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Watch these five documentaries about artists who matter

Vik Munez and the trash pickers turned artists star in Waste Land. (Photo: Waste Land)

 

Artists need to share their stories.

Artists also need to know other artists journeys. And while the number of gallery openings and art fairs and festivals have dwindled during the COVID-19 pandemic, it makes sense to tune into artists’ lives through films and documentaries.  It especially makes sense to tune in during the hottest days of summer, when cranking up the air conditioning and the inspiration simultaneously seem like a hot idea.

Here’s our first recommendations:

Red – This PBS theater documentary shows the complicated relationship between artist and artist assistant. The artist Mark Rothko likes to give long monologues and never asks about his Black assistant’s work.

LA Originals –   Watch the rise of photographer Estevan Oriol and Mister Cartoon, a tattoo artist, as they rise to become among the biggest visual artists in hip hop. Read about this documentary in The Guardian feature; then tune in on this 90-minute Netflix documentary.

Swoon: Fearless  –  This documentary on Vimeo weaves together 20 years of footage about street artist Caledonia Curry, aka Swoon.  Her work started as a student in New York City and is “known for marrying the whimsical to the grounded” or realistic. 

Waste Land.   Artist Vik Muniz works with Brazilian garbage pickers to create art from items found in the world’s largest landfill.  The documentary won more than 50 film awards by showing the

Nina Simon’s fiery life shows up in a highly regarded documentary on Netflix. (Photo: Netflix)

transformative power of art and collaboration. It is available on Amazon Prime for $3.99 for one time viewing.

What Happened, Miss Simone?  The life of singer – songwriter and activist Nina Simone  shows her “fiery and dynamic artistry.” This is one of the best documentaries on Netflix now, according to Esquire magazine.

We hope to feature more documentaries about artists and poets and musicians in a post in the fall, so please share your favorite in a comment.

Thanks to 1xRun and Mint cofounder and artist Hubert Massey for inspiring and contributing to this post.

 

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Why Will Langford believes in our new Youth Arts Competition

Will Langford visits a Sheefy McFlymural in Eastern Market. (Photo by © Will Langford, using a tripod)

When we leap into something new and big, it helps to bring along an optimist and a make-magic-happen person like Will Langford.

Known as Will The Poet, he has a history of helping Mint and our young artists. And he also served as the voice of Michigan State University’s “Empower Extraordinary” campaign. He will use his positive energies and extraordinary network in Detroit to lead Mint in a new initiative: the Metro Detroit Youth Arts Competition.  It launched this week and runs through Aug. 4.

He was the first and best choice when Mint executive director Vickie Elmer came up with the idea to create a competition to engage and encourage children to be creative in these challenging times. He immediately said yes.

“I’ve engaged in the Metro Detroit Youth Arts Competition because I believe that Detroit is wealthy beyond our wildest dreams—in that our youth bear such light, intellect, and sheer talent,” said Langford.  “And Detroit is home to that undeniably spirit of hustle and hope, because when I look around me, I see artists, educators, parents, business owners, and co-conspirators who are committed to the growth of the Motor City.”

Children and youth who are age 21 or younger, as of Aug. 4, and live in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties in Michigan are encouraged to create visual art or poetry based on the three prompts Will wrote.

Those prompts and a lot of other information about the Youth Arts Competition are available on our website.  Completed poetry and art also may be uploaded there.

Will Langford is a Detroit native, a poet, teaching artist, and Fulbright scholar. He is the 2017 Motown Mic Spoken Word Artist of the Year. He divides his energy between education and community development projects in his hometown, East Africa, and the East Lansing area, where he is a Ph.D. student at Michigan State in curriculum Instruction and teacher education.

Will “The Poet” Langford (Photo: © Rachel Laws Myers, used with permission

Will joined the Mint board of directors in January.  Yet he already is well known as an active Mint supporter, a volunteer and ambassador who buys Mint art.

His idea for blackout poetry was featured in the Mint blog series Creative Ideas for Challenging Times.  And since Mint regularly brings poetry into its Creative Summer Jobs program, it was easy and smart to add poems to our competition this summer.

Now Will is working to bring in businesses and nonprofits that believe in children and creativity and will donate prizes, awards cash or promotion to our competition. He and Mint have landed some beauties including Arts & Scraps, Avalon International Breads, Confident Brands, Jo’s Gallery, North End Customs, Sherwood Forest Art Gallery and others.  We welcome your organization to join us in this joyful initiative; email us at mintartistsguild@gmail.com if you’re interested.

