- Associated Press - Sunday, April 16, 2017

NORFOLK, Neb. (AP) - They hang in the sky spreading their light over the land below. Yet most people take them for granted, even though life would not exist without them.

Others wax poetic about their virtues and their vices. A Norfolk artist, for example, sees them as star-crossed lovers longing to meet, so she’s bringing them together and even giving them a heart.

For the past six weeks, Elley Coffin has been painting her version of the sun and moon on a giant fiberglass heart that sits on a base made in the shape of Nebraska.

If that isn’t enough to make the project unusual, she’s working in the brightly lit corner of Franc’s Salon and Spa in downtown Norfolk.

Coffin, a 2015 graduate of Norfolk High School, said she’s always been interested in art, and as a child had her share of “how to draw” books. Once at Norfolk High School, she became involved in other things and didn’t get around to taking an art class until she was a junior.

While she enjoyed art, she graduated from high school intending to be a chiropractor. At some point, she switched her major to psychology. But her interest in art lingered in the background, and during the semester break of her sophomore year at Kansas State University, she transferred to Wayne State College and switched her major to art education.

There she honed her creative skills and made her plans.

“If I can bring out the arts more … that’s my ultimate goal,” she said.

The heart that Coffin is painting is part of the Nebraska By Heart project sponsored by Lead Up and the Sadie Dog Fund, the Norfolk Daily News (https://bit.ly/2penMdu ) reported. It is endorsed by the Nebraska 150 committee and is part of the state’s sesquicentennial commemoration.

By May, 95 6-foot hearts will be displayed around Lincoln. All will have been decorated by Nebraska artists who were chosen from the applications submitted to the sponsoring organization.

Coffin’s father, Randall, learned about the project and mentioned it to his daughter. She sent in three proposals, and all were accepted. But because the artist has to raise the $3,000 sponsorship for each heart, she is just painting one.

Even so, raising the money was a challenge. In the end, her family helped, as did friends who recognized her “God-given gift.” Wayne State College also donated to the cause.

Once she had the money, she needed to find a “studio.” Her mother, Lori, mentioned the project to Karen Arehart, owner of Franc’s Salon and Spa, and Arehart said, “Why don’t you put it here so everyone can enjoy it?”

There, the sunlight spills in through the floor-to-ceiling windows, so Coffin can adequately see as she orchestrates the sun’s meeting with the moon.

People passing by on the street can stop and watch the artist, as can salon customers, Coffin said. It was the customers who persuaded her to take a more traditional approach with the back of the heart that now bears the image of the Nebraska countryside with its hills, a windmill as well as the sun and the moon.

In a few days, Coffin’s heart will be taken to Seward, where it will be sealed to protect it from the elements. From there, it will go to Lincoln where it will be on display until sometime this fall.

Coffin said she’ll be relieved when it’s done, but she’ll also miss the work and the interaction with the public.

“I don’t want to see it leave me,” she said.


Information from: Norfolk Daily News, https://www.norfolkdailynews.com

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