Former Cranston resident Jean Colaneri has worked in the city for most of her career, including at the Cranston YMCA from 1980 to 2008.
She was very active in the community and had started off as a child care counselor. Over the years, she advanced and eventually moved into a senior program director position at the YMCA. Among her accomplishments were her involvement in the creation of the Teen Center and being honored as a Paul Harris Fellow by the Cranston Rotary Club.
“When I began at the Cranston YMCA and took over as a school outreach coordinator, there were 15 children in the program, which grew to five locations serving 250 children,” she said.
Colaneri has also served as a yoga instructor for several years with the Cranston Parks and Recreation Department. She currently lives in Coventry.
This weekend, community members will get a glimpse into a part of Colaneri’s life that she rarely shows – her artwork. Her first exhibition will be held Saturday, Jan. 11, from 1:30-4 p.m. at Dragonfly Studios, located at 1199 Pippin Orchard Road in Cranston.
“I’m looking forward to the exhibition,” Colaneri said. “Not many people know that side of me … This is exposing another side of me. It has the potential for a bit of anxiety.”
She said curiosity fuels her artwork – exploring a person or place that she is drawn to and interpreting that impulse creatively.
“It is actually loving the question itself, how will this painting or drawing turn out? How will it evolve? Sometimes the questions in my head are more interesting as I work on an image. I try to practice enjoying the effort, loving the challenge, even being intrigued by my mistakes and always to keep learning,” she said.
Colaneri’s favorite pieces touch on a range of emotions, including sadness, despair and loneliness. That stems in part from her grief after her husband took his own life in 2013.
“Some of my nature paintings are my favorite, too, because again it represents to me an opportunity to find serenity and space outside of the mind,” she said.
Colaneri is best known for her high energy and positive outlook. She still tries to keep light in her life.
Five years ago, her son Michael and his wife, Karen, gave her a gift card to begin classes at the Dragonfly Studios.
“I believe that Michael and Karen recognized the need for me to try to develop something new in my life,” Colaneri said. “This may haves started as a path for me recognizing some healing within the expansion of subject matter, from seeing sadness and horror to recognizing the tranquility in nature.”
Colaneri said she hopes showing her work may inspire a similar journey within others.
“There was no intent to ever exhibit any of my work, because so much of it is personal and it does cause a bit of anxiety to share that part of me with others,” she said. “But maybe it’s time to share, because even someone may be suffering through the agony and tragedy of a suicide, maybe it will assist someone in their journey, too, and with my recognition that each journey is individual, intimate and continuously changing.”
Admission to the exhibit is free.