La Quinta Arts Festival artist Sarah Kaufman had to scramble to take down her booth on Sunday the 9th, the festival’s last day. She had an appointment on Monday at 8:30am at the Saul Martinez Elementary School with 1000 children in nearby Mecca alongside Palm Desert based author Marianne Bouldin.
Over two sessions, the assembly hall filled with hundreds of children, almost all children from migrant farm workers, and listened to illustrator Sarah and author Marianne talk about their children’s book, The Tale of Bambu Mouse. It is the story of a young mouse who is swept from her home in the bamboo forest by a wicked storm and ends up in Shanghai. Along the way Bambu Mouse meets friends who all teach her valuable lessons in life.
Sarah normally resides in Nashville, but was at the La Quinta Arts Festival for the first time as a visiting juried artist. This perfect timing allowed her to donate some of her time after the festival to do the book reading and have a question and answer session with the kids. The exceptional artist talked about the collaboration with the author. Marianne had the book idea but was stuck with it until one day she saw Sarah’s artwork and knew she had found her perfect visual counterpart to the story.
Sarah explained the process she went through from the idea to the sketches, the paintings and then the final digitized copy. She got laughs when she recounted the story of having her final paintings drying on her studio floor and her little dog Peanut unbeknownst to her ran across a few of them leaving his tiny little paw prints as a signature. If you look closely at the pages, you might be able to see his indelible marks. She asked the attentive kids what might be used to put text on her digitized images. One response was loud, clear and confident (and correct): Photoshop! Further interactions with the children brought forth one girl to voice her happiness that they were there, as it was her desire to one day also become an author. Then Marianne gave a reading of this book, which the children enjoyed.
In our digital hyper-saturated fast-paced world, often times it is forgotten how meaningful a book can be. How important it is for a child to listen to stories, to be transported by way of imagination into a different world. Especially for children who are at a disadvantage, stories such as the one of Bambu Mouse as presented by Marianne and Sarah provide hope, inspiration and the ability to dream. The young girl who raised her hand and announced she wishes to be an author walked away that day with her own copy signed by both artist and author. The school’s library received several copies as well.
To see a festival artist go above and beyond the mere call of duty is always an inspiration to see and as a Foundation we acknowledge and give praise where praise is due. We say thank you to Sarah Kaufman and Marianne Bouldin for bringing that much more joy and inspiration into the lives of Coachella Valley children.