April 22 marks the 48th anniversary of Earth Day, the environmental movement born to combat widespread industry pollution. On the first Earth Day in 1970, 20 million Americans took to the streets to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment. Today, the fight for a clean environment continues with increasing urgency as the current administration threatens all the gains we have made for clean air and water.
Not all battles, though, are won or lost in D.C. Enduring progress can begin with one individual who cares about positive change in her/his own community and takes action. Meet one such warrior, Jody Tockes, the self-described Queen of Reuse and owner of The Hive, who never tires of making the world a better place through the arts and teaching others how they, too, can make a difference.
“I started The Hive because I wanted to continue teaching environmental stewardship through a fun, interesting, relaxing vehicle. I begin each art project by letting people know how they can have the environment in mind. With each class I give participants food for thought. For instance, I teach how to keep paint out of the water supply. In my case, I strain the paint water and let the paint dry. I use the paint skins in other projects.”
Jody has been teaching environmental stewardship most of her life. She was a special educator for 30 years before starting The Hive five years ago.
“In school, I’d have the kids making bottle cap birds and shoebox homes. I was showing them how to reuse,” Jody said. Now through The Hive in the Contemporary Art Center building, she offers classes in mosaics, painting, kids’ projects, flow painting, collage and YogART, a combination of yoga and painting. The common thread through all the classes is being a good environmental steward.
Jody also believes in giving back to the community. She has lead mural painting projects at the riverfront, she partnered with the City of Peoria on the artboard beautification project, and she is a long-time supporter of the Sun Foundation. Jody is happy to go offsite for groups that can’t come to her. Nursing homes are some of her big clients. Saint Augustine Manor has an art program that Jody teaches and she admits that it’s a healing activity for Jody who thinks of her mother.
When asked what are some favorite moments at The Hive, Jody said, “What warms my heart is when people come back to tell me they’ve started painting, and they find it’s such a great stress reliever. I smile knowing that someone has left here and took up a new hobby or they’ve found a new way to relax. I’m helping someone to create a better world because I think art makes people happy. It’s a peaceful pastime.”
Jody admitted that being at The Hive, though, is “selfish because she gets so much joy from working with people, and it’s a happy environment. People want to come here. They are not being judged. They come here to create.”
In the process, participants learn a little bit about how to be better environmental stewards to save the world. This Earth Day give thanks to artists like Jody who don’t wait to see what politicians do. They take action themselves to make a positive impact on our lives.