And we hope that you or your children, grandchildren, nieces, cousins, siblings, best friends, roommates and others who are 21 or less will enter the Metro Detroit Youth Arts Competition.  Will cannot wait to see what you write, draw or create!

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Freedom! Live life frugally this summer

Visit garage sales to find economical art supplies. (Photo: Lesley Epling / Morguefile)

This summer,  more than most, artists need to economize. They may find themselves with no art fairs, with galleries closed or gone and regular buyers feeling frugal themselves.  Unemployment is high and uncertainty is too.

So it’s the perfect time to learn to live and create on the cheap. Follow the lead of model and television star Tyra Banks, who said: “I’m frugal. I’ve always been this way. When I was young, my mom would give me my allowance, and I’d peel off a little each week and have some to spare.”

Create a more independent approach to living by cutting your spending – and increasing your future possibilities. Here’s some ideas for emerging artists:

Develop a frugal outlook.  Some people grow up with this, following their mom or aunt to yard sales. Others must work to ingrain a make the most with the least mindset in their lives and creative practices.  Start with a living life large on the cheap mantra, or borrow mine: “I live an abundant life on a modest paycheck.”

Get creative. Reuse items in your art. Develop a mixed media series glued and painted on old cookie sheets. Or concoct a project using blueprints as the backdrop. Create a list of possible materials:  Old windows and doors work well as canvases to paint and some artists create on records or books. Sculptors may remake old metal shelves or rakes and shovels.

Find joy in the journey.  Your approach to frugality should make it fun or an adventure.  Create a “cheapskate challenge” with your siblings or friends. Plant peppers or potatoes or find one of the many free food handouts that are all around these days. Plan dinner with four friends at home instead of heading to a bar or restaurant. Log how many days you go without buying anything online, and celebrate when you hit 30.

Find it for free on Craigslist and Nextdoor.  Search in a few areas, starting in the “free” section. Then look for garage sales, gigs and other items for sale.  If you are really looking for something specific, consider placing an ad as a way to land what you need. Be clear that your budget is tiny.

Head to estate sales or flea markets to find unconventional art supplies. (Photo Alexander Shustov / Unsplash)

Shop garage and estate sales.   You will find plentiful options in the summer and fall. Head to estatesales.net or download a garage sale locator app to identify where you’re going.  Look for multi-family sales or church sales for a wider array of items. We recommend showing on on the final day, when prices are discounted by 50 to 75 percent.

Find flea markets and junk yards.  Grab your mask and gloves and go after some real bargains. But don’t buy it just because it’s affordable. Buy it because you need it for your art, your family or your future.

And follow our other tips on smart and affordable paint brushes and materials.

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Why we are orchestrating a virtual art fair

The popular Palmer Park Art Fair is not happening this year.

This year is different – so different.

Many many art fairs have been canceled or postponed since March, when states and countries began closing down to protect individuals from COVID-19. Mint Artists Guild artists are not able to sell at the Palmer Park Art Fair and others are in jeopardy this summer.

Our artists have missed out on at least four pop ups, including one in the historic Alger Theater on Detroit’s East Side.

And yet we knew that our artists had been making art during their shelter at home time.  They have worked hard – and some of them are working peacefully to confront racism and unfair treatment. Many face big bills ahead as they prepare to head to the University of Michigan, Georgia State University, College for Creative Studies and elsewhere in the fall.

So Mint Artists Guild is jumping into the unknown by creating its first ever Virtual Art Fair this Saturday, June 6.  Please register here, and invite your friends. Plan to buy something for your Dad, your grad or yourself.  Or plan a brunch and invite in three friends and munch and watch and buy.  The Virtual Art Fair will stream live on our Facebook page and also on our YouTube channel.

We knew little about virtual art events before we started, though our project director Kelly O’Neill had participated in one planned by The Guild.  She is on Mint’s board of directors and creates beautiful sculpture and other pieces from recycled metals.

We want our young artists to sell their work on Saturday – or through the next week.  Yet we know that times are tight and so we need to seek other benefits and possibilities from creating this new event. Here are three of them.

Connect. This new online format gives us wider reach well beyond the Michigan border. With a virtual fair, buyers may live in Dallas or the Mississippi Delta, Queens or Quebec.  Our Mint greeting cards could end up in a gallery in San Francisco or Sanabel Island and so could artists Michael Johnson or Omari June Norman. We think this is important for all artists to grow their audience and connect in new cities.

Learn.  We knew our artists could learn a lot by preparing for the Mint Virtual Art Fair. So we created a workshop that taught them to create an artist studio tour video and to share some of their tricks and techquines. Their videos are an integral part of the fair – and will be valuable to them for future events too.  We are helping them refine their pricing of their art. They are learning too how to focus on and manage multiple priorities:  school,  their creative work, family needs and for some, Black Lives Matter and other peaceful campaigns.

