Is the Romance with Tiny Houses More Than a Fling?

Tiny house

Tiny house (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The tiny house movement, which is often credited as having gained popularity thanks to Sarah Susanka’s 1997 book, The Not So Big House, has captivated architects, designers, city planners, and increasingly eco-conscious homebuyers on either end of the buying market. There are millennials who, faced with uncertain economic growth and unwilling to tie to the long-term mortgages of their parents’ generation, are considering tiny houses. Architects and designers are intrigued with the challenges of making 1,000 square feet and smaller feel like living large. City planners appreciate the economic possibilities, and even Boomers are willing to engage if downsizing to tiny can work with a lifestyle they can enjoy.

Not everyone is a fan, of course. As NPQ reported in an earlier article on possible use of tiny homes for the homeless, Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino expressed his concern about tiny homes, on average “the size of a garden shed,” and which are “built on wheels so that [they] can be moved frequently enough to skirt laws against loitering or trespassing.” Buscaino felt “each home would require reflective markings” and that this idea overall might not be the best of solutions.

But many others, as the Star Tribune piece showcased this week, would argue tiny houses are a game-changer and feel they offer exciting alternatives to traditional notions of housing in addition to posing the question of “how much space one really needs—and encourages living in a sustainable way.”

Among the architecture community, there has sprouted “a competition of sorts to design appealing, cost-effective, environmentally friendly tiny homes. […] One of the movement’s pioneers, Geoff Warner of St. Paul-based Alchemy Architects, has teamed with the Robert Engstrom Cos., the city of St. Paul, and an East Side nonprofit developer to propose a tiny house cluster as a demonstration of how such homes could spur development of affordable for-sale housing.”

A cluster of Alchemy Architecture’s “Weehouse” prefabricated tiny homes has been proposed for St. Paul’s East Side, an area that connects downtown St. Paul “with an “emerging business and entertainment corridor.” The Weehouses are described as “modular boxes prefabricated in factories and designed by Warner to vary in size from 300 to 850 square feet. They can be set up side-by-side to create stand-alone neighborhood clusters, or stacked on top of each other to build bigger single-family or multifamily dwellings.” The Star Tribune article also said “their real innovation is that they’re hardly Spartan: They include modern aesthetic features such as floor-to-ceiling glass and open kitchens, while also emphasizing energy efficiency with passive solar design, reflective roofs and geothermal heating.”

The hope of planners there is that the “units will market for around $100,000,” putting it at “a price that can appeal to a wide range of people, including first-time home buyers of all racial backgrounds.” According to a report issued by tech company SmartAsset, “in over half of the biggest U.S. cities, the typical millennial can’t afford a 1,000 square-foot home.” Warner’s hope, which is shared by many enthusiasts of the growing trend, is that more and more people will realize “you don’t need to have huge spaces to have really nice spaces.”

In the city of St. Paul’s case, the municipality “will need to craft a new zoning overlay designation governing such clusters of tiny housing.” But this is being “envisioned as a possible template for other cities across the state and country seeking to encourage the tiny living phenomenon.”

[This article first appeared in Non-Profit Quarterly]

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Nonprofits Championing Tech for Girls in Kenya

Kenya girls tech

Like many young women in Kenya, Miriam Wambui graduated high school without a job and without money to attend university. She hadn’t been greatly exposed to technology and had no idea she needed to learn about it. But while doing community-based volunteer work, she heard about Nairobits—a nonprofit that offers Kenyan youth ages 15 to 24 training in information computer technology, and she went from, as she describes it, “not knowing how to press a mouse,” to becoming an expert in information communications technology (ICT) and gaining skills like Web design and development. Ms. Wambui is now project coordinator for three Nairobits centers for girls in some of Nairobi’s poorest neighborhoods. Wambui, along with others in Kenya, including at the African Centre for Women, Information and Communications Technology (ACWICT), see ICT as “a potent force in transforming social, economic and political lives of women globally.”

