Yes, Virginia, There are Faeries and They are Magic
By Natalya Dreszer
Faerie Cricket brings face painting, giant bubbles, and general whimsy to events of all kinds. She is a “Ground Faerie,” brought to life by Santa Cruzan Haley Brown, 29, a visual and performing artist who addresses disability with her work with children.
“I imagine a ground faerie is any faerie that can’t fly for whatever reason,” Haley says. “It’s an allegory for disability or difference or limitation of any kind.”
Haley has finished the text of her first children’s book, The Ground Faerie. It’s written as a letter from an older ground fairie to a child ground fairie. Now, she’s doing readings of that story as a puppet show with her art, but she’s still figuring out how to turn that into the performance that is a physical children’s book. The transition is not as simple for her as creating a background for the text. “Reading a (picture) book is a performance,” she explains. “Children’s books are a prompt to connect the reader and the listener, the pages are a set, each page turn is a dramatic act that reveals a new scene.”
Growing up Disabled in Santa Cruz, Haley had brittle bones –osteogenesis imperfecta — and would sometimes use a wheelchair. She didn’t see children like her portrayed as multi-dimensional characters in the stories she was told. “As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized how affected I am by the unnamed cultural narratives that we have about disability and femininity and queerness,” Haley says.
Haley has been working as Faerie Cricket for the last four years, attending special events, working as a children’s entertainer at birthday parties, corporate events, school assemblies, and carnivals.
While this performance art is framed for children, she emphasizes that work with children can be both radical and political, and can be a platform to reach children and adults.
“I love performing for an audience of kids and their parents don’t expect you to reach them too, but when you do it’s really exciting.”
Before we began the interview, she expressed being nervous about the way her story could be presented as a simplified story of “overcoming,” an article centered around inspiring able-bodied individuals. She was wearing rainbow earrings made of cloth and a hand-cropped shirt that says “Access is Love.” That’s happened to her before, she told me, and is the framing of most of the mainstream articles she’s seen about disabled artists. She doesn’t want the way her story is told to add to limiting narratives about disbaled people, especially when “imagin(ing) what it would look like to develop a new mythology around disabilities” is at the core of what makes her excited about her work.
“I’m always thinking about creating the kind of content that I didn’t see (growing up) and that I wanted,” she says. “I wanted there to be a book that is more complex and honoured the sadness that I sometimes felt, or the frustration or pain, alongside the joy that I felt and celebrating the uniqueness and perspective and culture of being a disabled person.”
The work is for everyone: “I really like childish things and whimsical sensibilities so it’s also partially for me,” she says.
Her work embraces all the messiness of her creative and lived experience. While effervescing about messiness, she throws her head back in a laugh and bonks her head against the wall. “I’m too big for my body,” she says. “I just remembered, I get a lot of energy and creative juice by being in a body that is small and somewhat fragile.”
Her art, especially the “Coping Calendar” that she makes every year, honors that messiness, that “balance of real intensity with gentleness and softness.” It’s available on her website at an affordable sliding scale price.
Haley loves creating the world of the Ground Faerie, the passion shines through everything she tells me about it. “I wish the world was more soft and more magical,” she says, “and so I like getting to imagine that in my work.”
Haley Brown is available to perform her children’s book puppet show and attend events as Faerie Cricket. This is her fifth year making the Coping Calendar, and she has coloring books, stickers, and more for sale. Find more information on her booking her for events and artwork on her website: haleybrown.org