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Volume V Issue XXXVII

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Seattle Washington USA

 

JON BOARMAN: The Creation of a Fireman
by
GLENNAHELLER

jb-posing w_statue.jpg (54994 bytes)It is not unusual for young boys to dream of being a fireman when they grow up. High school senior, Jon Boarman, has wanted nothing less since he was six years old.

Then two years ago, as part of a high school career education assignment at Carmel (Indiana) High School where Boarman attends, students were asked to choose a career that they would like to investigate in-person. Boarman took the opportunity to have a closer look at his dream career when he chose to "shadow" a fireman for a day. That day Tony Collins of the Carmel Fire Department was to make a difference in Jon’s life that would underscore his lifelong desire in a powerful way, as Jon spent the day with Tony seeing first hand the difficult and courageous work that firemen do.

Despite a diagnosis of learning disabilities at an early age, it is clear that any disability to which he had been disposed has taken a back seat to the strength of his goal. Disabilities never materialized. Jon’s mother has an understandably reserved support of her son’s career choice and his drive. Mrs. Boarman confessed that she would often admonished him, "I wish you’d find something safer to do with your life. But," she added, "9/11 never made him second-guess. It has actually made the resolve stronger."

jb-wking.jpg (30025 bytes)"Throughout the years many talents became apparent," Mrs. Boarman shared. "Jon is a great cook," for example. He also has a strong talent in photography and has achieved excellent marks through his young academic career. More recently Jon has displayed an extraordinary aptitude in sculpture. But it is not just his intellectual and artistic talent that shines through -- there is hard work and his characteristic drive.

"It’s simple," Jon says. "I don’t take anything for granted. I put a lot of work into my projects. Ceramics for instance. Some people think art is a blow-off class. I don’t. To me, it’s a therapy. Whenever I have a bad day, I go to work on my project. I work hard."

In the aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy, Jon used another very different class assignment to express the strength and clarity of his career direction once again. But amazingly, this time Jon found it in a photograph -- an icon for victory in the midst of disaster, a rise above defeat, not simply expressing a career choice this time, but expressing a choice for life. Boarman saw a symbol of love when all appearances of the burning towers of 9/11 could have been a case for anger, hatred and a focus on death.

The Project

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Linda Lutes gave her ceramics class a formidable project

Mrs. Linda Lutes, Jon’s ceramics teacher, described the assignment. "This was not a 9/11 assignment. It was a head-study (bust) in which each student was to find a picture of a person, dead or alive, who they were interested in reproducing in clay. The finished product was to be a realistic sculpture of that person. Jon," she said, "was the first in the class to have chosen his picture for the assignment." He found his picture in People Magazine -- the picture of a fireman from 9/11.

An astonishing aspect of the sculpture Jon created is its stark absence of despair. The face has laugh lines that soften the rugged masculinity of this man, depicting a happy, fulfilled life. Those lines are covered with soot. The eyes are direct, focused straight ahead, compelling the viewer to get to the heart of its creation, and its creator.

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A dusty, clay streaked photo rests alongside the work in progress

During the course of working with the clay Jon began to know his subject very well. "The guy wasn’t down. He wasn’t sad. He was filled with purpose. He doesn’t have an oval face, you know? His eyes…like he wiped out the dust so that he could see. That part really grabbed me. I don’t know if tears caused it, but I’m sure many firemen drew tears that fell in the dust that day." Jon continued after a thoughtful pause. "Firemen don’t say they’re heroes." He brightened, "But that’s been my life’s goal…I’ve wanted to be a fireman since I was six. And after high school graduation I’m going to study Fire Science."

"It was inspired."

Great artists often speak about ‘not getting in the way’ of the art or the artistic process. Similarly, Jon described how he approached the work of the sculpture with a clarity that alluded to his focus over the past several months. For the entire sculpture, "…I just let my hands do what they were doing. I didn’t tell them what to do. I didn’t interfere."

Mrs. Lutes echoed, "(The sculpture)…wasn’t planned. It was inspired."

jb-finishing touches.jpg (51612 bytes)Jon embraced a rigorous work routine. Every spare moment at school was spent on the project. Lost in his art, he requested a time extension and it was granted, later to find that he needed another. He worked after school and during study hall. He was driven. He put on his headphones and worked, listening to all kinds of music. Jazz. Pink Floyd. "My teacher didn’t instruct. She didn’t direct me. She just let me go. It was great."

Mrs. Lutes recalls, "One day I remember Jon just looking at me with this huge grin on his face and saying, ‘I don’t know how I’m doing this, but he is turning out really good!’ Another day after staying after school to work on some of the clothing [on the sculpture], Jon came down to get me and was just jumping up and down…You know a student is inspired when they are jumping up and down in front of you and other teachers."

"I want people to know," John shares, "they can do (with their lives) anything they want. I recommend to anyone who is having a hard time in their lives to go to the arts – music, painting, sculpture – all the basic things that have been around for eons. This is a therapy." Jon’s inspirational message is a simple one: a vehicle to our soul is our creativity.

The search is on

As the work was nearing completion, Jon’s enthusiasm soared with the idea of presenting the sculpture to the fireman who inspired his work. He shared his intention to locate the fireman with Mrs. Lutes before her winter break vacation in Florida. How does one locate a person from a seemingly random photograph in a publication? He began his quest with a call to the staff of People, but they were unable to assist him. Intent focused steadily, Jon grappled with the question. If there was any doubt about divinity of his project, Mrs. Lutes felt that it was dispelled when, on her return from Florida, she happened to see the very same photo of the fireman on a billboard. The billboard company formed the necessary link to locating the fireman to whom Jon will present his sculpture.

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Jon Boarman's labor of love and inspiration

Boarman’s ceramics class project is completed but the incredible story of its connection between an inspired Indiana high student and a brave New York City firefighter is far from over. In June Boarman is scheduled to travel to the Big Apple and meet the man whose face is now so intimately familiar and whose career he feels called to follow.

Join Incredible People as we accompany Jon on the next leg of his remarkable journey.

 

 

September 11: "… I heard the sirens."

jb3-base+date.jpg (37933 bytes)Jon watched the news on classroom TVs throughout the day. He heard the siren, a very faint sound, but the very same sound he had learned when he was shadowing Tony Collins, the Carmel fireman, two years before. "A fireman wears a signal device," Jon explained. "When there’s an absence of movement, the siren sounds to let other firemen know he’s down." Hauntingly, softly, Jon added "…I heard the sirens."

 

Writer’s Note: Jon Boarman has been surrounded his parents and teachers in a school that fostered his knowledge of self-worth. He knows his work makes a difference and states so powerfully and gracefully without a hint of ego. It is a selfless contribution of people -- Mr. and Mrs. Boarman and Mrs. Linda Lutes, Carmel High School and the community -- who so nurtures our young people that their contribution to life can so be clearly heard and respected. --G.H.

 

GlennaHeller.jpg (15834 bytes)A curious combination of high tech and rustic, Glenna Heller works as a member of Seagate Technology’s engineering information group, lives in a cabin in California’s Santa Cruz Mountains and writes by the light of her wood-burning stove amid giant California redwoods. Glenna is a 12- year student of A Course in Miracles and embraces a lifetime commitment to transformational technology, beauty and true love wherever it might be found. You can email her at glenna@cruzio.com. 

 

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