At Nairobits, young women who were given the chance to get educated in technology often initially had trouble learning in co-ed classes, since technology has been traditionally viewed as a field for males and they felt uncomfortable competing. Families in Kenya, Wambui says, can be against girls getting an education, since “after primary school, boys’ education is given priority and the expectation is that girls will ‘take on roles that are much more maternal.’” Nairobits’ solution was to open girls’ centers to give women a chance to learn, share, and interact in a supportive environment. For Wambui, that included mentorship of students, teaching life skills, and working with parents who often don’t understand the value of computers as a part of everyday life.

According to ACWICT, the problem of girls in Kenya not having upper level education is coupled with those of “high unemployment, lack of skills relevant to the workplace by the young people, lack of information on available job opportunities, lack of networks and connections among youth,” and “lack of available jobs suited to entry-level skills,” among other things. These are global concerns. Kennedy Odede, founder & CEO of Kenya’s Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO), a nonprofit combating poverty and gender inequity, spotlighted how we’ve fallen short on education in the Huffington Post last week. The UN’s Millennium Development Goals set in 2000, “instituted that quality primary school education was a basic right for every child and it would happen by 2015,”

“It’s 2015,” and, as Odede says, “59 million children still cannot go to primary school and 62 million girls don’t get to go to secondary school.” Now, “the UN General Assembly [has] formally adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” which includes the goals of “ensuring access to quality education and promoting gender equality.”

The other critical components following education are job opportunities and the fostering of entrepreneurship. The ACWICT cites statistics that in Kenya, “while an estimated 750,000 young people enter the workforce annually, only 15 percent get absorbed into formal employment, leaving the rest…to take up informal work and/or face the brunt of poverty.” Kenyan girls are at a particular disadvantage, according to data from the United Nations, because “only 41 percent of young women continue their education after high school.”

But entrepreneurship is providing new avenues to supplement the educational initiatives. When President Obama spoke this July at the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi, he said, “This continent needs to be a future hub of global growth and Kenya is setting an important example—Kenya is leading the way.” Pledging $1 billion to support entrepreneurship projects worldwide, with half earmarked for women and youth, President Obama called women “powerhouse entrepreneurs” and said, “research shows that when women entrepreneurs succeed, they drive economic growth and invest more back into their families and communities.”

So, the pieces are in place. With continued support, young women in Kenya and elsewhere may be able to follow in the footsteps of Wambui and Odede in the continuing fight for women’s education and equality.

[This article first appeared in Non-Profit Quarterly]

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HistoriCorps: Volunteers in U.S. Historic Preservation Make Their Mark and Have Fun Doing It

©HistoriCorps

Want to experience a slice of American history? Would you be willing to clear some brush, wield a hammer, and step off the beaten track? If so, and if you have a week, month, or more of your time to give, and you’re willing to travel, consider becoming a volunteer for HistoriCorps, a kind of national landmarks-focused Peace Corps for sites in the U.S.

Described by executive director Townsend Anderson as “a hybrid between a nonprofit construction company and an outdoor adventure company,” HistoriCorps “mobilizes and engages a volunteer workforce to work on historic preservation projects.” Anderson describes the experience as a kind of adventure vacation in some of the most beautiful—if sometimes remote—parts of the country.

Since its founding in 2009, as many as 900 HistoriCorps volunteers have logged more than 60,000 hours doing preservation work on close to 170 projects in more than 20 states. Projects are currently underway at Clermont Farm, Virginia; Santanoni Preserve, New York; Routt National Forest, Colorado; and Tahoe National Forest as well as special project sites in West Virginia and Arizona.

HistoriCorps evolved from a “partnership between a group representing land managers and preservationists, who collaborated to restore buildings on the Pike-San Isabel National Forest in Salida, Colorado. That initiative helped the U.S. Forest Service recognize the power of such a collaborative model, since the federal agency has thousands of historic buildings under its care, but it is not able to do all the preservation work that is needed.” HistoriCorps along with its sponsors and partners tries to help with projects that can benefit from volunteer manpower.

According to Anderson, the organization goes out of its way to provide an easy, accessible experience for those who join, and group leaders train them to work side-by-side with skilled tradesmen and other volunteers. No previous experience is necessary. Individuals are provided with the tools they need and basic accommodations, including a kitchen and camping equipment to provide adequate shelter.

