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Weightlifter Brings Inspirational Art to the Circle

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Immigrant, weightlifter, artist: Kledia Spiro, this year’s Mudge Fellow, can be described in these three words, but her art and her person transcend these ideas. At an early age, Ms. Spiro immigrated from war-torn Albania to the United States. Here, she became both an Olympic weightlifter and an artist, focusing on the manipulation of objects to address issues close to her heart. Olympic weightlifting soon became “a metaphor for immigration, for times of war, for being a female in a male-dominated society.” When asked about the role of weightlifting in her art, Ms. Spiro clarified that it concerns much more than just the weight – it is about overcoming strife and finding balance. Ms. Spiro’s inspiration for all her work stems from her drive to overcome obstacles and how rewarded she feels once she has done so.

 

In her TED talk, “The Pursuit of Creativity,” Ms. Spiro tells of her journey with art. In her talk, Spiro compares the clicking sound that a bar makes when lifted to the sound of gunshots, like those she heard so many years ago in Albania. Instead of allowing fear and memory to spur her past trauma, however, she uses weightlifting to empower herself. Ms. Spiro sees the gunshot-like click as an opportunity to take back control. When she lifts bars, she chooses to make the clicking, instead of becoming victim to it.

 

Some of Ms. Spiro’s most important work in art and weightlifting has come to symbolize the figurative weight that we all carry. In her most recent piece, she made a barbell designed to carry her parents, one on each side of the bell. Ms. Spiro, however, was never able to lift this bar. The reason for this is that the sacrifices her parents have made for her are a weight she will never be able to bear; the unmanageable weight has become “a celebration to live up to [their] legacy.”

 

Ms. Spiro first heard of Groton School at a gallery at which the director mentioned he had displayed at Groton before. Ms. Spiro then decided to come because she wanted to share her art and her ideas on human burdens with maturing students.

 

Brodigan Gallery Director Beth Van Gelder was very excited to welcome Ms. Spiro to the Circle as this year’s Mudge Fellow. Ms. Spiro, Ms. Van Gelder noted, has a very fascinating interdisciplinary approach to art. Furthermore, Ms. Van Gelder found Ms. Spiro’s work fascinating in the way that it blends “trauma into art as a way of acknowledging one’s experiences.”

 

Ms. Spiro’s flexible work permitted her to extend her reach beyond the art room into the English wing with English teachers John Capen, Jake Kohn and Vuyelwa Maqubela; into the science department with Bert Hall’s physics classes and Paula Marks’ anatomy electives; and even into the weight room with trainer Cory Varrell. At each, Ms. Spiro gave a short presentation about her work and then asked students to reflect on their own weight that they carry, followed by an exercise to lighten that weight.

 

In the English classes, Ms. Spiro joined a discussion of literal and figurative weight in the fifth formers’ most recent read, The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. In his classes, Mr. Kohn “explored the physical and symbolic meanings of burdens, gravity, and weightlessness” with Ms. Spiro. Through this exploration, he hoped that his students may have come to realize that “perhaps not all burdens are so miserable to carry.” If they are carried together “with open hearts,” he says, the weight can become something similar to a blessing.

 

In her time here, Ms. Spiro displayed her art in the Brodigan Gallery and gave a presentation open to all on December 6 in the Sackett Forum. Afterwards, she returned to Fitchburg State University, where she currently teaches a seminar on Marketing and Cinematic for the Document Design. She also displayed her art at the Java Studios Gallery in Brooklyn. Ms. Spiro’s story and uplifting work will hopefully inspire students to find the beauty in their burdens and overcome them with a celebration in the same way Ms. Spiro has done with her own.  

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