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Gifted artist inspired by helping Maui’s needy

By Staff | Nov 20, 2014

Deb Lynch, A Cup of Cold Water’s first female driver, is part of their rotating team of more than 50 volunteers making three runs a week. ACCW visits Central Maui each Wednesday, Lahaina on Saturdays and South Maui on Sundays. In addition to pantry items, the van delivers clothing and slippers, tarps and towels, first aid, feminine hygiene, and toys and books when available.

LAHAINA – Maui artist and humanitarian Deb Lynch is a rare treasure in the community. A participant in the upcoming March Maui Open Studios event – where she will be demonstrating as well as showing her work – Lynch’s talent appeared in Art Maui 2013, and just recently one of her portraits was accepted in the 2015 Schaefer Portrait Challenge. Although a resident of Maui for over eight years, Lynch’s extraordinary paintings and drawings have been part of her life since her childhood on the East Coast.

“I spent hours running up and down the stairs and through the galleries of the Philadelphia Art Alliance, where my grandfather, Lawrence Eldrege, was president for 35 years,” said Lynch, whose first exhibited painting at age five was “Pegasus Flying to See Baby Jesus.”

Growing up climbing trees, befriending squirrels and turtles and playing at the beach, Lynch was the kid hanging out in art departments of elementary schools with very tolerant, encouraging teachers. However, during college, while raising her own family, Lynch had to “set aside her art passions for more sensible things in life.”

“Nevertheless, the bright stars in my life, my children, taught me that on the outside I may be a grown-up, but inside I’m still a child who loves stories, color, paint and wind on the ocean and waves.”

“The ocean!” exclaimed Lynch, obviously inspired by the beauty and danger of the ocean and the glowing sunlight splashed on the waves. “If I’m not painting it, I’m out surfing in it!” she said, noting her style, Abstract Realism, is where the image is the inspiration, not the destination of a painting.

“Stanley, one of ACCW’s regular clients, is more than homeless,” said Deb Lynch. “He is a veteran, attended college, well read, soft spoken and generous with his time and opinions. With his interesting personality and life etched in his face and hands, I wanted to capture his spark and character,” she explained, noting that Stanley graciously agreed to a portrait.

Lynch returned to the University of Oregon at age 50 to complete her degree, a 2001 Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting cum laude, and reached for those artistic passions again. For her graduate degree, Lynch, whose medium is oils, painted a series of some of the homeless ladies at the Eugene Mission in Oregon, where she was a crisis responder for Lane County Victims Services. It was then that her creative talent joined with her humanitarian work.

“I wanted models for my paintings, and in turn, the women would earn money sitting for me,” Lynch said.

Painting people as they are in their environments is challenging, humorous and at times heartbreaking. While quietly at work, conversation flowed, and Lynch heard humanity emerging.

“Artists sometimes follow various paths, or series, and I am humbled by the kind hearts the people I paint have. We laugh and cry, but beneath the scruffy clothes and weather-worn appearances, there is a dignity and beauty. And, I remember they are God’s children, too,” she said.

Feeling blessed to be part of the Maui community, Lynch and her husband Trip share the motto “to whom much is given, of him much is expected.” Both have been involved in several efforts to give whatever they can back to their beloved island home.

“I must say,” said Trip, “that Deb’s recent involvement with the nonprofit Maui Episcopal Church organization A Cup of Cold Water, ACCW, has been transformational. She is blessed with a kind, generous heart, and her experiences with ACCW (she is the first female van driver) bring tremendous benefits not only to Maui’s homeless community, but to Deb herself.”

“Deb gives her clients so much love, self-respect, understanding and dignity, and they give her the priceless feeling of having made a real difference in the community,” he said.

Lynch is part of ACCW’s rotating team of more than 50 volunteers making three runs a week. It visits Central Maui each Wednesday, Lahaina on Saturdays and South Maui on Sundays. In addition to pantry items, the van delivers clothing and slippers, tarps and towels, first aid, feminine hygiene, and toys and books when available.

“Lynch’s non-verbal presence and compassionate eyes are easy to spot,” said Keku Akana, founder of ACCW. “She possesses the crucial components of the mission – caring, loving, listening, patience and serving without judgment. In addition, she has the ability to engage her education and life experiences to the basic needs of others.”

“The homeless all have stories,” said Lynch. “Some are veterans, some elderly without family, some dealing with substance abuse and others with psychological and emotional challenges.”

Stanley, one of the homeless folks Deb met through ACCW, is one of their regular clients. “But he is more than homeless!” Lynch exclaimed. “He is a veteran, attended college, is well read, soft-spoken and generous with his time and opinions.”

With Stanley’s interesting personality and life etched in his face and hands, Lynch wanted to paint him to capture his spark and character.

“He graciously agreed to a portrait,” she said.

The hours Lynch shared with Stanley taught her far more of the struggles the homeless have here on Maui.

“Once a homeless guy to me, now a friend,” Lynch said.

“But all of them at one time were small innocent babies – then their paths were so often rough. They are God’s children too, but many are the kids that got beaten up, literally and figuratively,” she explained.

“Their eyes are soft with pain, hardships and struggles. But they still smile, and some joke and make us laugh. We are greeted with beams of joy and comments ranging from, ‘I’m thirsty, thanks for coming,’ to, ‘This is the nicest thing that anyone has done for me.’ “

“Maui is an even better place to live now that the ACCW van and its energetic crew members are uplifting and encouraging its most vulnerable residents,” said Lynch.

This holiday season, everyone on Maui should be aware of ACCW’s great program – and wholeheartedly support it.

For more ACCW information, to donate or volunteer, contact Keku Akana or Mary Lou Mellinger at (808) 419-1637, or e-mail acupofcoldwater@ gmail.com.

For more information on Lynch’s art, go to www.deblynch.com or e-mail deblynchstudios@gmail.com.