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TWYGA: The Blog

Artist Genevieve Barbee is creating 800 portraits of individuals and their talents. She asks each person one question: "What are you good at?". She's had a lot of different responses...

Shawn Crawford is Good at Making People Comfortable

Oil and graphite on paper, 2015  produced in 30 minutes

Oil and graphite on paper, 2015 produced in 30 minutes

My final portrait from Thanksgiving vacation coincides with the 100th TWYGA portrait. (!!!) The goal to hit 800 is that much closer so I’m feeling’ pretty great about it at the moment.

~ join me down memory lane children! ~

Feel free to google the local references you don’t understand

Shawn Crawford is a member of a small group of women who inspired me professionally. Catching up at Elliot’s Fairgrounds (the >place< to hang out in Ghent then and now) She is a teacher at the Governor’s School of the Arts in Norfolk where I was enrolled as a student in the Visual Arts program from 2000–2003. She however teaches set design in the theatre department. I was kinda dating a dude who was an actor in her program and honestly I don’t remember exactly how it happened but I saw what she was up to Granby Street and convinced the school to let me cross register. Looking back, I notice how following curriculum was never something I excelled at…

Anyway, previous to this I had tried to take a shop class in my regular high school but it was made clear to me that only guys took this class. I wasn’t shut out or anything but it was awkward as fuck and made obvious that gross comments about women weren’t curbed in my presence. I wanted to build/make usable things on a grander scale and theatre seemed like a much more attractive option.

When I met Shawn I gravitated towards her “take no shit” attitude. High school aged Genevieve enjoyed the challenge of meeting and exceeding expectations which I did a bit but Shawn also taught me how to fail. She created assignments that forced you to figure things out but if you didn’t it wasn’t like she was waiting to clean up after you. If you fucked up it was time to move on and figure something else out! You don’t get this kind of education in regular high school. She’s doling out real world experience to 15–18 year olds. Her students are lucky as hell to have her.

This tough as nails as attitude is however muted when you sit down with Shawn. Her office had (maybe it still does) a cough near her desk that one could plop down on and talk while looking out the window over Downtown Norfolk. She’s a mom but her advice wasn’t maternal it was guidance from the book of “been there, done that, don’t worry you’ll be ok”