"Eggs are perfect to paint on when you are learning about things that can break. When you know that something is really fragile, you take care of it. When you see that the whole earth and everything in it can be fragile~well, you can imagine how that makes you feel. Maybe if we cared for each other and the earth with our whole hearts, we would be happy, and we could relax and enjoy it together."
~by a third-grade student
after completing The Egg Painting Compassion Project
The Egg Painting Compassion Project was created in 1987 by Cathee vanRossem-St.Clair as a holistic exploration into the world of fragility, strength, and compassion. The program consists of ten gentle lessons that celebrate each student's unique genius while integrating behavioral and natural sciences, storytelling, drawing, writing, and performing arts. The project is designed to help elementary school children focus while painting personal stories on empty eggshells, writing poems with messages to the world, and participating in professional-style poetry readings. The work students create in this course is intricate. It requires attention, commitment, resilience, and a great deal of care.
All the egg paintings and poems on this website were created by elementary school children who have participated in this program. In order to honor their privacy, we've removed names from their projects.
Nurturing and kindness are keys to the success of this project. When students feel safe, are heard, and sense that they matter, they are more able to relate to themselves and each other with empathy, discernment, and compassion. Fostering this kind of ethical sensitivity in the classroom requires skill building. The Egg Painting Compassion Project provides opportunities to develop these skills.
Fourth Grader Holding a 20,000 Year-Old Elephant Bird Egg
Cathee St. Clair created The Egg Painting Compassion Project in 1987 and has been sharing it with schoolchildren for over thirty years.
The heart of this program, children from all walks of life offer their talents and wisdom to us all.
Greig St. Clair, all-around helper and behind-the-scenes support person, has a hidden talent: Shh! He's an unrivaled egg repairman.
Cathee vanRossem-St.Clair is a miniaturist who has earned national and international recognition for her paintings on eggshells. She began her art career in 1974 and won the highest award in New York City’s first Women In Design International Competition in 1981. Since then she has been featured in The Artist’s Magazine, a national art publication that referred to her as “one of ten artists we can’t forget” and has been nominated for the American Artist Magazine Achievement Award for her lifetime work as an artist. She has been invited to showcase her work in special exhibitions in the Performing Arts Center of Cincinnati, Ohio, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Santa Rosa, California, and the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno, Nevada. Her art has been featured in solo exhibits in galleries throughout the country and continues to be sought after by art collectors in the United States, Europe, and New Zealand. One of her painted eggs, commissioned by The White House, is now in the National Archives.
Cathee was one of ten artists selected to participate in collaboration between the California Arts Council and the California Arts Project to teach inner-city students about the relationship between fragility and caring in her Egg Painting Compassion Project. Since 1988 she has been offering this program to third and fourth graders in the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District and has worked with two generations of children (over 10,000 young minds and hearts). In 1999 The Rotary Club of Tahoe City named her an honorary Paul Harris Fellow for her artistic service to the community. Cathee vanRossem-St.Clair is also an award-winning poet and storyteller, an alumna of the prestigious Squaw Valley Community of Writers, and has been invited as a guest to teach storytelling at the University of Nevada Reno and the Sierra Nevada College in Incline Village. She has been a returning artist, storyteller, and poet in Trails and Vistas, a Tahoe/Truckee art hike designed to create experiences of art in nature that inspire environmental awareness. In North Lake Tahoe she is simply known as “The Egg Lady.”
I'm deeply moved by language: the language of birds, the language of animals, the language of the earth, and the languages we humans use to interact with our inner and outer landscapes. Language in art begins with a sensation, a sound, a line, a circle, a shape. Add a few quirky musings, vivid dreams, accidental epiphanies, and a few strokes on paper or stone or eggshell become visual stories that call attention to a moment in time.
My dream is to summon enough courage every day to make a quiet mark in this unpredictable world. May it be a compassionate mark.