Art Forms Gallery visits Boys & Girls Club

Esther Noe
By Esther Noe
On July 26 the DreamAneers visited the Boys & Girls Club for the last Hill City Public Library program of the summer. This team is led by Rich Mullaney, one of the artists featured at Art Forms Gallery in Hill City. He is both a carver and an author.  
 “I started doing carving basically following other people’s instructions since 1982,” said Mullaney. “Then about 1984, I picked up a piece of cottonwood bark. I just loved that.”
Mullaney enjoys carving cottonwood the most because of the contrast between the rough exterior and the smooth interior. He shared, “The wood is really easy to carve once you get into the bark, and it holds its shape really well.”
One day Mullaney was out cutting bark to carve when he grew tired and sat down under a cottonwood tree to rest. There, he had a dream. 
“The tree told me a story,” he said. So Mullaney decided to convert it into a book for children. Due to his combined experience and love for cottonwood trees, the story came easily. In fact, Mullaney wrote most of the story by thinking about it while carving. 
The result was “Me the Tree,” published in 2020. This self-published book illustrated by Amanda Pfeiffer tells the story of a cottonwood tree from a seed to a full grown tree. The tree survives many seasons and experiences the joy of birds nesting in its branches. As time passes, the cottonwood tree also meets angels, has fairies make homes in its branches and discovers a wood spirit. This book can be found both at Art Forms Gallery and the Hill City Public Library.
From here, Mullaney decided to combine his passions into a program. This program includes Mullaney’s story about the cottonwood tree, music about nature and a time to daydream. 
During the program, Mullaney shared the story of how his book was inspired. Then, each group of kids was given a copy of “Me the Tree” so they could follow along as Mullaney read his book with expression and enthusiasm. Later, the children were able to feel some of Mullaney’s intricate carvings that corresponded with the book. They were also given pieces of cottonwood to keep. 
Mullaney was joined in his program by Chaitanya Skye, a singer and songwriter, and Becky West, a life coach. Together, this team calls themselves the DreamAneers. 
Skye has been singing and writing songs for around 50 years. Her music is primarily categorized as folk and pop, but she shared that it is inspired by experiences from her own life. For example, one time when Skye left her house, the yard was green. However, when she came back, the yard was golden. 
“Growing up in the grass was all of these daffodil starts that I hadn't noticed. And the sun came out, and they all bloomed,” said Skye. “So I said, I’m going to have to write a song that has daffodils.”
This song is called “Patience of a Seed,” which Skye played for the attendees at the Boys & Girls Club. She also played a song about a hawk and what it would be like to fly. The children watched her performance with rapture. 
The other member of the DreamAneers program is West. During the program, West led the children in a daydreaming exercise. They closed their eyes, breathed slowly and imagined the cottonwood tree. They thought about what it would feel like, how high it was, the shade it offered, how deep the roots went and how the branches moved among other things. 
The team shared that daydreams are important because they allow you to go anywhere you want to and be anything you want to be. This is similar to the work West does as a life coach. 
“I help people to dream. I help people to dream about what they would love to do in their lives, and how they may achieve that,” said West. 
She shared that too often people get stuck in routines. They have big ideas of what they want to accomplish as children but with age, dreams tend to get swept away by practicality. 
“I work with people to help them realize what they would love in their life and what actions they can take to bring that to be,” said West. “We all have more within us than we sometimes think we do.”
Now Mullaney, Skye and West have put their dreams and talents together to put on a program that will inspire others to pursue their dreams. Although this was only their second program together, they plan to do more in the future. 

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