During the Pandemic: A Conversation with artist, Elizabeth Saitta

Written by Francesca Sinnott
Pictured: Elizabeth Saitta
 
As both artist and art educator, Elizabeth (Liz) Saitta brings a unique perspective to the conversation about her art and its purpose.  “Artists have the rare ability to make special connections with others.  Doing my own art every day makes me a better teacher because it fulfills me and forces me to constantly evaluate my own creative process, allowing for a greater mutual level of respect with my students. I’m not just asking them to go through the creative process, but I am also working through it on a daily basis”. Liz appreciates the role that Co|So has played in her life for the past five years, as the organization has given her a “wonderful platform to share her work with others” outside of her work with her students.  
 
In addition to being a working artist in multiple media forms, Liz is has been a full time teacher at Masconomet Regional High School  (MASCO) in Boxford, Massachusetts for 16 years where she has taught: AP Art History, AP Art Studio, Art Studio I, II, III, Fashion Design, Ceramics, Painting and Drawing.  A versatile artist who has experienced several art careers throughout her life, her greatest passions at the moment are working in graphite, pastels, portraiture and teaching.  Paper cutting is also a favorite medium for her. Liz believes that passion and practice are the magic combination in developing artists, and that her job as a teacher is to cultivate these traits in her students.  As well, the act of  ‘creating ‘ develops problem-solving skills that her students may use in all aspects of life.
 
Liz has taken on many challenges during the forced isolation of the Coronavirus pandemic. The most immediate one was collaborating with the other arts faculty at her high school to translate what they do in the physical art classroom to a virtual platform.  For Co|So’ s upcoming Regional Pastel Show (June 4-July 16), Liz has created a marvelous and very personal pastel in black and white of her husband, Peter Delani, who is a principal, educator, former baseball coach, scout, and manager. This pastel portrait captures his passion for baseball, his intelligence and
his influence in education.
 
Elizabeth Saitta, A Boy’s Dream, A Man’s Passion, conte crayon on canson paper, 16x20”
 
In order to keep member artists connected over the pandemic, Co/So has also launched the “Show and Tell” social media challenge, encouraging member artists to share how they display art in their own home.  Liz submitted photos of her own home, a project she and her husband designed (down to every detail) and had built a year and a half ago. 
 
Elizabeth Saitta's home, artwork pictured: Reality
 
During the pandemic, Liz has also been creating portraits of children around the world for The Memory Project; an organization founded by Ben Schumacher.  The Memory Project provides children globally with keepsake portraits, hand made by students and artists.  These portraits contribute greatly to the self-awareness and self-importance of all children involved in the project and Liz encourages any artist to connect with The Memory Project directly if they want to get involved.
 
Elizabeth Saitta, Memory Project, oil pastel on bristol board, 9x12”
 
Liz grew up in a traditional Italian and Irish household where family and imaginary play were a big part of her life. Influenced greatly by her Sicilian great grandmother, a dressmaker, and by playing and drawing fashion figures for her Barbie dolls as a child, Liz developed an interest in fashion design. Her first path out of Syracuse University led her in to the fashion industry in New York City.  She learned quickly that fashion design was more a business than a creative pursuit at her level.  It was a “Drawing on Location” class with Jennifer Seron (Parson’s School of Design) that made her realize her true love was “the drawing and the creating of art in general”, as well as the pleasure of being taught and of teaching.  These experiences and 9/11 brought living in New York to an end and Liz made the decision to return home to Boxford and transition to teaching. She got her Masters in Education at Mass College of Art and Design and was invited back to teach at MASCO, her own high school, thanks to her now retired former mentor and high school teacher, Terry Meinelt, who has built one of the best public high school art curriculums in the state.  Liz says “the key to its success is the working art professionals who are the teachers. They set high standards, encourage the students to develop core skills, offer electives, thereby teaching fundamentals and making connections for students interested in building careers in art”.
 
Liz surprised her self further when her life, like one’s pathway in art, did not turn out the way she imagined it would be.  Marrying her husband Peter (10 years her senior), taking on the role of stepmother and working through those challenges developed her as a true artist, allowing her to settle into those roles, take more risks, and enabling her transition from artist to teacher.
 
“I feel a responsibility for taking care of other’s children”. This is a process that began with my own family and is happening now through my work in my high school and The Memory Project. Her advice to young artists: “There is real beauty in the challenges of life.  Don’t be afraid to explore them in your art making.   The important thing to remember is to keep learning and to realize that the path in life and in art may not be what you imagined, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t meant to be.”