“I always want to stay focused on who I am, even as I’m discovering who I am,” singer Alicia Keys has said.  She’s not performing on Saturday but we have two other amazing musicians who will: Sky Covington and Mahogany Jones.

Pivot.   We want Mint to model adaptability and an entrepreneurial ability to seek out new and different opportunities.  We may not know as much about the digital world as Microsoft, Netflix or Quicken Loans, but we can develop an online sales platform and create new ways of connecting with people through art and storytelling.

This photograph by Mint Alumni Omari June is part of our fair. It is called Frozen in Time – and we are the opposite of that.

You will meet them all the artists on Saturday,  so today I will just tell you that they are wonderful and creative and work in a wide variety of mediums: duct tape, oil paint, photography, mixed media, sterling silver wire and acrylic paint.  Every day we are adding new pieces of their work to the Mint Shop.  Yes, everything already is for sale – and our seven artists and alumni receive almost all the proceeds. Mint takes a 20 percent commission, one of the lowest among nonprofits in Michigan, and charges no fees to join our programs.

“The pessimist seems difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty,” British Prime Minister Winston Churchill one said.  We are the optimists who know that this time, so difficult and horrifying and uncertain, will open doors and create new paths for Mint and for our artists.

Join us on Saturday as we open a beautiful new door.

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Backyard creativity: New outdoor activities for youth, for all

Create a backyard water park. (Photo: Ali Yahya / Unsplash)

 

Summertime art and creative play deserves to take place outside, or using materials picked up in a park or woods.

So we are offering four new ways to engage your creativity and make something joyful outdoors, in this new chapter of our Creativity for Challenging Times posts. 

Plein air painting.  You don’t have to have a huge wall for a mural. Start with a small canvas or board and set up your easel in your backyard to paint. Or sketch the scene, if painting seems too difficult. After you practice a few times, you may be ready to head to a city park to paint or sketch. Here are seven pointers for beginners from Draw Paint Academy.

Rock their world.   Paint some rocks with bugs or flowers, birds or pigs  or other natural elements. Or perhaps you want to paint faces on them.

Create a painted rock – then leave it somewhere as a gift for someone to find. (MorgueFile photo)

Some people put simple messages – Kindness rocks or Unity or Love – on their rocks.  Remember to choose smooth flatter rocks and clean them thoroughly before painting. If you want to join the rock sharing movement, this blog post offers helpful ideas and some beautiful examples.

Family water park.  Get creative on how this looks in your yard, from an old fashioned sprinkler to a water balloon piñata and more ideas from Kiplinger.   A kiddie pool could be more fun if it’s filled with bubble bath or if everyone has to share a five-sentence fairy tale about the magic pond before they can step in it.

Artsy walking stick.  Find a sturdy stick or branch that has dried out a bit. Bring it home and paint and decorate it with ribbons, leather ties, feathers or other items. You will end up with a beautiful one-of-a-kind walking stick or magic stick.

For more nature art ideas, we look to the blog To and Fro Families for 33 nature craft ideas or check out the 23 ideas for younger children from Hands On As We Grow. Or try painting using a twig or flower, using our previous blog post Creativity during Challenging Times.

 

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Power and beauty and impact of a summer job

Mint summer workers review and critique each other’s work. (Photo © Brendan Ross)

Picture a summer job and you may imagine something quaint and outdoorsy:  a life guard, camp counselor, caddy or park attendant. Or perhaps you recall your first summer job scooping Italian ice, mowing lawns or fixing fast food.  

Yet for many teens, paid work is more likely to be imaginary than real, despite many benefits these jobs bring.  Only about a third of teens worked for pay in 2018, and that has trended down for two decades, according to the Pew Research Center.   The employment rate is likely to tumble further this year, as record unemployment and businesses closed during the pandemic will mean less hiring for young people.  “Paid jobs are scarcer than a Stanford admission,” The Washington Post reported recently.

Mint Artists Guild is an exception, hiring 30 percent more young artists from Detroit and creating more opportunities for work in Detroit. We do this because the need is great and so is the payoff for those hired and their communities. Summer jobs create many positive outcomes, some immediate and some years after the last campfire or painting is finished.  Here’s a look at benefits documented by many academic and other researchers: 

Opportunities grow.  Summer jobs may increase college aspiration and community engagement and they definitely reduce inequality, researchers found.

