Note: At our recent board meeting in Houston, Texas, we asked Galveston-based jewelry artist Diane Falkenhagen to talk about her experience with CERF+ after Hurricane Ike during a reception at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft. Here’s what she shared with us that evening.
I am a jewelry artist from Galveston Island and a beneficiary of CERF+’s goodwill and hard work. My relationship with CERF+ began in 2008 after Hurricane Ike flooded most of the island and left the lower level of my home and studio standing in five feet of contaminated bay water. Of course, I had known of CERF+ before Hurricane Ike; I had even made one or two small donations. But never, ever did I imagine I would be on the receiving end of that kind of aid because nothing that catastrophic had ever happened to me before. After all, I had lived on the island for most of my life and had experienced many tropical storms and hurricanes over the years.
So one lesson I learned from Ike was that just because something has never happened doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t happen. That’s why I think CERF+’s initiative to assist artists with preparedness is just as important as the financial help they give after a catastrophe occurs.
The financial aid I received from CERF+ was a grant and an interest-free loan. Combined, the money was only a fraction of what it took to rebuild, but it was definitely welcome and made a big difference in terms of how quickly I could start rebuilding.
Looking back, and from a more emotional standpoint, there were other things more important to me than the financial aid. One was the way I felt when CERF+ reached out to me. In the stressful aftermath, when I was too exhausted to do anything but figure out how to get through the next day, CERF+ tracked me down to inform me that I was eligible for assistance. Somehow, they had heard about my situation, and they took action. And when, at the end of each day, I was too exhausted from the physical recovery work to even fill out a simple application, they reached out again and guided me through the paperwork! Their gentle persistence was so uplifting, and it made me feel like a valued member of the larger craft community.
CERF+’s benefits to me went beyond the initial aid, as in the years following, they literally made me a poster child by using images of my work on their large banner and in ads in various craft publications, which exposed my work to a much larger audience and for which I feel like I am still reaping the benefits.
So, while CERF+’s financial aid to me was in the thousands, the other less tangible aspects of CERF+’s help felt like they were worth millions, and I am still so very grateful to this day!
About Diane Falkenhagen
Ms. Falkenhagen is a studio jeweler from Galveston, Texas. She holds a BFA from the University of North Texas and an MFA from the University of Houston. She is a native of Texas but has also lived for extended periods in Brazil, Alaska, and England. Ms. Falkenhagen maintains a private studio on West Galveston Island in Texas, where she shares a home with her husband, Peter. Ms. Falkenhagen is best known for her fabricated, one-of-a-kind jewelry. Her mixed-media compositions often combine evocative pictorial imagery with fabricated metal forms and a diverse range of art media. Her work is an unconventional marriage of material and content that references myriad interests including memory, metaphor, figuration, romanticism, historical ornament, art history, and iconography.