CARROLLWOOD – It’s been a long ride from the Vietnam War to a junior high school art teacher at Morning Star School, but Mary Ellen O’Brien has enjoyed every minute of it.
O’Brien unveiled her latest creation, a mosaic with three simple words, “Joy, Love, Peace” last Friday during a ceremony seen by many of the Morning Star students.
Morning Star is a small, nonprofit Catholic school, at 210 E. Linebaugh Ave., that works with elementary and junior high school-aged kids with learning disabilities and learning challenges. O’Brien’s husband, John, taught social studies and science for 10 years at Morning Star. It seemed like a natural fit for O’Brien to bring her talent there.
She’s been an artist her entire life, but it all picked up when she graduated from the Cambridge (Mass.) School of Design. After working at Harvard, she joined the Army in 1968 as a civilian arts director in Europe. The position consisted of teaching and administrating a full arts and crafts program to the military.
“I couldn’t believe how many of the men were artistic and wanted to learn more about things like pottery,” O’Brien said. “I was teaching these men who might go off to war how to be artists and it was a really great experience.”
Her life hasn’t been boring, and her experiences as an artist have been fulfilling. She is the Silk Artist in Residence at the Moffitt Cancer Center, where staff members and patients learn about her silk painting process, which she calls the “fabric of life.” O’Brien is also affiliated with many local museums, but, this week, her main focus has been at Morning Star, where she teaches art about three days each week.
“I love being with the kids who have a feeling for the art,” O’Brien said. “They have the same talent here as any other kid at any other school and they are interested in everything. They love working with art and expressing themselves.”
O’Brien, who hails from Maine and spent plenty of time in New York, gets her ideas from simple things such as magazines. Today, she is working especially hard on silk designs, but has an eye for almost any form of art.
She is especially proud of the exhibit that went on display Friday at Morning Star. It was originally designed for the neighboring Most Holy Redeemer Catholic parish, but was moved to Morning Star. She has had to hide it from her students but she was excited to unveil it last Friday – where she hopes it will stay for a long time.
Mary Ellen O’Brien works on all types of painting and can be reached at (813) 935-2545 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.