Au: Artist in Disguise

“I have the ability that if I see something, even something as small as a post stamp, I can copy it,” Dining Services Supervisor Kim “Mama” Au said of her artistic talents. “It’s nothing I pursued, I always viewed it as a hobby” she explains.  Although you may not be aware of it, you probably see Au’s artwork on a daily basis around the campus because she makes all the chalk-paintings and decorations hanging in the dining halls and the Spa. Now you’re probably thinking, “Oh yea I’ve seen those,” but do you know the woman behind them?

Hailing from Waterville, Maine Au has worked for Sodexo since 2011.  In her first year, she was the supervisor for Dana dining hall, after which she transferred to supervise the Spa. Before working for Sodexo, Au owned and operated three different restaurants, most notably the Jade Island restaurant, which she ran with her husband for 27 years before they sold it in 2010 (today it is Joseph’s Fireside Grill). “I miss the restaurant, and I miss the customers, but I worked from six in the morning to ten or eleven at night” Au said. She now has more time to spend with her three children and two grandchildren. It has also given her more time to cultivate her artistic interests.

“I never pursued it. It’s just always been a hobby or a sideline job,” Au says. She was artistically inclined from a very young age. She used to paint windows for seven or eight businesses across town for each different season, and “in my own restaurant, I had 14 large windows to decorate.” Au explained that she especially loves painting on windows because it’s a little more challenging and requires a special technique: “You have to keep in mind that the work can be seen form both sides and therefore you cannot relying on layering [the paint]. It’s more experimental.”

At Colby, Au mainly paints on the chalkboards that are placed around campus to create a “seasonal flare.” It all began when a co-worker asked her to draw something to advertise for a cinnamon rolls special the Spa had that week.

“After that, one thing lead to another and I’ve been doing it ever since,” Au said. Working with chalk is a new challenge for Au, but she is open to trying new things. “The only thing I don’t like working with is oil painting; it’s too rigid,” she said. Last year, for a Thai themed event in Dana, Au carved fruit into different shapes and flowers in front of students to demonstrate how to “turn a simple object into a work of art.”

Au has done fruit carving for a long time, both at Jade Island and at a summer camp she works at in Androscoggin. Au says that food has always been “her calling,” so allowing herself to be artistic with fruit carving is the perfect combination for her.     

Au also did all the artwork for the blanket drive put on by Sodexo in November. The blanket drive raised  over $700 worth of products such as shampoo, toothpaste, and clothing. “It was such a joy seeing the looks on their faces when we brought it over,” she said.  She also said that blanket drive volunteers brought over some of her artwork, and because it was really appreciated, she might do some volunteer work there in the future. Her latest work is the large Mardi Gras display in Dana.

When asked if she has any tips for anyone with similar hobbies or interests they do not intend to make a career out of, Au replied, “What is so great for me is that all the art I produce is in harmony with my work and life.”

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