Sarnicola: Auburn painter does school plays, historic murals
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ARTS & CULTURE

Sarnicola: Auburn painter does school plays, historic murals

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Friday the 13th has a connotation of bad luck, but usually it is a day that just comes and goes like any other. For the students of Auburn Junior High School, it wasn’t their best day. After weeks of rehearsals, Friday, March 13, was the first and last performance of the school’s production of “Matilda: The Musical.” After that night, all schools were closed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

So what does any of this have to do with the Finger Lakes Art Council? Well, this month’s featured artist, Dawn Jordan, painted the backdrops for all the sets for the musical. “I work behind the scenes,” she said, “and I love it. After hearing the news of the cancellation, kids and their parents were crying.”

Jordan has worked on the sets of many productions for the school. “I paint over the five 16-foot-by-35-foot backdrops from previous shows. I have to work fast, because there is a lot of surface to paint. This school has the best stage and a beautiful auditorium.”

Jordan’s passion for theater is not limited to school stages. She is an experienced puppeteer and has made an assortment of marionettes.

“In 2017, I went to France for the international puppet festival in Charleville-Mezieres," she said. "Puppetry is a way I can put a story together with color and action in a small setting.”

The first Festival Mondial des Theatres de Marionnettes was held in 1961, and has grown to become a biannual, nine-day event that attracts more than 150,000 visitors. Unlike hand puppets, which are typically worn like gloves, marionettes are controlled from above the stage by strings connected to the various moving parts of the puppets.

Dawn Jordan lives and breathes art. She is a full-time artist at MacKenzie-Childs, and works on her own projects evenings and weekends. She comes from a family of artists, and was encouraged by her grandparents to develop her artistic talents and interests. She also studied at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and the Ealing College of Higher Education in London.

Jordan is also well-known for the murals she has painted, many with a historical theme. She painted “The Richmond Aqueduct: Then and Now” for the Montezuma Historical Society, the Old Brutus Historical Society Building in Weedsport, a boating scene on The Shopping Guide and Press building in Port Byron and a freedom train scene on a former railroad abutment on Route 31 between Port Byron and Weedsport.

When asked about the historic component of these murals, Jordan answered, “I enjoy researching and learning. To know that someone at a stoplight might look over and see some art and history is really cool to me.”

To view Dawn Jordan’s interior and exterior murals, set designs and more, visit her website, streetsmartart.com.

Joe Sarnicola is a crafts artist and a member of the Finger Lakes Art Council board of directors.

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