We had the good fortune of connecting with Amy DeCaussin and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Amy, can you talk to us a bit about the social impact of your business?
My creative work finds its purpose in elevating messages that need to be heard for the benefit of the community and our world. Through mixed media illustration, photography, and time-based media, I tell stories that inspire participants to consider different perspectives, draw attention to programs, and causes that I am passionate about.
Currently, I am the Communications Manager at Saint Barnabas Episcopal Church in Scottsdale, Arizona. This full-time position has provided a place for my creative work to thrive with the support of an innovative team and a congregation of 1600 parishioners. Outside of the church community, I’ve had people question its relevance to our world today. I would argue that the church couldn’t be more relevant. Not only does Saint Barnabas provide resources and financial support to our 13 different missions partners, organizations making a tangible positive difference in our local and global community, but it is also a safe space for parishioners to reflect and grow. For example, in the wake of George Floyd, our ongoing program “The Listening Initiative” created by The Rev. Jim Clark turned its attention to racial injustice. As Saint Barnabas is a church that resides in an area of privilege, we realized our need to reflect on our own self-improvement. Saint Barnabas is home to people from all different perspectives and political backgrounds. In a polarized world, the church walks the line of tending to every parishioner where they are at. We are continuing to cultivate civil discourse and peace. Rev. Jim often says that we cannot make a change in the world unless we can be at peace ourselves. In a recent statement to the parish, Jim said, “I’m asking you to pause for a moment and grasp that as Jesus’ disciples, we have a unique charism to offer the world.
And for us not to let anything get in the way of that, especially not the contentiousness of our times. The world needs us. It needs us as a peaceful presence, and it needs us to lead by our example of humility and meekness, and compassion.
In the presence of fear and uncertainty and confusion, people tend to react and we tend to pontificate and we tend not to listen, but just to declare our view of the truth. As followers of Jesus, we can be different in the midst of that.”
The strong presence of love and support created in this community is something that I wish everyone could understand is available to them. I am constantly creating visual content to uplift the voices of the leadership of this church, amplifying their messages of a peace that makes space for everyone.
Since the beginning of COVID-19, my position has changed dramatically. Suddenly I went from advertising our 116 different ministries and implementing the overall vision and branding of the church – an already-full professional plate – to also creating recorded video church services and other time-based work to keep up with the new demand for a larger digital presence. The church shut down just before Holy Week and Easter, one of our largest holidays. People were devastated that they would not be able to come in person to worship. Together with my team, I worked hard to produce an online service that would hopefully offer some compensation for this loss. I saw it as an opportunity to share my passion for animation and video.
As the months of the pandemic went on, we began to wonder how we would sustain our membership and funding without our typical pledge campaign drive. We were getting a sense that people were feeling disconnected. Then I had an idea. I imagined a project called the “Parish Post.” A no-tech opportunity for parishioners of all ages to write notes to one another, helping the church community to feel more connected and share a sense of gratitude. I had a lot of fun with my team, especially fellow designer, Manny Fimbres, returning to more traditional work to create special stationery for the project. So far we’ve had a great reception. Hundreds of notes have been exchanged and the campaign isn’t over yet.
Independently, my artwork shares similarities with the work I create for the church. I create illustrations and animations that tell stories. I am on a quest to make an impact on our relationship to the earth. I want people to understand their connection to creation and our need to respect our environment. This week, my illustrated work was published in the World Wildlife Fund Magazine Winter 2020 Edition. I am thrilled to have been of the 25 artists selected out of 16,000 entries worldwide, elevating the message of protecting the earth.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My work has a unique handmade, eclectic, whimsical feel to it. I’m known for my watercolor painting and bright colors. I like to cut my paintings out and collage them with other materials, either flat or three dimensional. I build tiny sets in my studio, adding found objects, scrap fabrics and other scraps of paper to my watercolor paintings. Then I stage photoshoots, where most of the time I like to use natural light, outdoors. The final product to my still work is usually a photograph which is finessed in Photoshop. My work also gets animated. It is important to me that the animation has a traditional feel to it. Sometimes the animation is shot in camera in stop motion, while other times it is composed in Photoshop and completed in After Effects and Premiere.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
My favorite local places first include the outdoors, because I love being surrounded by nature. I love early morning hikes in the Phoenix Mountains, just minutes from my house. Even though it is in the middle of the city, you don’t have to go far to feel like you left the city behind. Other favorite outdoor places include the Civic Center Mall, Granada Park, Rio Salado Park, the Superstition Mountains, and McCormmick-Stillman Trainpark, a magical place for my toddler.
I enjoy catching up with friends over breakfast at First Watch. When it is hot during the day, Changing Hands is my favorite local bookstore, and nearby on Central Ave in Phoenix is Practical Art, a shop that sells handmade goods by independent artists. From there, the Heard Museum is not far away where you can learn about the Native Americans of the Southwest region.
Sacks Sandwiches is one of my favorite lunch locales and I also recommend Mad Greens and Joyride Taco. SAS Fabrics is one of my favorite shops and I recommend Arizona Art Supply too. All of these are located in Central Phoenix.
Royse Contemporary is an art gallery in Old Town Scottsdale. Owner Nicole Royse represents my husband Cam DeCaussin’s oil paintings. While in the area, in November, Canal Convergence | Water + Art + Light is a unique arts festival along the Canal that inspires conversation around water conservation. It is put on by Scottsdale Public Art in partnership with SRP and the city of Scottsdale. Other places I recommend visiting are the Musical Instrument Museum and the Civic Center Library which at times has installations in the gallery by local artists that are fun and interactive for children.
For dinner, Two Hippies Beach House is a favorite, and La Sentisima, which serves wonderful authentic Mexican food and has an excellent salsa bar. Both are located in Central Phoenix. Dessert is best had at Merci French Cafe in Old Town Scottsdale.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My career would not be without a very large crowd of people who have shaped who I am and supported me along the way. My parents, George and Kay Hofacker nurtured my creativity and provided unlimited opportunities for me to explore anything I was interested in. My grandparents, Lynn and Stella Bowers have also been second parents to me. I also have gratitude for Linda Rueble, Frank Hillyard, Scott Reiminschneider, Laura Fair, Reed Bretz, and Nikkie Frost who all had an important influence on my creative work. My college community of students and professors at Grand Valley State University in Michigan where I studied art and design and discovered my artistic identity under the direction of Professor Ed Wong-Ligda. My husband Cam DeCaussin, who I met while I was there. He is a successful artist in his own right and a professor of art at Arizona State University. Nicole Notario-Risk who mentored me in business after graduation, Cyndi Coon of Laboratory5 Inc. who has opened up my world to new experiences and connected me to a wide network across the United States. Andrea Teutli and the creative team at Scottsdale Public Art who I worked with on Canal Convergence | Water + Art + Light. Finally, I am very grateful for the entire team at Saint Barnabas Episcopal Church, especially The Rev. Erika von Haaren and The Rev. Jim Clark who has given me confidence in my work and have seen the value in my creative and professional growth.