phase one of “52” is winding down…

april 2015


tree fifty-two 001 (Medium)An editor for the online publication Zocalo has, for the past year, been trying to talk me into writing the story of “52.” She finally wore me down :) and the article was published last week…. . It was hard to capture a seven-year journey in 1300 words especially since I am not a writer! If you feel compelled, please comment and share as Zocalo is trying to become better known in the Inland region.

Zocalo Public Square is a very progressivenot-for-profit daily digital publication…tackling important contemporary questions in an accessible, non-partisan, and broad-minded spirit.” They look for first person stories so If you have or know of an interesting story I’ll connect you with the editor I worked with…she was so supportive. GREAT ORGANIZATION …follow them on Facebook.


the 52 project LOGO As I wrote in the Zocalo article, being in residence at my “52 exhibition,” I got firsthand feedback from visitors about the feelings my own work produced in people. There was a lot of talking, laughing, and even some happy tears. This strong reaction is what museums are supposed to be about—affecting people, making them feel something, inspiring them, and possibly changing their lives.

Talking to people—and reading the more than 200 pages of written comments

one of over 200 pages of comments

one of over 200 pages of comments

– I understood that I wasn’t alone: most people have creative talents waiting to be unleashed. And millions of people are reassessing their priorities after the “great” recession.

I knew before the exhibition closed that I wanted to help as many people as possible to have a similar experience. I knew any program would have to be tailored to the realities of most people’s lives—working, raising a family, going to school, or maybe caring for aging parents.

Working with the Riverside Art Museum, I helped create “The 52 Project,” a self-directed 52-week art journaling exercise designed to help participants develop the routines of capturing their creative thoughts and being artful on a regular basis. The project, which has open enrollment, kicks off May 3 at 1:00 at the Riverside Art Museum. Register at

This exercise will lead you to slowly but surely accomplish some exciting things. As Steven Pressfield says in his book, DO THE WORK, “Start before you are ready” …you won’t be sorry. Steinbeck believed…”habit seems to be a much stronger force than either willpower or inspiration.”


The premiere of “Something Like A Sabbatical” was a great success. It showed to a sold out audience and thanks to friends generosity almost $10,000 was raised for the Riverside Art Museum for “The 52 Project.”

crowd croppedIf you missed the premiere screening and would like to see the documentary it will be shown again on May 3rd at the kick-off event for “The 52 Project.” This showing is meant for people signing up for “The 52 Project” but if we have extra seats they will be available for $10…e-mail me at to reserve a seat just for the documentary. Sunday May 3 at 1:00 at the Riverside Art Museum

If you would like a DVD of the documentary…(makes a great gift…perfect for a new retiree, a stay at home parent, an empty nest mom or dad or a closeted artist)… you may purchase the video on the filmmaker’s site… 

I found the filmmaker, Pamela Beere Brigg’s, reflections

Director Pamela Beere Briggs

Director Pamela Beere Briggs

interesting on how and why she decided to make this film…“I have been thinking back to the moment when the film idea landed in my head and heart. We were driving home after walking through Sue’s two-gallery exhibit at the Riverside Art Museum. The exquisite solar etchings of the giant Montezuma Bald Cypress trees had been in one gallery and Sue’s day-to-day sabbatical was revealed in a swirl of calendar pages, photographs, sketches, journal entries, and trash (you have to see the film to understand) in the adjoining gallery. It was beautiful and inspiring and humorous and bold and surprising! It stirred up an irrational feeling I haven’t had in a long time: I wanted to make a film about this adventure. All films begin from an irrational place. I say that because films are difficult to make. They’re complicated and costly and consuming. But I see now that I needed to tell this story about not giving up on our dreams, no matter how afraid we are.”


I am glad that the original “52” journey is coming to a close. I never could have imagined what an amazing life altering adventure I was going to experience the past few years but it is time to move on. I will be joining “The 52 Project” and spend the next 52 weeks journaling and figuring out what is next.

The 52 Project 013All of your interest and support have truly touched me …a reminder of what is special about this community. We have grown up together the past almost four decades and we support each other personally and professionally. …THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart!!!

