Communities coming together over art and kindness
Everyone is worthy of receiving generosity and kindness -- AND everyone is worthy of the sweet high of giving something away. The call for this work came from connecting with many homeless and disenfranchised people (sometimes courageous enough to ask directly for help), but also other people, in grocery store lines, coffee lines, everywhere that would maybe benefit from a smile and an act of Kindness.
In addition, as an artist and musician myself, I observe many artists and musicians needing an authentic way to express their generosity and make an impact in their communities with their craft.
This project brings people together in the direction of kindness. It feels good to give. It feels good to soften your edges and judgments about other people and their stories.
Why grocery store food cards? So we can offer nourishment AND freedom of choice.
Social services can be life savers. I was one of those kids who was saved with a warm meal and toy for the holidays, and it made the difference. And -- there is a margin of opportunity to build bridges over the gaps and make connections that nourish the spirit in addition to the body. We can do it together in kindness in community.
Through having three stages of this project, we involve a lot of people in the process. Artists, musicians, venues, the community, all working together to complete each stage -- ultimately with ease -- because everyone is asked to do what they love and everyone involved carries a bit of the burden.
Here's what the process looks like:
Stage one: This has a couple pathways. An artist or artists can be commissioned to make a piece art centered on a theme that is then replicated into prints and sold at an Art For Food event -- or an artist or group of artists bring completed works to be sold at an Art For Food event. Most successful events have been with affordable art. Prints, stickers, replications go like hot cakes! Artists determine what percentage of their profit from the art sold is then converted into grocery store and coffeehouse gift cards - A common split is 60/40.
Stage two: The art is displayed in a venue for an Art For Food event -- musicians are invited to play and the art is sold at approachable prices.
Stage Three: Cards are made, a meeting place for the team of volunteers is set, and once the cards handed off, we go out into the community, giving as we're called to those asking for help or whom we see could use some upliftment. No requirements, no guidelines for giving the cards. Everyone lights up with Kindness.
This project is not intended to replace social services -- rather it's a direct call to stay present to the practice of kindness, a way to come together as a community, support artists, musicians, venues and make more connections with people in our community. This vision is highly reliant on sustainability for all involved, therefore musicians who play the night of the event gather tips and promote their merchandise and if there is an arrangement with the venue based on a percentage of the bar, they also receive that. Artists gather a percentage of the sales for their craft, the hosting venue gains foot-traffic and revenue, and community members bring home a beautiful piece of art for an affordable price. Recipients of the cards are given a gift, and givers of the cards have an opportunity to engage in kindness as they give their cards away.
All who participate, benefit.
The first Art for Food event was held on 2/22/13 at The Zero Station, a gallery in Portland, ME as part of a series called Zero Series that my friend and community visionary, Will Ethridge of Eternal Otter Records put together. Will invited me to create an evening that included an art installation and music -- and immediately, I had a vision of creating an experience that made art out of participation. The evening was called, The Brightest Night. We wanted to acknowledge that there is light, even in our daily visitations to the darkness. Also, together, we could generate a burst of brightness by simply being together. The vision quickly grew -- My band, The Reverie Machine, would play a set of music. I would lead a ceremony that incorporated a Mi'kmaq way of praying -- writing on birch bark and burning it, sending black smoke to Creator. Birch Bark prints that were to be made from a collaboration with myself and Milo Moyer-Battick and be installed into the gallery for one night, and sold right off the wall. We would then dance the remainder of the night to Eternal Otter Records own Will Ethridge DJ stylings.
It went exactly as planned, and was an even more beautiful evening than could have been imagined. We generated a very full room and nearly all of the prints sold off the walls, creating about $240. The whole profit was converted into grocery store cards, and given away.
I am working towards incorporating Art for Food as a non-profit to continue to build this as an extension of service as an artist and community minister.
If you are interested in collaborating with me for this event, drop a line! I am also looking for assistance in building a non-profit -- and welcome collaborators.
More information to soon be shared!!!
Welalin -- a Mi'kmaqi thank you!