“It has really become a gateway, if you will, that historic preservation has never had before,” explains Anderson. “It is introducing many non-preservationists to historic preservation. […] HistoriCorps has offered, for me, the best opportunity I have had to teach a preservation ethic.”

Those who work on HistoriCorps have the chance to repair and restore “places that preserve and tell the nation’s history.” Ann Pritzlaff, one of the founding members, calls HistoriCorps “more than a clearinghouse for volunteers or a resource for funding.” She described the mission as having a number of parts, to “build the capacity of land management agencies and local governments to achieve preservation projects, advance green technologies and enable innovators in historic preservation and stewardship, so that preservation can take on real value for communities and economies.”

Historic preservation can take many forms, preserving, conserving and protecting things from the past that are deemed to be of historic importance. It can be about protecting houses and other buildings from being destroyed, or the recovery and protection of artifacts and sites. In the United States, one of the earliest, best known examples was “the decision to maintain Mount Vernon, George Washington’s homestead, in its original condition rather than demolishing the property shortly after his death.” In the late 1940s, President Truman signed legislation to create the National Land Trust. More recently, in 2011, the National Trust announced a dynamic new program called National Treasures, through which the organization will identify significant threatened places across the United States, and take direct action to save them. National Treasures are part of a new and focused effort to bring more Americans into the preservation movement, and demonstrate the relevance of preserving the nation’s historic places.

On the grassroots level, HistoriCorps is one of a number of organizations trying to help out. For those who are interested in HistoriCorps but can’t participate as on-site volunteers, individuals can make donations to HistoriCorps, where even less than $100 can be allocated to buy new tools or buy meals for field teams. The organization also accepts applications from organizations and groups that have a structure or property they believe may have historical significance and should be restored and used to benefit the public.

To learn more about activities in historic preservation, visit HistoriCorps’ sponsor pageor the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP). Preservation Action, a nonprofit lobbying group also hosts Preservation Week each spring to help raise awareness of important issues. And NTHP publishes a yearly list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places on their website to spotlight national treasures and rally efforts to save them.

[This article first appeared in Non-Profit Quarterly]

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Arts Initiative Sends Bronx Kids to College Free

Neil Waldman, Illustrator and Arts Educator for Change

13 Nicholas Flachsbart art1

Take motivated students from a low-income area, add art instruction, benchmarks for high grades, and the prospect of a ticket to a first-tier college and, if you’re author and illustrator Neil Waldman, you’ve got The Fred Dolan Art Academy in Bronx, NY. Founded seven years ago and recognized by The New York Times and New York Daily News for its innovation and success, Waldman’s initiative has just gained a new revenue stream, Dream Yard Press, a not-for-profit children’s publishing house founded by Waldman, and which is publishing its first picture book, Al and Teddy.  Here’s the latest on his education art initiative:

What prompted you to start the Fred Dolan Art Academy?