You rock…sue

PS The 52 Project” is generously sponsored by: Ransom-McKenzie Team at Coldwell Banker Armstrong Properties and Karen Allen Salon


something like a sabbatical

February 28 2015

Dear Friends –

The date and time for the PREMIERE  screening of “Something Like A Sabbatical” is Sunday March 22 at 4:00 at the Riverside Art Museum.

10959943_880322378657305_836142727943019123_oIt won’t surprise you that the screening is a fundraiser. It was just too awkward to say “come look at me”…so by turning this into a fundraiser for the Riverside Art Museum it is now way easier for me to cajole you to attend.  If you plan to attend, please send in your reservation as soon as possible..register online at Riverside Art Museum.

What is special to me about this film is the universal story that has emerged of dreaming, doubting, visualizing, struggling and ultimately prevailing. Watching their documentary is inspiring me to get on with my next creative endeavor…see “special announcement” below.

I am excited for you to meet award-winning documentary filmmakers Pamela Beere Briggs and William McDonald. Some of you might be familiar with some of their work…”Funny Ladies: A Portrait of Women Cartoonists” & “Women of Mystery: Three Writers Who Forever Changed Detective Fiction.” Bill (producer-cinematographer) and Pamela (producer-director) have been working together ever since they were UCLA graduate students. Bill teaches cinematography at UCLA where he is Professor and Chair of UCLA’s Department of Film, Television and Digital Media. Pamela writes stories when she is not immersed in telling a story on film. They both fell in love with my 52 Montezuma Bald Cypress trees and Tree #44 hangs over their fireplace mantel.

Filming started on the documentary

Filming started on the documentary

Looking forward to seeing you on March 22nd…sue


Due to the positive response to the “52” Exhibition, RAM has decided to launch “The 52 Project,” as one of their Riverside Art Make community engagement activities for 2015-2016. “The 52 Project” will be a 52-week self-directed art journaling adventure. Why a journaling exercise…because my  entire exhibit concept came from a year of consistent journaling. And because this artform is user friendly…there are no mistakes! I will be an adviser as well as participating in another 52-week journey of my own.

the 52 project LOGOEnrolled participants will meet during the year for three workshops, beginning with a kick-off meeting , mid-year, and then a final sharing session. A Facebook page will provide regular inspiration and advice. Proposal-writing workshops will be offered during the year to help the participants, who have a creative project emerge from their journaling, prepare to submit proposals to RAM for consideration for a series of summer 2016 exhibits and performances. The brochure is attached for more details. Why not join me on this 52-week adventure!!

100% of the money raised from this premiere screening will go to the Riverside Art Museum earmarked for “The 52 Project”

I’m happy to announce the first sponsors of “The 52 Project”… Ransom-McKenzie Team at Coldwell Banker Armstrong Properties!!!!


don’t let my silence fool you…

october 2 2014

…sue and “52” are alive and well…  plans for “Phase Two of 52” are being formulated :)…

I am writing today because it has been one year since “52” opened at the Riverside Art Museum. Seemed like the perfect time to resume contact. I remember the scared feeling I had when I walked into this empty gallery, on my 61st birthday, and realized I had three days to fill it and the adjoining gallery…190 ft of wall space!!! Thanks to my dream team…Zee, Todd, Steven and Allen…we did it!

This is what one of the galleries looked like Friday morning...actually so did the other one!!

This is what one of the galleries looked like Friday morning…actually so did the other one!!

This is what the two galleries looked like for the next 101 days…

857386_10153389917260451_813859478_o1392443_741291869221693_1137295208_n52 opening 458 (Medium)I have been purposely silent, blog-wise, since my last post nine months ago. I felt you needed a rest from me and me from “52.” There was some expected exhaustion attached to the two-year journey. I also had a long list of deferred things to attend to…like visiting family and friends, upgrading everything technological in my life, medical check-ups, home chores, balancing my checkbook for the first time in over a year…you name it …it needed my attention. Sabbaticals are great but when they are done you do pay the price for that luxury of a protected life.

all of this now replaced with an iPhone

all of this now replaced with an iPhone

I have also been working with the filmmakers, Pamela Beere Briggs and William McDonald on their documentary “Something Like A Sabbatical.” They filmed in Riverside for six days…at the museum, in the park and in my studio at home.  OK, it is awkward to be the subject of a film but Pamela and Bill are so kind and easy to work with that this a been quite an enjoyable experience. Zee and I went to LA a couple of weeks ago to see the rough cut. It was so exciting to see the exhibit again. Bill captured so much amazing footage and Pamela and her editor, Esther Shubinski, tell what I think is a very motivating story. I know watching it inspired me to start moving forward more actively with phase two of “52.”

