Beauty Is Everywhere
The corners of the world that tend to be overlooked or unappreciated are where artist Roxane Mayeur ’95 finds inspiration to create.
“I find beauty in the things that your average person does not. Things that are changing. Things like rust and decay and graffiti,” she says (pictured above is her work Tuesday’s Child, made of cold wax, oil and collage on a wood panel).
This perspective is not only the lens through which Mayeur sees the world and creates art, but it also informs her deep respect for human dignity. Put simply, it’s the way she lives her life as an artist and as a teacher.
Mayeur studied art education and art therapy at Alverno and began her career as an art teacher in Milwaukee Public Schools. She was part of a group of educators who founded Community High School, a public charter school within MPS that focused on social justice and service learning. After spending 13 years there, she returned to the art classroom at Golda Meir School.
Throughout her teaching career, she witnessed firsthand the power of art to ignite creativity, boost confidence and to offer release, especially for students who had few safe outlets of self-expression available to them.
“The arts in general offer a lot to students who are not necessarily connected to traditional academics. It can be a way in,” she says. “It can be a safe place for them. They might be able to express themselves in a way that hasn’t taken place in an acceptable manner before.”
Mayeur retired from teaching in 2018. But she missed the connections she made with students and parents as well as the impact that her work could have. So when a former colleague invited her to create an art studio for the homeless, she immediately said yes. Today, Vineyard Value Art Studio offers an opportunity for people to gather and, if they choose, make art.
“It started very small — making sure we had hot soup, and some coffee and tables with art materials. It was magical. It was wonderful. They’d make the art and then we’d hang it up there,” she says.
It quickly became clear, however, that something truly profound was happening.
“It really was about making connections and reaching out beyond the art making. It’s a community where everyone is accepted,” she says. “Between the volunteers and artists, you don’t know who’s in what position, and it doesn’t matter. Everyone’s on an equal playing field.”
Through her work, Mayeur has encountered questions and challenges about what it means to be homeless as well as harmful stereotypes about who homeless people are. She has seen how people can be overlooked, judged, and stigmatized by their circumstances. But she knows, and she wants others to know, that we all have value. We are all worthy of time and attention. We are all beautiful.
“It’s just being in the moment and understanding, especially in places of misfortune, that sympathy and pity are in no way beneficial,” she says. “If you see that there’s beauty in everything, or potential beauty, it’s a healthier way to live.”
For more about Roxane and her artwork, visit her website.