Safer cities.  Several studies showed reductions in violent crime by up to 43 percent among youth participating in summer jobs, and jobs also lower rates of incarceration in another study. The reduction in youth crime lasted for 15 months after the summer job ended.

Wellbeing improves.  Youth or adults who are employed experience boosts in wellbeing, self-esteem and life satisfaction, just by working eight hours a week. Researchers also note they are more likely to get through trying circumstances than others.

A summer job creates many benefits to the worker and to society. (Photo Bruce Mars / Unsplash)

Future earnings.  Working during college, whether part-time or full-time, leads to to higher earnings after graduation. This research by Rutgers University and others is based on 160,000 students;  jobs add to students’ networks, skills and post-college paychecks. The amount varied from $1,035 to $20,625. But the post-college premium showed up for a wide variety of students, regardless of their race, type of university or previous work experience.

Academic achievement rises.  In the year after summer jobs in Boston, researchers calculated a “small but significant” improvement in GPAs. Young workers were also more likely to graduate from high school on time. Academic improvements were “particularly large” when youth in New York were hired for several summers in a row. “Participating in summer jobs programming for multiple years pays dividends for high school students well beyond the paycheck itself,” New York University researchers wrote.

Mint’s summer creative jobs program teaches productivity and professionalism as well as painting and artistic skills.  We will create original paintings for our fifth annual Paint Detroit with Generosity initiative. This year, the jobs will take place from youth homes, as required by our partner Grow Detroit’s Young Talent, and will feature new online workshops on managing clients, writing an artist statement and digital work etiquette.

If you want to support our Lucky 13 artists, we invite you to donate to our spring fundraiser – or become a monthly donor now.

Donate now

© Vickie Elmer, 2020, for Mint Artists Guild

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Mint’s spring wish list – art supplies and so much more

Make a wish – or make our wish list disappear. (Photo: Aaron Burden / Unsplash)

     We wish for a meaningful and beautiful summer. And with this summer wish list, you could help us achieve it for Mint Artists Guild and our Lucky 13 artists.

      The Lucky 13 will work for us creating paintings for our Paint Detroit with Generosity initiative as well as prints and our first coloring book.  They will mainly work virtually, from their homes this year, because of precautions for covid-19.

     Here are the art supplies we seek for the Mint Creative Summer Jobs program:

  • sketchbooks or journal
  • Stretched canvas – especially 8 x 10 inches or 18 x 24 inches, though any size welcome
  • medium or heavy body acrylic paints, small to medium tubes
  • assorted acrylic paint brushes 
  • brush cleaner
  • varnish for paintings, such as Grumbacher
  • pronto plates for lithography,  8.5 X 11 inches
  • oil based ink
  • brayers – need seven of them
  • Rives printing paper
  • gum arabic
  • easels and table easels, new or used
  • small frames 8 x 10 or 11 x 12 for our Mint prints

These art supplies may be new or gently used.  And here are the other supplies we need this summer and fall:

  • paper towels, 15 rolls
  • hand soap, bars or liquid
  • disinfecting wipes
  • granola bars, dried fruit, trail mix (smaller bags) and other nonperishable snacks that youth ages 14 to 21 will enjoy
  • gift card to Meijer, Costco or supermarkets = artist snacks and treats
  • gift card to local cafes and restaurant, as rewards for our best artists and artist supporters

To arrange a delivery of art supplies, please drop us a line and propose three days and times that work for you.  We ask that you drop them off at the Mint Studios in Palmer Park, right next to the Splash Park.

If you wish to donate money instead of supplies, our spring fundraiser on ioby continues through June 11. Or give a monthly gift on our yearround donor site.

Thanks for your support in making this a beautiful summer!

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Create hundreds of pieces and share your humanity, 1xRun cofounder advises emerging artists

1xRun co-founder Jesse Cory stands with his wife Roula David. (1XRun / StockX photo)

Create. Contemplate. Create some more.  Then market your work.

These are the steps 1XRun co-founder Jesse Cory recommends to emerging artists, to any artists who want to advance their work and themselves.  Artists must understand and articulate their message, their why, he said.  They learn that from contemplation – and by creating a lot of work.  Cory was the guest expert at a Mint Artists Guild workshop on pricing work confidently.

“Be bold. Tell people why you make art,” Cory said, giving his best advice to emerging artists. 

He and the 1xRun team select new artists based on three main factors:

  • Build your talents. They want to be able to see the time dedicated to improving an artist’s craft.
  • Develop a defined aesthetic , or a cohesive color palate.
  • Know your mission. Artists must be clear about why they make the art they create.

“You have to make hundreds and hundreds of pieces of art work,” he said. His art print company 1xRun needs 30 to 40 pieces from one artist to create an edition or series.