at Fairmount Park filming...with Bill McDonald, Pamela Beere Briggs and Doug McCulloh

at Fairmount Park filming…with Bill McDonald, Pamela Beere Briggs and Doug McCulloh

Screenings of “Something Like A Sabbatical” will be in early 2015

I started thinking about phase two towards the end of the “52” exhibition. Since I was in residence, I was able to witness daily the reaction to the exhibit. It was visceral!! !f the visitor had a creative bone in their body something about the back gallery seemed to rip it open. With talking to thousands of people and reading the 230 pages of comments I started to think about how to take another 52-week journey but invite anyone who wanted to join with me.

The details are being worked out and will be announced late 2014 or early 2015.

I still get very emotional when I think or talk about my sabbatical, the exhibit and all the incredible experiences I had. I was so fortunate to get to live with my work and my dream…it was hard to see it come down. But the best parts were the support of family and friends and the awesome interactions I had everyday in the galleries. Still can’t believe I did it. Still feeling proud.


PS Today happens to also be the 36th Anniversary of when Zee and I started Riverside Personnel. This is the fantastic team that survived the great recession. Magen, Catina, Sue, Zee, Cheryl and our fearless leader, Kathy!!


four days/ 25 museum hours until “52” is deinstalled

january 1, 2014

In four days, I will have spent an incredible 101 days in residency at the Riverside Art Museum. I won’t call it a roller coaster ride because it has been all highs … more like being on a treadmill at high-speed, with no breaks!!

Here’s the final four-day schedule for “52”… second, third and fourth visits happen quite often… so come back in and bring a friend.

  • Jan 2/ Thursday…10 to 4 and 6 to 9pm CLOSING RECEPTION
  • Jan 3/ Friday/ 10 to 4
  • Jan 4/ Saturday 10 to 4
  • Jan 5/ Sunday 12 to 4

Highlights of the exhibit…

  • over 10,000 people have been thru the art museum since the 1st of October 2013
  • UCR is archiving the 52-week gallery of the exhibit
  • LA filmmakers have started filming a documentary
  • The Riverside Art Museum extended “52” and the Community Foundation gave a grant for FREE admission so that more people could see the exhibit
  • I have hosted 25 programs and events and 10 cases of wine has been consumed! :)
  • There is at least one person, if not more, that cries almost everyday when viewing the exhibit. It is hard to explain…you need to see the show.
  • The roof didn’t leak during the last rain thanks to a lot of hard work by the board, an expert on old buildings and a very generous donation. I will reveal the source in the next blog
  • My hopes are to help raise $52,000 for the museum by the time I leave my residency, through sponsors, ‘Friends of Sue’ donations, new memberships and the sale of my solar etched prints. A little over $49,000 has been raised, so far.
  • Over 40 of the solar etched prints have sold

Photo Highlights…

RAM 402 (Medium)

Lots of families coming through during the holidays and appreciating the FREE admission underwritten by a grant from the Community Foundation

students from Ensenada with an exhibit at the RCAA Gallery

I have taken over 500 pictures of families and friends, using their iphones, with Doug McCulloh’s photo as a backdrop. People are thrilled with this memento of Fairmount Park. These are students from Ensenada…their work is currently hanging at the RCAA gallery thru 1/2/14.

The most popular part of the two gallery exhibit.

The most popular part of the two gallery exhibit.


Filming started on the documentary

Filming started on the documentary

Guided nine wonderful nature walks at Fairmount Park and showed everyone my 52 TREES!

Guided nine wonderful nature walks at Fairmount Park and showed everyone my 52 TREES!

the solar etched prints of the trees get close, quiet, serious scrutiny. It is the Zen-like gallery

the solar etched prints of the trees get close, quiet, serious scrutiny. It is the Zen-like gallery


The back gallery that houses the 52 weeks and the my studio is active noisy room. Here Jan Harvey and Sharon ZornKatz, PNET members, are demonstrating during arts walk

The back gallery, that houses the 52-weeks exhibit and my studio, is the active, noisy room. Jan Harvey, a PNET members is demonstrating during November’s arts walk

Hope you can get by, one last time, and help me drink up the wine that is left….one less thing to have to move out!! I cannot thank all of you enough for all the many acts of support the last couple of years and for making the past 3 months so special.

