Mobilizing Essex


D.C. artist partners with Heart and Soul on public art


By Jason Starr
The Essex Reporter




Fleming and Summit Street School art teacher Lisa Foley has been chasing a visit from renowned mobile artist Kevin Reese since she arrived in Essex Junction seven years ago. Her affection for the Washington D.C.-based sculptor and actor is based on the success of a visit Reese took to Foley’s former school district in Fairfax, Va.

Until the Heart and Soul of Essex initiative rose to prominence this year, it was always a sort of pipe dream for Foley. When Heart and Soul was exploring ways to involve local teachers and students in its yearlong investigation into Essex’s community spirit, Foley introduced the idea of bringing Reese to town for a weeklong residency. Looking back, she’s glad Reese didn’t come sooner.

“It needed to wait because this is just such a good fit for what Heart and Soul is trying to do,” Foley said.

Reese has been helping communities collaborate on public art displays since 2001, focusing on the math, physics, art and teamwork learned while building large mobiles. His “mobilizing the community” residency starts this week in Essex and will bring together students from Essex Middle School, Albert D. Lawton, Fleming, Westford and Essex High School.

“Bringing all these kids together is very exciting,” Foley said.

The project dovetails with Heart and Soul’s grant-funded civic visioning initiative by focusing on symbolizing the core community values Heart and Soul has identified over the past year: education, local economy, thoughtful growth, health and recreation, community connections, and safety.

Reese visited Essex last spring to set the stage for the project with Heart and Soul co-coordinator Liz Subin. He returned this week for a Monday and Tuesday session at Summit Street School. The residency began in earnest on Wednesday at Essex High School with students from five schools starting what is expected to be about 50 mobiles hung together in the high school cafeteria. Participating students submitted sketches based on what the community values mean to them to inform their work with the artist.

“It’s an opportunity to take the values we heard from the community and really make them visible,” said Heart and Soul co-coordinator Sue McCormack.

The mobiles will be displayed at Essex High School through Christmas. After the New Year, they will be broken down and installed individually at a group of Essex businesses that helped fund the project, including Regal Gymnastics, Rex’s Outrageous, The Essex Resort and Spa, Scott and Partners Architecture and Sweet Clover Market. The mobiles will remain in the businesses as permanent public art installments. Heart and Soul is still seeking sponsors to have mobiles installed at their business locations.

“It’s more than just seeing these (value statements) come to life,” Reese said. “This project is about everyone working together and making a mark in the community that lives for years to come. Then, everyone who participates feels a part of the projects and everyone will have a sense that we all helped to create this.”

The community is invited to participate in mobile-making with Reese from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday at EHS. The residency will culminate Nov. 21 with a 5 p.m. reception and performance by Reese at EHS about the power of mobiles.

More information is available at