I grew up in the blue-collar neighborhoods of the east Bronx. It was a world of factory workers, plumbers, and shopkeepers. But my love was for drawing and painting, and I soon came to realize that if I wanted to do those things for the rest of my life, I’d have to go to college. I managed to do just that, and eventually became a writer and illustrator of children’s books.
It was during that time that a dream began rising within me – to return to the neighborhoods of my youth, find young artists there, and help them go to college. With this in mind, I created the Fred Dolan Art Academy, named after a recently departed friend. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hTy6rqgV9oY&feature=em-share_video_user. The Fred Dolan Art Academy is a free Saturday school whose mission is to help young Bronx artists to build their portfolios, while encouraging them to raise their grades, so that they can be accepted to college. To date, 23 students have graduated from the program, all going to college with scholarships.
We’ve done this by giving the kids hope for a better future. Teaching them art has served as a bridge to academic success because they now understand that if they work on their art and raise their grade point averages, they’ll be eligible for scholarships to college.
Were they kids who had interest or particular talent in art?
The students who join the program are lovers of art, but we don’t require any art background or skill set to be accepted.
I think that talent is overrated. I believe in commitment and passion for art (or any other field). If people work hard and diligently, there’s no reason they can’t succeed . . . And we’ve never rejected a single youngster. All we require is that they attend classes every Saturday, and work steadily while they’re with us. In most cases, our graduates choose art as a career, but some have decided to pursue other fields in college. Some are now majoring in architecture, finance, creative writing, and theatre.
Do you think you’d have gotten similar results with other subjects?
Yes. I think it could happen with any subject. But our expertise is in art. The academy’s teachers are all successful artists and art educators, capable of teaching the skills necessary to succeed in the art field. But our kids come from families where no one has ever gone to college. And so there’s no understanding of the importance of a college education.
We’ve been doing this for 7 years now, and the data bank is growing. Every one of our 23 graduates is now in college with a scholarship. Our success is proving that hope is the most powerful tool. Without hope, there’s no reason to succeed in school. With hope, the goal of a college education becomes real, and our students have begun to realize that it’s possible to spend their lives doing what they love most.
What are your thoughts about future of arts funding?
Unfortunately, when school budgets drop, art and music are first to be cut. That’s a shame . . . and a concern. I’m hoping that through programs like ours, people will begin to realize that art can be a vehicle that leads to academic success, career fulfillment, and ultimately, the transformation of one’s life.
Who has stepped up to the plate to help?
We’ve had wonderful people offering their help and services, and we are very grateful to them.
We started with a Kickstarter campaign and received donations ranging from $10 to $1500. That provided seed money for Dream Yard Press, which is our new publishing venture. Our first book, Al and Teddy, (audio book, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCwJikL7BGg&feature=em-share_video_user) will be published in December. All proceeds will go to supporting the Fred Dolan Art Academy.
Cornelius Van Wright, Robert Casilla, and other artists are serving as teachers there; a lawyer named Mitchell Pines has volunteered to help set us up as an independent not-for-profit corporation; Bill and Beth Johnson have donated their time writing the teacher’s guide for the book, and setting up an educational outreach program, where we’re hoping to get donations of $250 from individuals who want to gift a carton of 28 Al and Teddy books to a teacher of their choice.
This all makes a big difference because we can make more profits on book sales, and use that to support our students. We’ve found that it costs about $1000/year to support each student in the program.
What’s surprised you most about doing this?
Everything has come together in a seemingly effortless manner. One after the other, people have continually come forward and volunteered their time and expertise. I’ve been amazed at how much they’ve done to help us further the program.
What are your dreams for this project?
My dream is that we can help all the kids who want to be part of the program. So far, we’ve helped 23 Bronx kids go on to some of the top colleges with full scholarships, and the schools they’ve gone to – Dartmouth, the Rhode Island School of Design, NYU, USC, SUNY Purchase, and the Art Institute of Chicago.
Now, word of the program’s success has begun to spread. This year for the first time, we’ve had to turn kids away. Looking at the faces of those kids was sadder than anything I’d ever imagined So I’ve created Dream Yard Press, a not-for-profit publisher of children’s books in the Bronx. All the proceeds from sales of our books will go to the academy.”AL and TEDDY” is our first picture book. It’s the story of love and friendship between 2 brothers, and the power of art to transform their lives. I’ll attach 2 images from the book, and “A Bronx Diary,” the story of the Genesis of the academy.
We’ve had articles so far in The New York Times, the New York Daily News and others in recognition of this as an important model for what can be done via arts education to make a difference. My goal is for the academy to grow. I’d love to have “AL and TEDDY” considered for awards, so we can help more and more kids. In the long run, it would be great to have our own facility, and to show what’s possible to make a difference in the lives of kids who need help breaking out of what can seem like dead-end situations.
How can people help?
We’d welcome hearing from people who can help as teachers; in fundraising, non-profit and publishing advisors. We also particularly need help in creating an “AL and TEDDY” website.
Individuals can help us to by:
  • Purchasing a copy of “AL and TEDDY” http://raabassociat.es/14e2Rbh
  • Gifting an “AL and TEDDY” book box to your favorite middle school teachers.
Neil Waldman has been writing and illustrating children’s books for 40 years. His books have won the Christopher Award, the National Jewish Book Award, the A.L.A. Notable Award, the School Library Journal Best Book Award, and many others. Notable among these is a gold medal from the United Nations in a closed international competition in which Waldman was chosen to represent the United States. The world body selected his entry as the official poster for the International Year of Peace. Today it hangs in the halls of the U. N. General Assembly. He has designed postage stamps for thirteen nations, written and illustrated more than fifty books for young people, and has illustrated the covers of seven Newbery Award winners
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“One price fits all” at this fundraiser event for a local art league

