Exploring Global Manuscripts
with the support of SNEAP

(L to R): Merri Klar, Amelia Kearney, Maria Adams, Lavell Thompson, Jennifer Pallo, Debby Reelitz, Aisha Edwards. Picture by Philitha Stemplys-Cowdrey

PART II: Southern New England Arts Apprenticeship Program
September 2022-June 2023

The Southern New England Apprenticeship Program is funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts and supported by Connecticut Humanities, the Connecticut Historical Society, the Connecticut Office of the Arts (DECD), and the Mass Cultural Council.

We were so fortunate to continue our exploration of global manuscripts for a second year. 

For the first half of this 9-month journey we explored Tibetan and Hebrew manuscripts and artistic traditions. The second half, we turned our creative attention to independent projects. It is a critical step to learn about illumination techniques, mimic and practice those techniques– and yet, it is a totally different step to look within and create and execute a design of one’s choosing. 

During the fall, we were blessed to have a workshop with  Tibetan monk, Yeshi and Hebrew artist, Amy Fagin. 

The independent projects were wonderfully diverse. Jennifer Pallo studied pigments and binders to see how the traditional resources of illuminators were created. Merri Klar was inspired by contemporary illuminator Barbara Wolff and created a piece celebrating a family member’s bar mitzvah. Aisha Edwards reasearched the African heritage of the Christian tradition and honored the Biblical story of Esther with her project. Maria Adams created a Tibetan thangka following the traditional proportions of the Buddha. Lavell Thompson created a collection of pieces inspired by Tibetan art as well as a whimsical artwork of her home with Hebraic elements in the design. College student, Amelia Kearney, is an active advocate for protecting nature and designed an artwork lifting up those ideals. I created a sampler of many of the traditions we explored and highlighted some of my favorite manuscripts including the Garima Gospels from Ethiopia and the Bristol Psalter from Greece. While European, the Bristol Psalter was unique in it’s presentation of Biblical characters being of African descent.

Southern New England Arts Apprenticeship Program
September 2021-June 2022

The Southern New England Apprenticeship Program in traditional arts is funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and supported by the Connecticut Historical Society and the Mass Cultural Council.

I am extremely grateful for this grant that has allowed eight of us to spend nine months exploring non-European illumination techniques and manuscript traditions across cultures.

We explored cave art and manuscripts that originated from Ethiopia, China, the Islamic and Mayan worlds. Illumination has traditionally been Euro-centric and has excluded the beautiful manuscripts from Africa, the Middle East and even South America. For me, one of our biggest lessons from this chaotic past couple of years, is the critical need to look beyond the European traditions and explore the brilliance and diversity of other cultures. We used this apprenticeship journey to practice our illumination skills by studying non-European manuscripts and techniques. 

It was an honor to mentor this inquisitive, committed and diverse group of women during this mind-expanding journey!

Front row (L to R): Maria Adams (in gray), Debby Reelitz, Asa Etienne-Modeste. Back row (L to R): Amelia Kearney (in blue), Lavell Thompson, Merri Klar, Aisha Edwards, Sue Lavoie.