In March, Plymouth State University partnered with Speare Memorial Hospital to transform the Savage Welcome Center and Ice Arena into a COVID-19 surge center. With help from the Public Health Network and the National Guard, they outfitted the Hanaway Rink with 96 standard hospital beds. Through this collaborative effort and the pooling of resources, the region was ready to respond.
One thing, however, was missing: messages of hope amid an otherwise functional setting and circumstance. Enter Stacey Lucas ’01, ’20G, aka Veggie Art Girl. With deep roots in the PSU community as an alumna, graduate student in the integrated arts program, and freelance artist, Lucas was invited to paint a cheerful mural on the plexiglass barriers encircling the ice rink turned supplementary ward. Her images of flowers and sunshine sprinkled with inspirational sayings enliven a space Lucas and the community hope won’t be needed.
“The irony of this all is that I hope no one ever actually sees this art in person,” Lucas says. “But if they do and people are receiving the medical care they need, my wish is that my colorful art brightens their world and gives them some hope.”
There have been no patients in the surge center to date, but Lucas’s other projects of hope are making a difference in peoples’ lives. While it’s always her mission to spread cheer, Lucas has doubled down on her commitment during the pandemic and its resulting quarantine.
“Since my kids are home now, I’ve been weaving my creative projects in with their learning,” says Lucas. “They get to design and create as part of their homeschooling, while sharing something with our community.”
Their first project together was painting a mural on the garage of their Main Street home in Ashland, NH, with the saying, “When it rains, look for rainbows.” They recorded their work, put it to music, and shared a time-lapse video on YouTube. Other gifts of connection and kindness have included decorating neighbors’ and friends’ driveways with rainbow chalk paintings.
“We’re always finding little ways to put some color into the world,” says Lucas.
She carries this intention with her, whether creating with her kids or freelancing. Her uplifting artwork graces windows and signage in Plymouth’s Dunkin’ Donuts and in Common Man restaurants across the state, among other locations. With quotes from the likes of Bob Marley, it’s hard to drive by without smiling.
“I feel my whole life has been training for what we’re going through right now,” Lucas says. “There’s no defined line between my life and my art. My life is my art. The pandemic has encouraged me to create more, and that’s what we need. It affirms everything I’m doing.”
Coordinator of the MEd in Integrated Arts Program Trish Lindberg believes wholeheartedly in Lucas’s art and work. “If I was on a deserted island and could choose three creative partners to work with, Stacey would be one,” says Lindberg. “Everything she envisions, she brings to life. She’s truly a genius.”
Twenty years after completing her bachelor’s in graphic design with a minor in imaginative writing, Lucas returned to PSU to sharpen her teaching skills and to collaborate with other artists. Through her work with Lindberg and the Educational Theatre Collaborative (ETC), she has given back to the school that’s given so much to her.
In addition to her involvement with PSU, Lucas owns Fig Tree, an art gallery in Ashland. Sourcing her materials from funky, upcycled items, she sells truly one-of-a-kind folk art.
“I’m constantly creating from the world around me,” Lucas says. “I research, sketch, and doodle. I take in my surroundings, jotting down inspiration on napkins. I collect recycled materials. Then, when it’s time to do the work, I follow my intuition. I don’t think. I just do.”
“Stacey’s artwork activates emotions,” adds Lindberg. “She picks a starting point and goes with it, producing colorful, visually pleasing art that makes you feel. The biggest thing about Stacey and her artwork, though, is her heart. She lights up a room with her brilliance, making a difference wherever she goes.”
Lucas believes we all have the capacity to make the world a more beautiful place. “Everyone has their own gift to share with the world,” she says. “You have to believe in your gift and your mission, pushing through the resistance, the fear, and the self-doubt. If you aren’t living and creating authentically, the world will be on to you. Be all in.”