By Sherry Truhlar, President, Red Apple Auctions

Artist auction display - sketch

Last February (2012), two friends of mine headed to Old Town, Alexandria, VA to participate in The Art League’s Patrons’ Show.  For a $175 ticket, they each came home with an original work of art.  It was a sold-out night with almost 700 people attending.

I haven’t yet attended this event myself, but it’s gotten some good P.R.  My friends had read about it in Washingtonian Magazine’s “Best Of” issue where it had been featured as the “Most Fun Art Fundraiser.”

I share this concept (as told to me through their experience) as the idea might resonate with you.

This annual event features hundreds of original pieces donated by Art League and Torpedo Factory Art Center artists.  The number of tickets sold matches the number of works donated, so everyone goes home with a piece of art.  Some of the selections are worth $175 … others are valued at thousands more.

(You can see photos of the 2012 artwork on Flicker here:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/theartleague/sets/72157629236975371/ )

For reasons which will soon become obvious, guests are encouraged to view the works online and in person in the two weeks prior to the event.  They are advised to jot down the numbers of the pieces they find most appealing.  (The reason being is that they won’t have much time to decide at the event!)

On event night, ticket-holders crowd into the art space, taking up all three floors.  Seating is limited.  The announcer stands on the ground floor in the atrium area so he can be more easily heard and seen by those in the second and third levels.  Some guests lean over the railing to see and hear.

Tickets are randomly drawn as the event gets underway.  When the name of each ticket-holder is announced, he has a few seconds to shout out the number of the piece he wishes to claim.

If you’re lucky enough to be one of the first ticket holders drawn (my friends were in the 200s and 400s, respectively) it can be a short night for you.  Otherwise, the process takes several hours.  You’ll need to listen to each number called so that you can cross it from your list, should the chosen piece be on your list of favorites, too.

Though other prizes are randomly awarded throughout the night (e.g. tickets to shows, gift cards to restaurants and hotels), the focus is on the art.

Does it sound like the right fit for your growing art consortium?  My friends had fun and it’s a neat way to acquire an original piece of art.  It might just work for you.

see also 1/7/2013

 

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Considering a benefit auction to raise money for your art league? Hint: Don’t sell art.

by Sherry Truhlar, President, Red Apple Auctions

13 Artist auction display

You and your colleagues in the art collective want to raise a little money.  Maybe you want to have some cash available to help each other with scholarships to attend art classes.  Maybe you want to upgrade the A/C in your studios.

While you sit around debating how best to raise the money, someone mentions the idea of a benefit auction.  Chances are, you and your friends have been asked to donate to those types of fundraisers before, so it’s only natural that you’d be familiar with them.

“Everyone can donate a piece of their art,” someone suggests, “We’ll sell tickets to the night, and we’ll auction the donations.” In principle, it sounds like a good idea.  After all, you’re an art league and you like art.

But here’s the hard fact:  In many cases, you’ll raise more money if you don’t sell art.

Benefit auctions raise the most money when the items they offer have mass appeal.  You don’t want to sell just anything.  You want to sell items that many people want to own.

Auctions are based on the concept of scarcity.  It’s that old principle of high demand and low supply.  When a benefit auction offers limited, desirable merchandise to many interested buyers, they raise a lot of money.

But sadly, some auction planners begin to think that “more is better.”  They fill their auction tables with anything, thereby creating a garage sale mentality among guests.  Stuff sells cheap.

