MONS, Belgium – A large green dragon has recently taken up residence at the Center des Arts et Métiers. Residing on what had once been a large blank wall, the dragon winds through a mural depicting Mons city center amid the splashes of the black, yellow and red Belgian flag and a large NATO logo .
The mural is the work of family member and artist Jess Boldt at SHAPE, who has honed her skills and developed her portfolio since arriving in the area in 2019.
Boldt and her husband, U.S. Air Force Maj. Jarod Boldt, a NATO Staff Officer, left California for Belgium in 2019 with two of their four children. Boldt started a one-year online program through the Milan Art Institute before leaving California for Belgium.
“I brought all my painting supplies,” she said. “Every week I had a class. But it was really helpful, because it kind of helped give me a little bit of reason about all the madness of the move. “
She said her children often complained about the strong smell of oil paintings in their accommodation before finding accommodation.
Boldt is a mixed media artist, combining charcoal, antique print, and more. True to her ambitions as a muralist, she prefers spray paint to other materials.
“I like the idea of improving the mood of people in everyday life,” Boldt said. “So I plan to be a traveling muralist, going to places and helping businesses showcase what they do and bring art to the community – the everyday community – and to continue to bring the fine arts to galleries and exhibitions. “
She completed her one-year program in 2020 and built her portfolio as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in Europe. His work includes charcoal portraits incorporated into magazine prints in French, Dutch and other languages; vignettes of the American West such as horses, saguaro landscapes, and mid-20th century trucks; European cityscapes such as the Eiffel Tower in Paris; and more.
She submitted selections of her work to EuropArtFair, an exhibition in Amsterdam, which took place on the weekend of July 4, 2021.
“It was a really great, eye-opening and brilliant first impression to showcase your art,” Boldt said. “I brought 16 pieces that were framed – hung up – and sold 10. So it was quite a success.
She attributed her success in Amsterdam in part to her unique national situation – as an American living and representing Belgium.
Not only was the exhibition a successful early career publicity for Boldt, it also allowed him to meet several other artists, even starting a correspondence with a Dutch artist whom she greatly admired.
Additionally, Boldt joined an online art gallery with some of his comrades from the Milan Art Institute. They now meet weekly by videoconference and several have participated in the Art Nordic exhibition in Copenhagen.
His work also gained international attention locally at the SHAPE library, which, before the pandemic, had regularly featured the work of artists on the post.
“We are always looking for local artists, whether Belgian or military dependent on the base,” said Lisa Steinacker, director of the international library at SHAPE. “And Jess came to see us before COVID; it was our last gallery show before we closed.
The library again showcased Boldt’s work when it reopens planned in accordance with Belgium’s COVID-19 preventive measures.
“She has such an amazing and brilliant job,” continued Steinacker. “We thought it would bring the library back to life. This is quite appropriate considering we have been closed and dormant for quite a while.
Boldt’s artwork in the library caught the eye of Shawna Morton, director of the Arts and Crafts Center at SHAPE. The Library and Arts and Crafts Center are nearby facilities and sibling services under the Department of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation of the U.S. Army Garrison Benelux (DFMWR).
“I have been running the installation for two years and have wanted to hang a mural for two years,” Morton said.
Steinacker told Morton that Boldt had tried to do murals in the community. This opportunity excited Morton.
Morton and Boldt worked together on a design that would be home to SHAPE.
“We talked about the idea ahead of time, we tweaked it as we went through it,” Morton said. “It was really a collaborative effort in the sense that we thought it would be best for the community as a whole, keeping in mind our people, our 30 nations as well as our American parts who know the centers well. arts and crafts. “
The two chose a dragon to represent the city of Mons. During the Ducasse de Mons, or “Doudou”, a feast which takes place after Easter, a mock battle takes place between Saint George and a dragon in the central square of Mons.
Morton said she has received positive feedback, especially from families with children.
Besides the embellishment, the mural also draws attention to the Arts and Crafts Center.
“The main focus was to really mark our space,” Morton said. “With 30 nations in this community, not everyone has arts and crafts in their military communities. And so I often hear people coming for framing or for printmaking from other countries outside of the United States, and they don’t realize that we have arts and crafts, and they don’t know not what it is, they don’t know what it entails.
“The idea behind this fresco was really to make the arts known,” she continued. “It’s in the community, and we have opportunities for people to use the space, for people to come and buy products, to try things that they maybe haven’t tried before,” to take a new class to open their eyes to something they might never have done.
Boldt’s work also adorns the work desks of the Armed Forces Network – Benelux.
This isn’t the first time Boldt has visited overseas. Boldt, originally from Hastings, Nebraska, moved to Germany with his father during his childhood five years, when his father was a United States soldier.
She says that currently living at SHAPE in such a multinational environment has shaped her as an artist. Being able to go to the post office grocery store and hear a conversation in a variety of languages prompted her to expand her thinking and methods as an artist.
Recently, her work has led her to participate in collaborative projects, including with her comrades from the Art Institute in Milan while they were at the art exhibition in Copenhagen. A group of them painted a large bottle which was then auctioned off.
She has also organized an exhibition of the work of her fellow students for the SHAPE International Library, which is on display until the end of January 2021.
More of Boldt’s work can be found on his website www.jessboldt.com.
To learn more about the library, visit https://chievres.armymwr.com/programs/shapelibrary.
To learn more about the SHAPE Arts and Crafts Center, visit https://www.shape2day.com/community/leisure/arts-crafts.