All is good…all of the time…love…sue

52 days left to see “52′

november 10, 2013

I have so much to share but I don’t have much time right now but didn’t want to miss the opportunity to remind you that there are 52 days left to see the ” 52″ Also, listed below is the remainder of the programming attached with the “52” exhibit.



Thursday Nov 14th…5:30 – 7:30…panel discussion with six late-in-life artists sharing about how to unleash your creativity. Powell Gallery at RAM

Friday Nov 15/ Saturday Nov 16 and Friday Nov 22…8:30-9:30 Nature Walks at Fairmount Park…meet on the circular pier between the two lakes.

Saturday Nov 16th…1:00 – 4:00… Botanical Drawing class …will be drawing the bark from the Montezuma Bald Cypress trees at Fairmount Park. Call the museum at 684-7111 to register for this $30 class. A few supplies required so ask when you register. Powell Gallery at RAM


Museum hours…Tuesday-Saturday/ 10-4….Sunday/ 12-4. Wine and truffles served from 11:30 on…:)

So many amazing things to share next time…sue

a very tired but proud artist…

october 17 2013

a very tired but proud artist

panel discussion…residency…nature walks…poetry readings…details below…please join me for some of the great programming designed to go with the “52” exhibit. Opening night reception is tomorrow, Friday October 18th from 7-9. If you can’t make it, the exhibit will be up until Dec 31 with two more artswalk (1st Thursdays) two First Sundays, and all the programming listed below. I will be in residence Oct 22-Nov22 during museum hours Tues-Sat 10-4/ Sun 12-4. Nature walks every Fri & Sat morning during my residency from 8:30 to 9:30 am…details below.

“SPEAK FOR YOURSELF”   (this is going to be outstanding)

…a conversation with Dough McCulloh and Meg Linton
Why be an artist? What does it mean to live your life as an artist? How does one live inside art? An artist and a curator pull back the curtain on current art practice. Expect a lively evening of secrets and revelations, warnings and cautions, startling flashes and wild statements. Part talk, part free-for-all
Oct 24th/ Thursday 5:30 – 7:30
Bobbie Powell Gallery, Riverside Art Museum


Panel with renowned internationally shown photographer, Doug McCulloh and Director of Galleries and Exhibition / Otis College of Art and Design, curator, Meg Linton…two of my favorite arts people.

Join us in the Powell Gallery on the 2nd floor at the Riverside Art Museum at 5:30 for a happy ½ hour hosted by former RAM Executive Director, Bobbie Powell. Panel discussion from 6:00 to 7:30

“Speak For Yourself” is programmed in conjunction with Sue Mitchell’s “52”… an exhibit that reveals the results of her 52-week self-directed sabbatical.


WHERE: Meet on the circular pier between the two lakes
WHEN:  Friday and Saturday mornings Oct 25, 26…Nov 1, 2, 8, 9, 15, 16, 22
TIME: 8:30-9:30 am
COST: Free. You will receive a free admission pass to the Riverside Art Museum
WALK GUIDES: Sue Mitchell and from Inlandia, Gayle Brandeis, Cindy Rinne and/or Cati Porter
PARKING: Across the street from the pier
SPONSORS: The Riverside Art Museum and Inlandia
WHAT YOU WILL SEE: Sue’s 52 favorite trees…the waterfowl that migrate through the region…the wonders of Fairmount Park
WEATHER: RAIN or SHINE…the park is magnificent in the rain

For those interested a writing workshop, the Riverside Art Museum is partnering with Inlandia adding a writing/ reading component to the nature walks . Discover Fairmount Park and the 52 Trees in a new way through writing exercises based on the trees and the environment around you. All levels.

On Sunday, Nov 3 from 12-2 at the Riverside Art Museum, Inlandia will host a NATURE THEMED Poetry/Literature Reading…read your own work or a favorite poem or passage of someone else.

The walks and the poetry reading are programmed in conjunction with Sue Mitchell’s “52”… an exhibit that reveals the results of her 52-week self-directed sabbatical. Fairmount Park was her classroom for the year

Now do you understand why I am so tired??? Lots going on. The only way you will understand why I am so proud is if you see the show. The comments have been heartwarming it is really having an effect on people but it is an unusual show so you must see it to understand.

