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Cincinnati artist Carol Ann Newsome places her new leaf blocks at the base of trees, on park benches or on greenspaces of the cities she visits. Each year, she travels to a different city to distribute her artwork.
Photo: Mike DiBattista / Review

Spreading art
Cincinnati artist
does work on wood
    The concept is to change the perception that fine art is only understood by people with deep pockets and a formal education. Newsome says some of the people who have appreciated her work the most have been ordinary labourers.
     She discovered the value of public art after finishing undergraduate and masters degrees, and working in an art gallery for three years.
     "I have sold art before. You wind up putting so much more energy into the business end. (New Leaf) is a real positive experience and fun instead. "
     Keith Haring, a New York artist famous for his chalk drawings in subway cars and tunnels, is her inspiration for distribution.
     "We saw one and my brother started salivating, trying to figure out a way to take it, but you would have had to take a chainsaw to the billboard," she says.
     "It was really fun looking everywhere for them but chalk isnít permanent and thatís when the idea took seed of creating something people could take with them," Newsome explains.
     Her artistic friends always ask if she watches to see the reaction of the people who find the leaves.
     " But if I did Candid Camera on people, it would be like trying to get something from them. And I just want to remind them to look at the beauty around us, especially in a place like this," she said, looking at a full rainbow over the Niagara River gorge.
     New Leaf has an Internet web page where people can respond to the project.
     One of the posted messages reads: "Itís so strange. I donít know why you do it, but itís a very special project. I canít tell you how magic it felt finding it. It still does. And we live in a world where magic is sadly in short supply.
    "Thanks again, Kevin."
The Review

NIAGARA FALLS Ė Carol Ann Newsome describes herself as a cross between the Easter Bunny and Johnny Appleseed.
    Instead of eggs, she shells out postcard-sized blocks of wood. On one side is an acrylic portrait of a leaf, while on the back a message says you have turned over a new leaf.
    The purpose of planting the idea, instead of appleseeds, is that fine art can be accessible and an inspiration for the public instead of just turning to TV.
    About once a year, she takes a vacation from running an anti-drinking and driving program in Cincinnati to explore a new city and plant "new leaf" blocks.
    Last weekend, the New Leaf project came to Canada for the first time, as Newsome planted about 200 of the blocks around the city of Niagara Falls.
    The idea stems from an arts festival in Cincinnati in 1995, where she distributed 300 new leaves.
     Bringing the project to Niagara Falls seemed like a natural choice.
     Here, Newsomeís work can be found by a cross-section of people, from different classes and cultures.
    "Nice thing about this guerrilla, spontaneous approach is people arenít paying attention to what youíre doing. At the festival, there were about 50 people who were watching so they could get a leaf," she laughs.
     Her first public arts project involved 50 artists displaying their work in vacant storefront windows. For the second, she was partially funded to paint murals depicting inner-city kids playing in trees, on boarded-up storefront windows.

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