” Javare’ asked. As one would guess, Amariah said yes.

In comes Librarian Kelsey Blackman, who helped bring Amariah’s first art show to life. “We wanted the community to see her artwork,” Kelsey tells me. “She is very kind and wants to bring color to the world. To be able to define something so personal in such a positive way is inspiring. She is also brave to want to share her art in such a public forum.”

So, the art went up and Amariah was thrilled. “I was inspired… and it felt so powerful. When I first saw the little sign with my name on it, I texted all my friends!”

Amariah has always been interested in the arts. Her family has lived many places! She told me about going to the interactive Museum of Illusions in Miami and visiting many museums and theatres while living in the United Kingdom. She fondly recalled seeing the Wizard of Oz musical in London.

It was during the COVID-19 pandemic, though, when she really devoted herself to her own artwork. “Painting helped her get through the pandemic and the loss of a family friend,” Javare’ told me. Amariah added, “If you paint for 20 minutes, it helps with healing.” With this in mind, she recently wrote an essay for school about the intersection of art and mourning.

Amariah’s passion goes beyond acrylic painting. “I love all kinds of art, even things that aren’t necessarily called art,” she said. “Building LEGO Friends gives me inspiration. I don’t use the instruction booklets; I use my imagination.”

A visual learner, Amariah also draws inspiration from graphic novels, movies, and animation. “Avatar 2 blew me away. Also, Avengers comic books, Ant-Man. Anything Stan Lee,” she told me.

Amariah is an artist who has dreams. She loves horses and wants to own a ranch and give lessons for $20 because she wants it to be affordable. She said she adores Netflix’s Heartland (which the library circulates!) and might try painting horses someday.

With so many interests, it’s no wonder that Amariah loves the library. “The atmosphere is so nice. The people are kind and generous and they have great programs. You can experience new things you never ever knew about.”

I asked Kelsey what effect she thought the display had on Amariah. “I hope that it encouraged her to continue to share her artwork,” she replied, “as well as gain confidence in talking to people like library staff who can help make things happen. I also hope it gave her a strong and positive impression of the library and what libraries can do to support community members.”

If you ask Amariah and Javare’, I’m sure they’d say it did.