Childrens art gallery opens in Afton
Superclown gallery, network recognize the value of
By MIKE MARSNIK
AFTON--if Elizabeth Blanco had her way, there would be no month of May.
"Id like to wipe it right off the calendar," she said,
explaining that five years ago, she lost her only son, David, then 25, to a car accident
on the Friday night before Mothers Day.
Blanco said that after her sons funeral, she immersed herself in his belongings.
"You have this fear of forgetting," she explained. "You never really
forget, but you have this fear."
In son doing, she came across "Superclown," a figure Davey had created from
his imagination at the age of five. While he was constantly doodling
Superclown at that time of his life, only four drawings remained.
Superclown has the head of a clown and the body of a superhero, complete with a
backward "S" on his chest and a flowing cape. According to the legend her son
created, Superclown "would just fly around. He would come to the aid of children all
over the world."
Of course, Davey moved on to bigger things as he grew up: "Dungeons and
Dragons," computers, and college. "He did a lot for a guy who was on this earth
for a very short time," she said.
"He said, Mom, Ill always take care of you," Blanco said.
"His legacy is Superclown. He gave me Superclown."
A foundation has been set up in his name to increase the opportunity of a secondary
education for those who are economically disadvantaged.
Elizabeth Blanco had been earning a living as a food stylist, working mostly for
caterers to make their food look presentable in displays and advertising. As an artist,
she has also created dolls and works in other media. Her cousin, Gina Jarvi, a teacher in
the St. Paul School District for 25 years, came to Davids funeral. Jarvi said she
wasnt considered an art teacher, though she did teach art.
For five years the two cousins had talked about opening an art studio/gallery for
children, a place where children could create and display their artwork.
"It got to the point where wed been talking and talking and talking,"
Blanco said. "We decided it was time to take action."
Perhaps remembering David brought too much pain of loss. Whatever the reason,
Blancos husband took almost the exact opposite approach after their sons
death, wanting to have nothing to do with things that brought memories of him. The Blancos
divorced and Jarvi convinced Elizabeth Blanco to move to the Twin Cities.
For the record, the Superclown Childrens Art Gallery is a non-profit learning
center and gallery for children and youth. Its primary purpose is to build on he
childrens self-esteem and to engage the public in recognizing the fragile, yet
profound expressions they make about their lives and the world.
"To see childrens art in frames is a very, very rare thing," Jarvi
said. "We support the premise that a childs work of art deserves a mat, a
frame, and an audience. We believe that children want and need places of their own in
which to be creative, to continue learning, and to present what they make to others. A
childs work plays a significant role in positive development of his or
The gallery offers demonstrations and hands-on experiences whenever its open.
January saw a total of 16 students and February, as the co-directors expected, was a
slow month. But things are about to pick up. Starting this month, besides the Saturday
classes, Superclown will offer "After-school Potpourri" for children in grades
5-8. Thursday evenings will be Family Fun Night, where families will come together to work
on a quilt, become part of a weaving circle, or participate in other activities that
Superclown also brings art programs to schools, child care centers and community
centers. Programs can run anywhere from four to 12 weeks. Each program ends with a formal
gallery opening at a pre-determined site.
Through the Superclown Art Network, Blanco and Jarvi offer memberships to children.
Members enjoy reduced costs for the classes they take. The network will also sponsor
special events, speakers and guest artists throughout the year. An advisory board is being
established to further define the networks goals and activities.
The gallery also houses a library of books about art and artists as well as how-to
books on various arts and crafts. Jarvi and Blanco hope the library continues to grow as
people donate materials.
The network and gallery are supported by the Doll House, grants from the David Nathan
Blanco Foundation, and through the support of persons and organizations who support
Blanco and Jarvi have high hopes. They hope to branch out nationwide, including a
location in the Los Angeles area next year.
"Weve been planning this for five years, so our goals are going to be pretty
high," Jarvi said.
"Superclown is going to be famous; hes going to take off," Blanco said.
"I have a really good feeling about this."