Story by Sara Paul
Asking Linda Mensch to name her artistic medium seems a simple enough conversation starter. However, the problem with this innocent inquiry is that Linda herself is uncertain of the answer.
“I’m just playful and all the things I do and feel come from the same place,” Linda comments, almost as if she is figuring this out finally, for the first time.
Dancer, choreographer, film producer, jewelry and accessory designer, teacher, animal lover, community activist, and attemptress at anything exciting and new, Linda puts the create in creativity.
“I’m far from mainstream and a firm believer that things don’t have to be so precious and perfect. Art is not a job; the exploration of making is where the value of the process resides… when in the flow can give the maker a sense of connectivity and peace,” Linda declares strongly.
Born in Brooklyn, NY, this energetic gal grew up in Long Island, NY, moving to Bergen County, NJ at age 10.
She began dancing at age seven and began choreographing in junior high school. It was then that one of her physical education teachers introduced her to the well-known Merce Cunningham modern dance studio in New York City.
Experiencing her first cappuccino and her first pecan pie in the city of lights, Linda was mesmerized and madly in love – with dance. With a supportive mom who enrolled her in the Center for Modern Dance Education in Hackensack, NJ, Linda was given free rein to be her own whimsical, musical, magical, beautiful self. She was literally given the keys to the Center’s dance kingdom and her dance full days seemed to be beyond perfect.
Tragedy struck though, when, as a high school senior, Linda froze in a complex and acrobatic dance routine. Her back told her she needed a break and unfortunately, her doctor told her she would dance no more.
With injured body and soul, Linda enrolled in Bard College directly after high school. Even with her mom’s encouragement to follow through with Pilates and other therapies, the college student had made the decision to give up her dancing dreams and major in special education.
Concerned creative arts professors protested the extreme move and Linda graduated Bard in 1980 as a dance major with an emphasis in choreography.
After college, the 20-something city gal dove into the artist’s life head first. Waitressing and odd jobs paid the rent, whilst ambitious projects like the Menschwerks Dance Company and trips to the United Kingdom fueled her bright and motivated heart.
It was during her tenure at the Brooklyn Arts Exchange that Linda would face another surprising challenge. One of her colleagues announced that there was to be a craft fair and everyone needed to contribute.
“All I knew, or all I thought I knew, was dance. I didn’t believe I could make anything with my hands,” Linda said, reliving her young artistic fears.
Luckily, she stumbled upon a toy store that specialized in copies of vintage toys.
“I saw a jar of marbles in the light, and I thought, ‘How can I wear these? They are so pretty!,’” she recalls, adding triumphantly that her marbled jewelry creations sold out at the fair, with dozens of orders for more.
“I learned that my hands did work and that opened a whole other part of my brain,” exclaims the now Village of Warwick resident for 27 years.
Expressing, sharing, and facilitating creativity comes naturally and absolutely to Linda, who is the owner of Front Porch Arts and The Moving Company dance school on Main St.
Front Porch Arts is a favorite as Linda takes young students to visit fellow artists, among other adventures. The six to eight week sessions culminate in an art show at the Conscious Fork in the Village of Warwick.
“Children are so inspiring because they don’t have preconceived notions and rules about what art should be,” believes Linda, who was the Village of Warwick Artist in Residence two years in a row, in 2016 and 2017, with her partner, Glen Carter.
She has also volunteered extensively with Road Recovery and received two grants (Arts Mid-Hudson Decentralization and WFEL) to teach art in the PIE program at the Sanfordville Elementary School in Warwick.
In 2012, Linda created Warwick Dances, a short film featuring Warwick citizens each dancing for 20 seconds. Her intro to the piece, which was edited by Paul Romano, revolves around the premise that, “Clearly, dance makes people feel good.”
As a choreographer, the professional ideally works in the moment. “I need to see the space first, then see the dancers and how they move; their faces and their energy helps me understand how we can create something fantastic,” said Linda.
“An empty room is like a blank canvas – just listen and it will tell you what to do,” she whispers.
A hopelessly devoted dog-lover, Linda has fostered 17 dogs through Perfect Pets Rescue over the years. She kept her 10th rescue, Lilah, a four-year-old mixed breed, and also still has her old dog, Teffy, who is nine.
Growing up near Orient Point, Long Island, Linda finds serenity by the water. That serenity follows her like a leaf pirouetting in the wind. Linda gently breezes through the Village of Warwick and smiles at the autumn crowds: “Everyone is dancing through life because life is a dance… one that we are all just trying to figure out.”
The Warwick Valley Dispatch would like to feature local artists who are passionate in their creative pursuits. These individuals can be established artists or those who are getting started in their trade. We ask that if you know of any artists who would be appropriate for these human interest pieces, that you contact Sara Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org or 718-702-3091.