|Stephanie Blank (wife of NFL Atlanta Falcons owner),
“In the Huddle” 36″ x 48″ © Kristye Addison Dudley
In 2002, while I was a professional cheerleader with the Atlanta Falcons, I participated in a charity auction. Although I have drawn since I was a child, majored in fine art and received a graduate degree in graphic communications, I still found (find) myself feeling insecure about my art. I think it’s because when I share my work, I am not just sharing an image. I am sharing a part of myself. Exposing those things that most of us write only in our journals. My journals are there for the world to see and built by my own hands. When it’s not accepted, it’s like being personally rejected. This was the first painting that I was publicly displaying and I was pretty terrified about it.
First of all, when approached about the painting I said “I don’t do Football players”, and didn’t think that my work would work for this venue. I started to think more about the nature of sports and less about the helmets and pigskins. I thought about the spirit of teamwork and the image of the huddle came to mind. The bright, bold and strong figures said everything that I was feeling, the painting was ready.
I thought “In the Huddle” was going to be in the silent auction. But on the day of the event, it was in the live auction. I was there as a cheerleader, greeting guests, signing autographs and performing for the fans. Right before the painting was to be sold, I was called to the front of the room, introduced as the artist and asked to stand next to the painting. I felt like I was up for auction too. I could see the surprised look on the faces of the fans. A cheerleader painted this?
Of course I am used to being pre-judged, as were my teammates. We all enjoyed dispelling the myths of our part-time profession. We all had day jobs! And after the game, and after the uniforms came off, we were back to our daily routines working and raising children. We were rarely recognized, kind of like Superman hiding in plain site.
The bidding started at $350. An NFL player and Mrs. Blank, wife of team owner, started a bidding war. The painting sold to Stephanie for $3500. I was in complete shock. The painting is in the permanent collection at the Atlanta Falcons Headquarters. Immediately following the event, I was asked to do shows all over the Atlanta area and starting sharing my work with collectors and the community.
It’s a great testament to my winding path as a professional artist. I still find that my being a former cheerleader brings funny looks, but it’s part of who I am. I started in Jr. High and cheered in college too. During my years as a college and professional cheerleader I was able to participate in countless community service activities and travel the world. My first trip to Egypt was as a cheerleader entertaining our troops.
During my time as a professional cheerleader the team consisted of a VP of a bank, a chemist, a chiropractor, a number of entrepreneurs, nurses, teachers, guidance counselors, and college students with a variety of challenging majors. I met amazing women, who I am so proud to know and are my friends for life. So, don’t judge a book by the cover, or pom poms, a cheerleader may be in your midst.
Cheers to you all,