Rain Van Den Berg: revitalized by art

Arts profile

Posted: Thursday, June 22, 2000

As vital as eating: Rain Van Den Berg, 28, is a performer, teacher and artist. She makes jewelry, sculptures, clothing and furniture. Her artwork and jewelry are sold at Focal Point Books.

``Art is as vital to my well-being as eating and sleeping. It keeps my brain active and revitalizes me,'' she said.

She said she always enjoyed using found objects to create art. She's currently teaching a class at Juneau Dance Unlimited's Fine Arts Camp in recycled art. Students have been weaving and quilting using recycled materials, and this week they're making mobiles from materials they collected beachcombing.

Weaving boxes: Van Den Berg started sewing when she was 3 years old and since high school has made virtually all of her own clothing. She said woodworking is her new love. She recently made a chest and a desk, and has been making wooden boxes.

She spent the winter of 1997-98 in Bisbee, an artist's colony in southeast Arizona, where she made silver and beaded jewelry, figurative sculptures and woven boxes -- like square baskets -- out of recycled materials. She also worked at an art gallery.

Art as work: ``It was an amazing experience to be supporting myself with my artwork, but it's not something I want to do all the time because I love working with people too much,'' she said ``In my heart I'm called to be an artist, but I don't want to be an artist to make money.''

Talking with her hands: Van Den Berg began learning sign language when she was 10 and gained fluency in high school. She has served as a translator, but decided she didn't want to be a professional interpreter.

``It feels too much like being a machine,'' she said. ``I like using sign language to converse and interact, not just translate someone else's words.''

She's performed a number of times with singer and songwriter Sarah Hansen. ``Even people who don't understand sign language can get a lot out of it when you use it with a performance art,'' Van Den Berg said.

Rain was her destiny: She moved to Juneau when she was 13. Her early childhood was spent in Denver, Colo., and she said with a name like Rain it was her destiny to end up in Juneau.

She was active in theater in high school. She double-majored in theater and English, and earned a degree in secondary education at Western Washington University in Bellingham. She said teaching is her main calling, but she's interested in working with a variety of ages, not just children.

She'd like to become a diabetic educator, she said, and teach people who have been diagnosed how to deal with the condition. She was diagnosed with Type One diabetes two years ago. She's moving to College Park, Md., in July to attend the University of Maryland to study community health education.

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