Alum Spotlight: Norajean Ferris ’10

Recently I had the absolute pleasure of interviewing Norajean Ferris, MCWS Alum and member of our  first Grade 12 graduating class of 2010. Norajean is already an accomplished artist and well on her way  of making a name for herself through her intense, raw, and unapologetic pieces that bring human rights  issues to the forefront. Norajean shared with me her love of art, why she became an artist, and how her  Waldorf education influenced her life.  

Q. Please tell me what led you to a career in the Arts and more specifically what influenced you to paint  such powerful pieces. 

A. As far back as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be an artist. I was born with Cerebral Palsy and  as a child couldn’t move and run around like the other kids. My escape, or should I say play, was doing  art. I’ve always had the hunger, the fire, for art. When I was in high school, I was the kid that ran to art  class. 

To answer why I paint raw, often frightening pieces, I’d have to say that life just happened to me. The  drive to create this subject matter started when I was in college. I was exposed to a lot of differences in  college and I’ve always been sensitive and fired up about human rights. I  met people and learned about situations I’d never known before. I met people from all over the US, from Africa, Asia, the Middle East;  they became my friends. These friendships brought global issues to the forefront for me, mentally,  physically and spiritually. I was given a face and name to people, students like me, coming from places  that are rarely, if at all, brought to the world’s attention. 

In addition to this, in my continuing journey after college, I have worked with and befriended many  individuals that are the “new arrivals” in Portland Maine, my city of residence.  These arrivals,  immigrants from Africa and the Middle East,  are fleeing from countries that are wrought with civil,  social and political unrest. Upon gaining connections with these individuals, I have seen their anger, resilience, humor and hope, forms of the human spirit that demise what is shown on the evening news.  

As a result of these daily and life altering experiences, the creation of my political art just happened  naturally. I’m still getting used to what I’m doing.  I often take a step back from my paintings and think  ‘wow, that’s intense!’ I am in the constant and ever continuing process of exploring how to balance the  elements of spirituality and activism in my work.  

Q Can you tell us about some of your pieces and where they are on display? 

On These Pandemic Streets, Norajean Ferris

A. Yes, two of my pieces “On These Pandemic Streets” and “The Most Vulnerable” will be featured in the  University of New Hampshire’s “On the Edge” exhibit from January 25 through March 31st, 2022. Both  pieces speak to how the homeless have been affected by the COVID pandemic. There is so much  uncertainty today, the pandemic has also shown how easy it can be to lose everything and how  homelessness can really happen to anybody. 

I also have a piece “Out of the Shadows” showing in the Cultural Center of Cape Cod in Yarmouth  Massachusetts. The exhibition, “Empower vs. Exploitation”  runs from February 8 to March 26, 2022. 

In regards to the art itself, this piece speaks to the issues that frighten us most. When we face such  fears, we can make a change, and reach others that are experiencing or have been through trauma.   Seeing individuals not as victims but as survivors, allows us not to judge one another and be able to heal  as one.  

This is the message engraved in this piece.  

Q. What are your future plans and what advice would you give an aspiring artist? 

The Most Vulnerable 22×30 Pen Pastel Marker and Ink 2020, Norajean Ferris

A. For now my plan is to make as much art as possible, apply for different shows, and get my name out.   I’ve also recently applied for an artist residency at Monson Arts in Monson, ME. If I’m accepted, I’ll spend the summer working on political pieces and possibly abstract and landscape art.  I’m also  exploring the idea of writing and illustrating a graphic novel in the future.  

My advice for aspiring young artists is to never give up and follow your heart. If someone says your art isn’t good enough, don’t listen to them.  You should do your thing; always remember the beauty and creativity that lives within you. Push forward, no matter what the inconvenience or obstacle, know that  in order to fulfill your dreams you must commit yourself to facing hardship, for then you will gain  greatness, and become in essence what an artist is: unstoppable.  

Q. How did your Waldorf education influence you and your art? 

A. Waldorf education taught me to see the beauty in everything. It taught me how to grow spiritually  through the arts.  It taught me how to live as a young woman in a very complex world. Art connects us  all and enables us as people, as a society, to make sense of this world; the goodness and the darkness. 

Norajean’s work has been featured in shows throughout Maine and New England. To learn more about  her and her art, please visit  www.norajeanferris.com