The community is in for a double treat during September’s Last Friday Art Walk at Boyd Thomas Clothing. On display will be the children’s book “If Only I had You,” written and produced by Harmony Adoptions employees with illustrations by renowned artist RaRa Schlitt. Schlitt will have some of her other artwork for sale as well.
The book, written by Gina Buchanan and Pam Frye, had serendipitous beginnings with a casual comment to Buchanan during lunch one day. An adoptive mother told Buchanan she should write a book, and that’s what Buchanan did.
The children’s book will be available for purchase for $16 plus tax during the Last Friday Art Walk, and Buchanan will be on hand to sign copies and discuss the book’s creation. The proceeds from “If Only…” will go to Harmony’s capital campaign to renovate the former Camp Montvale.
Buchanan, who works for Harmony as an administrative assistant, said once the idea was planted, the words flowed out of her. When she got back to her office after lunch, she started writing sentences from a child’s perspective of what it would be like to have a parent.
“All those thoughts just kind of streamed through my head, and I wrote those down,” Buchanan said, recalling the experience.
After she finished, she showed her work to Frye, Adoption Services Director, and Pam Wolf, founder and CEO of Harmony, who were excited about the sudden opportunity. Frye offered to write from the viewpoint of an adoptive parent, drawing both from her personal experience of being an adoptive mother and from families with whom she has worked in the past.
Wolf said she asked Schlitt, who is known for her colorful and whimsical paintings, if she would provide the artwork for the book. Wolf said Schlitt is one of her best friends, and they have known each other since both of their daughters were in first grade.
“I think Gina and Pam and RaRa are three remarkable women,” Wolf said. “I’m just honored to know them.”
Schlitt said after reading the manuscript, she let her imagination filter through the words to come up with the paintings used in the book. Hearts were an important piece of the work because Harmony inspires the image of a heart for her.
“I wanted it (the artwork) to appeal to children, siblings, parents, grandparents. I tried to use deep, rich colors,” she said. “It’s real different painting for a book than for a painting because you have to tie it all together.”
Once the book was ready, they started looking at publishing options and finally decided on self-publishing. Beverly Gonzalez, Wolf’s executive assistant, took the reins on the project at that point and saw it through to publication. The book was released earlier this year and will help fuel the organization’s future plans.
Harmony is purchasing the former Camp Montvale and will close on the property in December 2012, but they are already starting to work on it and have developed a capital campaign to fund the project. The land, 364 acres that will go into a land conservancy, will cost $1.5 million with another $600,000 for renovations and updates.
“It’s really been a summer camp,” Wolf said. “It’s got great bones, but it needs some infrastructure upgrades and repairs.”
The former Camp Montvale will be known as Harmony Family Center of Montvale. Wolf said the camp has such an important history and tradition in the community that they wanted to keep Montvale in the name.
The center will be used for clinical programs offering education and therapy for adoptive families, for family camps and for training child welfare professionals. Harmony serves more than 1,000 children a year in both domestic and international adoptions. The nonprofit organization has also trained more than 15,000 professionals in the southeast.
In addition to using it for their own needs, Harmony will rent the property to the community for events such as board retreats, weddings, family reunions and other similar activities.
“It’s a magnificent place that ought to be used for families who need the support and by the community,” Wolf said. “We want to continue that tradition of healing and growing.”
Schlitt will donate proceeds from her paintings at Boyd Thomas to Harmony Adoptions. Last Friday Art Walk starts at 5 p.m. on Sept. 30.
“This is the first art walk I’ve ever done with a book,” Schlitt said. “That makes it unique for me.”
For more information on Harmony Adoptions, visit their website at www.harmonyadoptions.org. For more information on the art walk, go to www.maryvilleartwalk.com.