Nancy: My childhood was spent in New Hampshire but as a teenager I didn’t really appreciate the value of small-town living. I really wanted to go to Boston for college and exposure to big-city life. It was also where I had my first real job as a graphic designer and during that time I developed a passion for travel and other cultures and have travelled extensively, including a 15-month trip around the world. I have lived and worked in Maine, Vermont, New York, Hawaii, New Zealand, and Scotland. Eventually I returned to rural New Hampshire much happier to be there.
CiamoReport: How did you get started in the creative arts?
Nancy: I grew up in a creative atmosphere. My mother was a music and theatre teacher, and I was always surrounded by talented and creative people. My grandmother taught me to sew when I was very young and I loved making things. An aunt and an uncle encouraged me to use my imagination and influenced the way I teach art today. When I went to Simmons College, I found there was actually a name and a career for what I liked doing best: graphic design. Later I earned a second degree in studio art to enhance my work as a designer.
CiamoReport: What inspired you to apply for your PCR post?
Nancy: At the time the position at CIAMO was posted, I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ghana teaching art at a school for the deaf. I had found that I loved teaching art to children, especially to those who had never been exposed to art or creative thinking. The most satisfying moments for me were when the students reached that eureka moment of “Oh. I get it. I can do this.” I was also enjoying the life and culture of West Africa and, in particular, having the opportunity to study indigenous arts throughout Ghana with talented artisans. The move to a nearby country to teach at a purpose-built centre and to learn more culturally really appealed to me.
CiamoReport: What are your initial impressions of CIAMO?
Nancy: My first reaction was “Wow! Look at all this art material and space. What a wonderful place for children to study performing and creative arts.” I love that CIAMO is located next to an elementary school and that all those children, who have had little exposure to the arts, can now study art and music properly. CIAMO also offers workshops to adult performers and artists and has an outreach program where we go out to other schools which aren’t so fortunate as to be located next door to the Centre. There’s also a good mix of Peace Corps Response Volunteers and Beninese teachers for cultural interaction.