James Monroe Elementary School, in Edison, NJ, holds a special place in my heart. A number of years ago, a friend of mine who teaches art there, invited me to come talk with her students about what it’s like to be a professional artist. Less than a week later, in a freak accident, the school burned to the ground. Artist friends of mine gathered art supplies to give to the kids who, along with their teachers, became nomads, traveling around to local empty school buildings for classes while their school was rebuilt. After the new building was open, they asked me to come and help them determine how to add some art and color to their sterile, white walls. Last summer, I installed a wall mural there (photos and a video of which are in my gallery). This year I created a sculpture to honor a very special little girl, Marisa Tufaro , who attended the school and passed away in 2017 when she was just 13 years old. In addition to being a girl full of life and joy, Marisa was an artist and she passed time waiting for medical treatments by drawing. One of her sketches, below, was the inspiration for this copper and glass tree. Despite never having met her, Marisa inspires me through her story and the memories shared with me by people who knew and loved her. Read more about the foundation that bears her name here.