All is good… all of the time…sue

over 1000 people have been through the exhibit…

october 13 2013

It has been two weeks since we installed “52”…what a crazy, exciting, exhausting and dramatic time! Not only have I been floating on air from sheer excitement but I’ve been walking on water, too, and so will you.

when you enter the Bobbie Powell Gallery you will be walking on Lake Evans at Fairmount Park

Over 1000 people have already been through the upstairs galleries from Artswalk, First Sunday and Long Night. I cannot wait for all of you to see “52”!! I hope you are coming to the opening, Friday Oct 18th, if so…please let me know.

Artswalk October 3, 2013

The two weeks have not gone without drama…1/3 of the DeVean Gallery (where my studio and what I did with my 52 weeks is displayed) had to be tarped and 6 trash cans placed strategically because of major leaks during Wednesday’s rain. No damage, this time! I’m calm, for now, but only because no rain is forecast before the opening.

The reality is that this gallery will have to be closed down for future shows unless they can repair/replace the roof…both options are expensive. One easy and leveraged way to help…if you are not a member of the museum… consider joining. All NEW memberships during the “52” exhibit will trigger over a $200 donation from my wonderful event sponsors…Security Bank of CA, Walter’s Auto Group, Beverly Wingate Maloof and Kathy Wright. This link will take you to the membership page. If you are already a member …consider giving a gift membership. The museum has special membership rates tied to my exhibition through the end of the year.

Another way to help is by becoming a sponsor of the exhibit by giving to the “Friends of Sue.” NO donation is too small… use the link above…the donation button is located at the bottom of the membership page. :)

This is going to be an exciting week…my favorite son will be coming in from Phoenix, my college roommate from Ohio and two of her children from Chicago and Pittsburgh (one being my godchild), my high school friend from Colorado, who I will be seeing for the first time in 42 years, and friends and family from around southern California!!

I am one tired but grateful and happy artist. All is good…all of the time (except when the roof leaks)…sue


the show is installed and the last rock dropped!

MIDNIGHT september 30 2013

No more rocks, recording my every move or saving everything I do. My sabbatical is over!!! For those of you not on facebook here is a photo essay of the past weekend…

The movers arrived Friday @ 8am to move my studio to the museum

I wasn’t smoking anything when I decided to move my studio because I have never done drugs but I certainly must have been drinking! Crazy idea…

This is what the galleries looked like…190 feet of wall space to cover. To put the enormity of this into perspective…my show last year ‘a love affair’ was on a 15 ft wall

The party-hearty install team for the DeVean galleries 52-weeks. It was my birthday so we celebrated with red wine and chocolate nut bombs from Simple Simon’s .

This is Allen, my new best friend, he is the preparator who installed the 52 Trees…you will understand my admiration when you see the show

all you need for a good install is a level and a wine opener!!

the studio! I’m not going to show too much…I don’t want to ruin your first look

This is me on Sunday beaming with relief and joy…both galleries are installed!

This is the last rock…when I post this blog entry my sabbatical will be over. No more rocks, recording every move and saving everything….

I can’t wait to share the results of my year….an idea developed  21/2 years ago. I will  post something a little more reflective in a few weeks and will continue the blog through the exhibition. I hope you can join me at the opening on the 18th…if not, the show is up until the end of the year.

I really appreciated your interest …it was so critical to feel some accountability….but your encouragement was even more important and so appreciated.

All is good…all of the time…sue

reconnecting after 42 years…

UPDATE…So excited…my high school friend, Sheryl Grise Larsen, that I jokingly blame for my derailed artistic career (the story is below) e-mailed me that she was coming, in from Colorado, to the opening of “52.” I have not seen Sheryl since the day we graduated… 42 years ago!

July 26, 2012

“Hi this is Sue Keck Mitchell and I blame you …you are the reason I did not major in art in college and become a famous artist…that is my story and I’m sticking with it”…that is what I said to Sheryl Grise Larsen when she answered the phone a year ago. I immediately went into a “just kidding” mode.

