Gloucester teacher accepted into art residency program in France

by Sherry Hamilton - Posted on May 09, 2018 - 02:09 PM

Photo: Alex Moulenbelt of Gloucester has been accepted as an artist in residence for two weeks next month at Chateau D’Orquevaux in Champagne-Ardennes, France. Photo by Sherry Hamilton

Alex Moulenbelt of Gloucester has been accepted as an artist in residence for two weeks next month at Chateau D’Orquevaux in Champagne-Ardennes, France. Photo by Sherry Hamilton

Photo: One of Moulenbelt's abstract pieces, “Broken Cycle,” created using a monoprint-based technique.

One of Moulenbelt's abstract pieces, “Broken Cycle,” created using a monoprint-based technique.

Photo: Alex Moulenbelt’s monoprint, “No Stranger.”

Alex Moulenbelt’s monoprint, “No Stranger.”

Alex Moulenbelt was the “song and dance” girl of her family growing up. She never thought of herself as an artist. But, after a couple of years of trying her hand at painting, Moulenbelt’s time has arrived.

The special education teacher at Gloucester’s Botetourt Elementary School has been honored with a grant to spend two weeks this summer as an artist-in-residence at the Chateau D’Orquevaux in Champagne-Ardennes, France.

Moulenbelt will travel to Europe in June and join nine other artists from all around the world in a collaborative art experience. In September, she’ll have a solo show at Arts on Main featuring the work she completes while she’s overseas.

Moulenbelt said she grew up thinking her sister was the artist in the family. About four years ago, while she and her husband and children were living in Houston, Texas, Moulenbelt attended a paint night and was hooked. When the family moved to Gloucester a year ago, she started working with artist Rose Nygaard at Arts on Main and quickly developed her own style as a way to heal from childhood trauma and abuse.

“It’s been really good for me,” she said. “I was able to work out a lot of junk I carried from childhood, and the ‘me too’ movement has helped me be open about my own experiences.”

Moulenbelt said that she was raised to be “a really good secret-keeper” who didn’t tell anyone about her abuse. But talking about what she suffered and expressing her experiences in her artwork have been empowering.

“The more that people talk about the things inside themselves, the more that darkness becomes the light,” she said.

Although she holds a bachelor’s degree in music, Moulenbelt was in advertising for a number of years, working at the Kalamazoo Gazette in her Michigan hometown. She also graduated from a massage therapy program. But having children—two boys, back-to-back—made her want to be a teacher, and an alternative certification program in Houston allowed her to quickly earn credentials. She taught there for a number of years before her husband, a professor of philosophy and leather worker, was offered a job at Thomas Nelson Community College on the Peninsula, and the family moved to Gloucester.

“We hated Houston,” she said. “We love it here. It’s a great area, with the ocean, mountains and the seasons I missed so much.”