Climbing the Ladder
Artists Naomi Rose and Elizabeth McClellan…
Redding has nurtured a culture of appreciating local artists more than many cities of even larger size. In the center of downtown, the IOOF Hall has displayed on its exterior wall a curation of murals painted by local artists which they plan to keep up for a year. Naomi Rose and Elizabeth McClellan are two of those participating artists. “Being surrounded by art feels good to me,” says McClellan. She loves how downtown has changed so much over the years to celebrate the developing art scene that has formed in Redding.
McClellan and Rose aren’t ordinary artists, however; they have a unique partnership. Rose has been creating art for 20 years, and she has worked to overcome many challenges, such as a learning disability and needing supports to walk. “My life is a pattern of starting at the bottom and climbing back up. Art has been the ladder that makes my ascent possible,” Rose says. “Art helps me define what can’t be said with words.” She’s always looking for creative solutions to problems and focuses on keeping her head up. “My art is one way I express myself,” she says. “Since I read and write minimally, art has become one of my ‘superpowers.’”
Rose grew up in Concord, but has lived in Redding for almost 30 years, where she raised a child and attended Shasta College. She has a fully developed art style with lots of thoughts about how she wants her work to look. “I never got taught to do art,” she says. “I teach myself.” It’s always been a part of her, though she enjoys learning new techniques and styles from other artists. She loved pencil drawings for a long time, but now primarily uses acrylics, wash and chalk, which she sometimes applies to interesting textures such as sandpaper and velvet. She sells her art and was invited to join the Adventures in Business Program through the We Care a Lot Foundation, which advocates for those with disabilities by supporting them in education and employment.
McClellan met Rose through the We Care a Lot Foundation in 2019, when she saw an open position for a mentor. “I never felt like a mentor,” McClellan says. . A lot of what she does is help connect Rose with places that are looking for art so she can continue to make her work more visible. They meet several times a week, often visiting local studios like Sandi Palmer’s in Cottonwood. McClellan often brings a project that she’s working on, or helps Rose with clean brushes, water or supplies, jokingly calling herself the “art waitress.” She supports Rose as she works on whatever creative endeavor is underway at the time.
Of her own artistic genesis, McClellan says, “I’ve always been an artist. I started drawing on the walls. I didn’t get in trouble; my mom just gave me more paper.” Her mother made sure she had plenty of outlets for her artistic nature and fostered the love she had for it. She studied art in college, hoping to find a job that would allow her to continue with what she loved. As a logical next step, she says, “I figured I would move to San Francisco to be an artist.” Her favorite job was as an art teacher at Children’s Day School in San Francisco, where she stayed for almost 30 years. She loved “learning how many different kinds of brains there are, how much art comes from different kinds of thoughts.” She now works for Reach Independent Living Center as a visual notes taker, helping with goal setting for people in self- determination programs. Maybe surprisingly, McClellan also does more freelance painting work in Redding than San Francisco, illustrating the willingness of Redding’s patrons to engage with local artists. Of Redding, she says appreciatively, “I want to be in a place where art is loved and valued.”
Rose is active in the Redding and Chico art communities, but as McClellan says, “It’s a different world after COVID. Art fairs and opportunities for being in the public have changed.” They participated in The Art Hunger shows over the summer and take every opportunity to get their work out to the public. Both Rose and McClellan will be at the Shasta County Arts Council’s holiday boutique in November, where they’ll have original art, prints and cards for sale. McClellan will also teach a class called Sky Signs and Watercolor, where students will learn watercolor techniques while pulling inspiration from the night sky and its constellations. As they joyfully continue in their creative pursuits, McClellan shares warmly, “Naomi and I are teaching each other how to trust, believe in ourselves and keep on.”•
Article Written By:
Eythana Miller was transplanted to Redding from Montana three years ago and has fallen in love with the area. She’s in her second year at Shasta College, and loves a good literary discussion over a few cups of black tea.