As the story goes, in our senior year in high school Sheryl announced at lunch that she had a self portrait due at 1:00. I said I would go down to the studios with her. Set up at her work station was a poster-size canvas and right before my eyes she painted her self portrait…quick, confident and it looked like her! I believe deep down that had some subtle effect on me…possibly causing me to shy away from pursuing an arts education. I was already running the school :) as Student Council President and I had a business since age ten but I had some demonstrated artistic talent and an interest in pursuing it.


Jump forward 40 years…I have spent the last four decades involved in civic affairs and  entrepreneurial enterprises just like back in high school…with the interest in art still lurking.

So I told Sheryl (who did major in art in college and is an artist and art teacher in Colorado) about my upcoming artistic journey. I asked if she still had the portrait and she said she thought her parents, in Ohio, might and she would check on her next visit. A few weeks later, she sent me a message on Facebook  saying that she had forgotten that she gave the canvas to her cousin to paint over but that she did find a picture of it and attached it

Now I’m nervous-as-heck to open it…what if it wasn’t good.??? “click” there she is … Sheryl’s face from 40 years ago. Yes, it looked like Sheryl and no, it wasn’t quite what I remembered (hard to compare a postage-stamp size, faded picture to a wet, textured poster-size piece.) I clearly understand why I liked it…it was impressionistic, in earth tones , it was big and it was painted fast and it looked like her!  Sheryl amusingly wrote that she was young and didn’t understand values and made a few other critiques.

Hi Sue,
I am finally home and found the photo after a search through photo albums and being distracted with photos from the past. It just kind of sucks you in when you open those old albums. The painting for me is a symbol of what I did not know about color. The structure of face is ok even there I know there are problems), but it is more of a value study (of lights and darks). I recognize these things now. As I thought, I took the photo as a record and gave the canvas to my nephew who is now a graphic artist. He used it for one of his paintings. 

I am flattered that this painting was a pivotal point for you and your understanding of art. Art is an amazing part of both of our lives. I am glad I could be a part of this bridge between us. I have to know when your show is scheduled. I would really like to witness where the year takes you. 

Love, Sheryl

What  a great experience … to have such a vivid, impactful memory and to be able to go back forty years and find the person involved… when we haven’t talked once since the day we graduated.

[9/16/2012 Sheryl is going to try to attend the opening of my show “52” at the Riverside Art Museum in Oct 2013!]

confessions and realities…i flunked summer school!

september 1 2013

Actually, since there are no grades during my homeschooling I guess I can claim that I dropped out of summer school….sounds better than “flunked.” Reality set in that this is one monster project …way more than the 52 trees that I had been focusing on the past few months…

  • a 52-piece show of the trees in one gallery
  • a 2nd gallery documenting my activities 24/7 for 52 weeks
  • moving my studio to the museum
  • seven events scheduled during the exhibit
  • a performance piece by being on site, in my studio, during museum hours for 30 days
  • mailing lists, blogs, marketing, food, sponsors…so many details!!!

Confession…I had my second anxiety attack. I woke up two night ago feeling very anxious about getting everything done and then berated myself (out loud) for every minute that I had wasted the past two months. Fortunately the next day I got a lot done so I started feeling la little better. First attack happened early on when I realized I had to do what I proposed. :) I long ago realized that the exhibit proposal was the easy part!!!

The good news…

  • The framing is done! I don’t think Cosme will ever forgive me for using museum glass. The prints are framed, boxed and bagged!!
  • The postcards are in…remember how I was hugging the rock in the picture Zee took for my “love affair” show last year? Well I wore the same outfit and Doug McCulloh captured the tree hugging me!! So thrilled with Doug’s photo, you will instantaneously understand why I love the trees. Postcards should be in the mail soon…

THANKS Cosme!!!!


One month…4 weeks…thirty days left!!! Anyway I look at it that jar of rocks is looking really low. I think anxiety is just going to be part of my life the next few weeks so I will embrace it and WINE!!!

All is good…ALL of the time…sue

PS Tomorrow is Labor Day…36 years ago I labored, with much love, and my favorite son, David was born!!! I’m excited because David is coming home twice in Oct to celebrate our birthdays and the opening of “52” If you have never met David, the picture I am about to post won’t help you figure out who he is at the opening but since it was taken at Fairmount Park over 30 years ago it seemed a perfect way to end this birthday tribute and post.

David at Fairmount Park circa 1981