2023 Fundraiser!

FAVA's 2023 Imaginarium Fundraiser will be held on Saturday, May 20, 2023 at FAVA! Please save the date!

FAVA's 2023 Imaginarium Fundraiser will be held on Saturday, May 20, 2023 at FAVA! Please save the date!

FAVA's 2023 Imaginarium Fundraiser will be held on Saturday, May 20, 2023 at FAVA! Please save the date!

FAVA's 2023 Imaginarium Fundraiser will be held on Saturday, May 20, 2023 at FAVA! Please save the date!

FAVA's 2023 Imaginarium Fundraiser will be held on Saturday, May 20, 2023 at FAVA! Please save the date!

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My Inner Zoo

Donna Coleman

Oil & chalk on canvas,

36” x 24”

Artist Statment:

My Inner Zoo is a depiction of my chakras each paired with a zoo animal. For five summers after I graduated from high school, I worked at the National Zoo in Washington DC as a trackless train driver, tour guide and parking lot attendant. Being in the tourist trade, around animals, and hearing the Bertha Butt Boogie playing on everyone’s transistor radios was one of the most deeply formative experiences of my life, and continues to define me - and my chakras! I am depicted here as a 17 year old, and through the decades up to the unknown future, which is, hopefully, still a few decades in front of me.

Red is the color that represents the first, or root chakra, which represents basic survival. Marabou storks are all about themselves. I once painted two marabou storks fighting over a frozen, dead rat. There was a heap of frozen, dead rats the zookeeper had just given them, but these two wanted whatever the other had. This is not perhaps an admirable quality, but I can’t deny I often enough have those feelings.

Orange represents the second chakra, which represents sexuality. If you go to a zoo where there are Galapagos tortoises, I can guarantee you what they will be doing, no matter what time of day or season. The trackless train route ran past the Galapagos tortoise enclosure, and every child on that train had questions for their parents. I think Galapagos tortoises represent the second chakra very nicely!

The third chakra, yellow, represents our personal, human power, as opposed to our animal power as in the first chakra. Giraffes are elegant, graceful, imposing, have few predators, and know how to look out for themselves and each other. No one has a bad word to say about giraffes. I aspire to be as powerful as a giraffe.

The fourth chakra, green, represents love and relationships, which define the quality of our lives. Who are we without love and relationships? They cause the greatest joy and the greatest pain. Slender lorises know how to live peacefully and communally, and quite unlike the Marabou stork, are kind to each other.

The fifth chakra, the throat chakra, blue, represents communication. If you go to a zoo with Siamang gibbons, you will hear them before you ever see them. They spend a lot of time yelling their heads off and it is quite a commotion! I tend to be too reserved, so I need the assistance of Siamang gibbons to be more assertive and communicative.

The sixth chakra, the third eye, purple, represents spirituality. As human beings, we have so many more questions than answers. While fully alive, and grateful to be so, I keep knocking at heaven’s door, so to speak, trying to understand my place in the world, what my existence means, why I am here, what else is out there. The emu is a large bird who cannot fly. The Stanley crane flies beautifully. I cannot fly but I can imagine flying. I hope I get to fly someday. But in the meantime, I can only watch, and wait, like the emu.

On COVID-19:

This painting is on a wall at the Sandusky Cultural Center, in a room full of other artworks, in a show that no one is seeing because of the Coronavirus.

Like pretty much all artists, I spend a lot of time in my head, alone, while the world bustles on around me. Now that there is silence all around me, I somehow feel more connected to other people. The importance of each person seems more immediate, more front and center, more urgent, and that feels so real and right to me.

The stay at home order has been in place for 2 1⁄2 months, as I write this. As an adjunct faculty member of Lorain County Community College, I had to transfer my Drawing I class to a fully on line studio art class in less than a week. Now I am getting my hybrid in person/on line Drawing I class ready for the summer semester. Learning new computer skills, thinking of how to teach art in a meaningful way on line has kept me very busy, even overwhelmed at times during this period. At the same time, my children’s classes at FAVA were cancelled, and I miss my students! As an artist, well, if you tell an artist to stay home, few artists will mind that. Less time in the car commuting, more time to paint? What’s not to like about that?

Except, our country is in a severe crisis, much more so than any I have lived through, so that I have a hard time focusing, distilling my thoughts from the raw emotion swirling around and within me. As a consequence, I’ve been trying new things in my basement studio - nothing radical, just shifts of habits. I’ve tried different brushes, different mediums, different colors, different working methods. None of it is necessarily permanent, but all of it is creative and helps me be more flexible. . My paintings have always been about social interactions, seen through the lens of a little time and distance. I want to develop a sense of readiness for what will happen next, because in this uncertain time, the same old, same old is fast becoming irrelevant, even as it is intensely comforting.


Donna Coleman received her BFA, Honors, in painting from the Rhode Island School of Design and her MFA in painting from CUNY Brooklyn College, New York. Her paintings have been exhibited extensively in Washington DC, her hometown, and in northeastern Ohio, her home since 2000.

Venues include The Arlington Arts Center,Arlington, VA; Gallery K, Duke Ellington School for the Arts, New Horizons Gallery of Children’s Hospital, the offices of Senator Eleanor Holmes Norton, The Washington Project for the Arts, WDC; Firelands Association for the Visual Arts, The Baron Gallery of Oberlin College, Oberlin, OH; the HereHere Gallery, The Mather Gallery of Case Western Reserve University, the Dead Horse Gallery, Cleveland, OH; Antioch College’s Herndon Gallery, Yellow Springs, OH; The Ohio Arts Council’s Riffe Gallery, Columbus, OH; The Little Gallery, BGSU Firelands, Huron, OH; The River Gallery, Rocky River, OH The Sandusky Cultural Center, Carrington Arts, Sandusky, OH; and the Harris Stanton Gallery, Akron & Cleveland, OH.

She has been the recipient of four grants from the Ohio Arts Council; as well as the Ellen Johnson Visiting Artist Fund of Oberlin College; four grants from the DC Commission on the Arts; Art Matters, Inc.; and the George Sugarman Foundation.

Before moving to Ohio, she was the Director of the Dreamcatcher Arts Summer Camp and Middle School Art Teacher at Sidwell Friends School in Washington DC. She has taught art to young children for many years, and continues to do so at Firelands Association of the Visual Arts in Oberlin. She also teaches fine arts courses to adult students of all ages at Lorain County Community College.

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