As an artist, here’s the challenge with making the benefit auction all about art:  Your work (in most cases) doesn’t offer mass appeal that guests are willing to overpay to get. 

What sorts of things are in “high demand” in a benefit auction?  What types of things offer mass appeal?

  • A 5-course meal for six prepared in your home … it could be used for an anniversary dinner, birthday celebration, or a promotion party.
  • A long weekend in a private home on the lake …it can be used for a family retreat, a romantic getaway, or a quiet sanctuary.
  • Two seats to the always sold-out pro-football game … it can be used as a thank-you gift to a star sales representative in my company, a birthday present for my husband, a surprise treat for my son-in-law
  • Unusual, “once in a lifetime” activities (such as serving as Grand Marshal in a parade or taking a helicopter ride over your house) … it can be used as a memorable anniversary gift, a story for my next blog, a check off the bucket list

These are the types of things that many people enjoy doing or would like to do.  Each item is attractive to multiple people for multiple reasons.

In contrast, your mixed media piece “Shark Study I” doesn’t offer that same broad appeal.

So what should the art collective do?  How can you raise the funds for that new A/C unit?

Go ahead, plan a benefit auction.  And do what others do — seek donations like those listed above for your live auction.  To raise big money, stick with “known quantities.”

And when it comes to including your art in the event, sell it in a different way.  For instance, set up a bucket raffle whereby guests can buy multiple tickets and drop their ticket/s into the bucket of the art piece they like most.  Should they be the lucky winner drawn from the bucket, they would be able to take home the art for the price of their raffle tickets.

Remember: Offering items with mass appeal will raise you more money for less work.  Unless your artwork has mass appeal – and most art doesn’t – it won’t generate the returns you were hoping to achieve.

To learn more about benefit auctions and charity auctioneer Sherry Truhlar, visit www.RedAppleAuctions.com. The site includes her forward-thinking blog, free teleclasses, and a complementary download of her annual Auction Item Guide™– that reveals the top 100 items sold in gala auctions last year.

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Teaching Life Skills and Art Curation: Eliot Lable

Eliot Lable, Artist

"People in Gear" - A Collaboration with Eliot LableEliot Lable, who explores the tough subjects of violence, evil and intolerance in his art, has for the past seven years run NURTUREart‘s Education Outreach program in Brooklyn high schools that teaches underserved students in the New York area how to curate art and also how to work cooperatively with others. NURTUREart’s education program gives students the opportunity to meet and learn from professional artists and curators who expose them to contemporary art and teach them skills that can lead to future careers.

The program runs throughout the school year and culminates in an exhibition at the NURTUREart Gallery. It teaches students art handling, installation, press and marketing and preparing for an opening reception. Students are given the opportunity to visit studios of area artists, go to art galleries and art institutions, and to learn to write about and critique art.

Lable started the program in 2005 with then art teacher Sarah Hervert, who is now a middle school assistant principal. Their goal was to involve the many artists who have studios in their area, and it has grown to include multiple schools. In 2010, NURTUREart added an education coordinator to help expand the program and to develop new partnerships. The organization is a non-profit that’s received support from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, NYCulture, WNYC, The Greenwall Foundation, The Leibovitz Foundation, and The New York State Council on the Arts.

According to Lable, “the best part of program is that it reinforces what students learn and teaches them how to work with each other through curating a show. It gives them a purpose and also improves their writing, editing and other skills”.

In talking about his own work as an artist and educator, Lable says, “As a complex person, there is an artist side of me and an art educator side. The art work that I create in my studio is typically connected to a subject that I find personally captivating. The challenge then is to convert this idea into a visual entity that truly represents the initial captivation. I feel that another part of me wants to share with students the immense joy of making art work.  Also a part of me believes that the process of making art can be a stepping stone for learning”.

