The world lost a special soul on Saturday, March 7th.
Celeste Howell, beloved artist and former Director of the Institute of Mosaic Art in Oakland, CA, was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver while walking on the sidewalk near her studio in Oakland.
Celeste truly was the backbone of IMA, and the blossoming, growth and sustainability of IMA would not have been possible without her. She was my friend, my colleague and a trusted fellow renegade in the creative life. She was brilliant, smart and funny, as well as being serious and steadfast. She held me up when my knees were buckling.... her strength and no-nonsense style helped to lift my wings and keep me flying many times. Our work running IMA was challenging and required multi-faceted strength, creativity and patience. Celeste, my business partner Julia and I formed the core of an awesome team which allowed IMA maintain its integrity and solidity, and to be able to support the many mosaic artists who found community, friendship and inspiration at IMA.
Celeste was a talented artist and creative thinker extraordinaire.. hyper intelligent. She also helped make manifest my crazy ideas. She was my firewall, my bodyguard, my defender, my compadre. I will always have so much respect for her tender fierceness. We laughed so much together. And cried. and bitched, and disagreed, and laughed some more. We washed a lot of buckets.
She tirelessly supported the work I did in Haiti… helping to raise money for the mosaics in Mirebalais Hospital with Partners In Health by organizing exhibits and fundraisers through IMA. She traveled to Haiti with me to help install the dozens of mosaic birds and butterflies that artists from IMA made for the walls of the pediatric ward. She worked alongside my Haitian team creating mosaics for sick kids to look at for decades to come. She supported me when I had a broken heart, led us in morning boot camp exercises and worked with me to teach others how to create beauty in the world. Celeste was a beauty.
Her role in promoting and supporting mosaic education was huge, and after IMA was sold to the Cordonis, she made manifest her own dreams and created a beautiful studio for her own work in West Oakland. The exquisite jewelry she created embodied her style in the world, straightforward, elegant, graceful and strong.
I am grief stricken and in shock that she is gone. Her spirit will live on. People always say that.. but it’s true.
I will miss you Celeste. I honor you. I respect you, and I will always, without doubt, remember how you were.. loving, caring, fierce, straightforward and honest. I wish I could have gathered up all these thoughts and words and offered them to you in person.
I can’t believe it, as soon as I break out of the weird zombie shock, I feel the waves of sadness and lose it. How is it that a person is a person one day and then becomes a picture in your mind. It’s not fair. I feel the knots in my throat making it hard to swallow.
I will remember you laughing and smiling and drinking your tea.
You were such a bad ass.