Jess Leibson knows firsthand about the healing power of art.
At one time, the 2001 graduate of Chagrin Falls High School suffered from so much chronic pain that she was forced to walk with a cane for more than a year. It ended up being her passion for nature – and art – that helped busy her hands and well as her mind.
“I remember worrying so much about how to feel productive while I was just sitting there,” she said. “I began exploring painting as therapy, of sorts. It was my saving grace.”
It’s that same love of nature that has prompted Ms. Leibson to recently launch her new Evansville, Indiana-based business: Valley Floor Art, which showcases the importance of conservation through the use of a Master Naturalist certification she obtained from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR).
With a bachelor’s and master’s degree already under her belt, Ms. Leibson went back into the classroom to get the certification, which was created to provide a way for individuals to share their knowledge about preserving our natural resources.
Ms. Leibson is using that training to help connect people to the natural world through her art.
“One of the most important aspects of conservation involves a passion and dedication to protect our natural resources,” she said. “Without the reminder of why we often feel more at peace and relaxed when outside, we might not have the drive to preserve what surrounds us.
“In Northeast Ohio, we are incredibly fortunate to have the Metroparks to remind us.”
Named after Ms. Leibson’s fondness for Yosemite National Park’s valley floor, many of the acrylic on canvas or mixed media on canvas pieces she paints preserve leaves, bark, or even feathers into works, embracing what nature provides.
Although she took plenty of art classes while attending Chagrin Falls Middle School and Chagrin Falls High School, Ms. Leibson said she is largely self taught, thanks to reading countless art books that she checked out through the bustling Cuyahoga County Public Library system.
“I can’t even imagine how many books I read about painting,” she said with a laugh.
With continued support from her father, Jerry Leibson of Shaker Heights, as well as her mother and step-father, Mary and the late Harjit Saini of Chagrin Falls, Ms. Leibson has dove into her work with a renewed passion.
In fact, it was the recent death of her step-father that drove her to pursue the Naturalist certification.
“He really was one of my biggest cheerleaders. I can’t help but think how much he would have loved to have seen me pursue this project.”
In an effort to give something back to a cause that is so near and dear to her, Ms. Leibson had decided to donate 10 percent of her company’s 2022 proceeds to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (AWCC).
“I had the opportunity to visit Alaska a few weeks ago and was simply blown away by the work AWCC is doing to preserve Alaskan wildlife through conservation, education, research, and quality animal care.”
In addition to her work raising funds – and awareness – for AWCC, Ms. Leibson will soon showcase a piece of her art in World Art Dubai, an international collection of more than 2,000 pieces of art from renowned galleries with acclaimed and emerging artists from 25 countries.
The exhibition will be held at the Dubai World Trade Center in March.
“I’m incredibly grateful for the time I spent in the Chagrin Valley and especially all those hours I spent exploring the Metroparks and local library system,” she said. “I really do feel like it was my exposure to those things that has driven me to give something back.”
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