For the first three days of summer break, I participated in a Baltimore County Public Schools Art Educator workshop at the Hampton National Historic Site.
The first workshop was “Painting with Pastels. We got an overview of some of the history of the site prior to choosing where and what to create and were able to roam where we pleased to create art inspired by the park.
We gathered together around 2pm to discuss all of the work we’ve created! The workshop was scheduled to be over at 3 but we didn’t even finish our talk until 3:40! Art teachers really like to discuss each others work.
The next workshop was Plein Air Painting for 2 days! The weather was gorgeous and I surely got some vitamin D. I love being able to create art inspired by a place I am drawn to. The Hampton National Historic Site is one of those places. Baltimore County Teachers have come to Hampton for the past 4 years to practice our skills using our very own National Park. Most teachers use this workshop to create their own art for the Student/Teacher Art Exhibit the Hampton Historic Inc. facilitates in April. Teachers also take their inspiration back to their classroom and teach their students about Hampton while creating art that is inspired by the site.
Last year there were over 100 submissions into the 4th Annual Student/Teacher Art Exhibit. This is a perfect opportunity for teachers and students to be recognized for their amazing work.
This year I decided to do an intuitive painting for the plein air workshop. I used tools, and my color combination layer to create an emotionally fill painting.
When I first started painting I was drawn to the Bee Balm flowers, so I started with them in mind. After making my first two layers of colors I noticed a mark that looked like a woman! I knew I had to keep her, as I felt like maybe she was Eliza Ridgely or her daughter.
Eliza Ridgely was an avid gardener, and in the 1830s and 1840s she improved the gardens and enhanced the landscape at Hampton, planting exotic trees such as the Lebanon Cedar which still stands on the house’s south lawn. She is said to have brought this herself as a seedling from Europe, carrying it in a shoebox. She did a lot for her slaves, was which was unheard of in her time. She took care to make sure they were clothed, fed, given gifts during Christmas, church services on Sunday and even marriages between the slaves, not caring that slaves weren’t able to actually be apart of a civil act.
Eliza’s daughter, Eliza, did not want to be the lady of the house and take over the duties her mother had so willingly adopted. Her daughter wanted to be friends with the slaves, and to be free to be a normal girl. She felt trapped in the life she was born into.
While I was painting I kept hearing, “everyone has a story.” A lot of times the major story focused on at the mansion is the story of the enslaved people at Hampton. I appreciate the awareness and knowledge I gain from the park rangers about the life of the enslaved. I know their story is vital to the Ridgely family history… without their slaves, life for the Ridgely’s wouldn’t have been the same. But it is also important to see that within every experience, there are multiple perspectives, there are multiple stories to be told.
The Ojibwe teach that not one road is higher than the next…that each road shines light on the others. Each of our perspectives, each of our stories are valuable and vital to the totality of our life experiences.
I am grateful to be able to learn multiple perspectives about the history of the Hampton National Historic Site, from life as an enslaved person to the life of the family. I am able to learn about plants, flowers and landscaping along with art and culture in the 1800’s. There is still much to uncover and learn about Hampton and I look forward to how the history at this location resonates with experiences I have in my life.