Eliot Lable’s work, which explores the subjects of violence, evil, torture, death, intolerance, fear and aging, has been exhibited in many solo and group shows, including in Finland and Costa Rica.  He’s received numerous grants, including a Fulbright Fellowship to Finland; and two Council for Basic Education Grants, which were sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and Time Warner. His work is in the collections of the Museo de Arte Costarricense in Costa Rica, and in Helsinki, Finland, the City Art Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art, as well as in private and corporate collections.  A permanent sculpture, commissioned by Public Art for Public Schools (PAPS), can be seen at the entrance of the School of Cooperative Education in New York City.

Anyone interested in learning more about NURTUREart or Eliot Lable’s work is invited to contact him at info@eliotlable.com or 718.706.8622.

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Using Art to Help Kids at Risk: Jami Taback

Jami Taback, Artist and Founder/Director of Kids at Risk: Adventures in Printmaking

Flowers of Fire; World Trade Center; Storm Warning

 

With arts education facing funding cuts in many schools, what can artists do to make a difference in their communities?

It is difficult to get into a school program without a not-for-profit status because it validates the program. Funding has been cut drastically and the schools and shelters have not been able to write these programs into the grants they receive. Speaking with your local representatives helps to get them acquainted with you and the program and sometimes a discretionary fund is set up. I tell everyone I know what I do and ask them if they know teachers or school officials for an introduction. I always feel that once they meet me and hear about the Kids at Risk: Adventures in Printmaking program, they are at ease and willing to help.

How has teaching informed your own work as an artist?

This is a powerful question in that first I introduce the children to a process with my own idea in mind, however, in turn; they create artwork from their own interpretation which is often exciting and inspirational for me. This is the beauty of the work I do. I am constantly affected by their work, the way they absorb the mission of the program and interpret it in their own art making. It reminds me every day to preserve the creative force of my inner child in order to keep my work fresh and interesting.

Are there organizations you recommend getting involved with to make connections in this area?

Many of my connections have come from people I know. When I am involved in a program, I call the local paper and ask for a writer to come with a camera to document the experience.

This includes donations of art materials from stores.

I also have a separate website for the program I offer that is exclusively for donations. In return for the donation, artwork is available for different levels of donations. This approach requires an email list, sent out to inform everyone you know about this worthwhile cause. There is a video where I talk about the program.

What techniques are you exploring in your own work, and has digital played a part in your art?

I am currently attending an Artist in Residence Program at The Lower East Side Print Shop in NYC. In this atmosphere I am able to explore different techniques in the hopes that a new process will emerge from me, a new way to express myself while staying within the scope of printmaking which is my favorite medium these days. From the prints dealing with a specific subject matter, I can move to painting, drawing and digital explorations. Digital processes have played a part in printmaking. I do incorporate this imagery very carefully and sparingly in aspects of my work.

I once listened to a terrific talk by the artist Claes Oldenburg. He said that an artist need not search for new ideas and that one good idea can last a lifetime. I often think of this when wondering about where my next idea will be. I was showing someone the kids’ prints dealing with Crystals and Gems. After looking at them I decided to explore this subject further in my own work. This is what I am working on at the residence.

 The woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those who sang the best. —John James Audubon

Jami Taback is an artist who produces artwork through a unique process of creative collaboration with children. She visits alternative, public and private schools, shelters and foster homes using art to establish meaningful connections with children. The activity of making art serves to gain their interest, involvement and trust. She says, “I use my creative talent and sensitivity as a printmaker and painter to forge these connections. To date, I have taught and interacted with over 500 children in the last few years. This program is based on an intensive mentoring relationship with youth, particularly those with behavioral problems and special education needs. Through learning about the art of Printmaking and its history rooted in ancient civilization as a tool for communication, students immerse themselves for several weeks in the arts and education. A printmaking studio with a portable table press is set up at the school for the duration of the project where the youth visit for several hours each week to learn about and produce their own work which is then incorporated into a museum quality mural, a public installation at their school. Sometimes, it’s just to engage the kids in something creative, to think about things differently, to meet an artist, but sometimes it sparks an interest, and they find out that they are artists too.”

Donations to Kids at Risk: Adventures in Printmaking, are used to help to fund art supplies such as ink, paper and various printmaking tools for kids.

 

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