Among the dozens of artists whose prints sell through 1xRun are Jon Burgerman,  Carly Chaikin,  Copyright, Bob Dob,  Naturel and Tatiana Suarez.  Denial, the Canadian artists also known as Daniel Bombardier, recently had a month-long takeover of 1xRun   Its artists are local and international, creating fine art, illustration, street art and many other genres.

1xRun’s Bicycle Day Collection 2020 features work from Obey Giant, Camille Rose Garcia and more. (Photo: 1xRun)

1xRun was established in 2010 by Cory, whose background is in marketing, video production and documentaries, and Dan Armand, who previously worked as a web designer and artist. The two developed two art galleries, both now closed, and much more. In its first five years of business, 1xRun sold more than $5 million in art prints, original art and services. Sales are rising, even during the pandemic, Cory said. 

During the Mint workshop, he gave a simple formula for pricing limited edition prints:  Set the price for your original piece, then divide it by the number of prints you plan to make. That’s the price of the prints. So a $300 painting with 15 prints means each print is worth around $20. 

1xRun’s model calls for a 50-50 split with artists on print sales, after the company recoups its production costs. Cory suggested artists  “don’t hold on too tight” to their work.  

“You have to humanize yourself to the collector,” he said, by sharing photos of yourself as well as your work on Instagram.  His collection was built with wife Roula David, who worked in restaurants and now leads their Murals in the Market festival. They buy work mainly from artists they work with on the festival or in 1XRun, because Cory said, they have meaning or “memorialize” a relationship or moment in time.    

© Vickie Elmer, 2020 for Mint Artists Guild

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Doodle and watch documentaries

Schedule time to sketch and doodle. (Photo: Unsplash)

It’s time to explore the world, to meet artists and to share our rainbows of  everyday or surprising objects .

This week’s Creativity for Challenging Times episode features three ways to add a little joy and newness into your life.  For more ideas, we recommend going back to the first one or second one to score some other ideas.

Here’s our new projects in episode nine:

Doodle.   Set your timer for 30 or 35 minutes and just daydream with your pencil.  Draw anything and everything that comes to mind. At the end of that time, head to Doodlers Anonymous or a similar drawing site to join communities and drawing challenges.   Challenge yourself to doodle for an hour a day – or 30 minutes if your schedule is slammed – every day for a week.

Dip into documentaries. Be like artist Hubert Massey and alternate between science and art subjects. Or watch these eight documentaries about Detroit.  Or tune into documentaries about artists and photographers, selected by Widewalls, an online art magazine..

Rainbow scavenger hunt. This idea from Living Arts teacher Stephanie Mae works as a competition between siblings or a challenge among art friends. Gather many items – in the rainbow of colors. Then group them and pose them and photograph them.  Post your work and be sure to tag Mint and Living Arts.

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Why we are doubling up on creative youth this year

 

This year as unemployment soars, Mint Artists Guild is doubling down on summer jobs and hiring more creative youth. You may help create more meaningful opportunities with a double the donation spring fundraiser

Instead of hiring ten aspiring artists, Mint will recruit, support and develop 13 youth this summer. That’s up 30 percent from last year. 

We call them the Lucky 13 summer artists, and they all live in Detroit and are hired in partnership with Grow Detroit’s Young Talent, the city youth employment program.

Mint is doing this as the economy worsens and many programs scale back or halt for the summer. Young workers will be particularly hard hit by the economic fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic, the International Labour Organization reports. Yet research shows teens gain so much from summer jobs: future career gains and higher earnings,  greater self esteem  and academic advances. 

It’s better to be versatile and the Mint program helps you with that,” said Mint Artists’ Michael Johnson.

He worked for Mint last summer where he developed skills in acrylic painting and mosaic making.  (Read our survey results that document

Mint summer worker Michael Johnson live painted for our summer open house in 2019. (Photo Vickie Elmer)

major skills our 2019 team gained.) Michael especially liked the collaborative paintings created in small groups and he expects to return to the Lucky 13 this year.  

Watch our Facebook and Instagram to hear directly from our young artists as our fundraiser unfolds. They videotaped themselves sharing what they learned, why Mint matters and why you should donate to our fundraiser.

Our spring fundraiser has a beautiful bonus: Every $1 an individual or business gives is matched with a dollar from ioby, a nonprofit fundraising portal, and its backers. So please give today before the double the donation money runs out.

Your doubled up gift creates waves of goodness and generosity.  Through your donation, we will hire two teaching artists, create another piece of public art for Palmer Park and a coloring book.  If circumstances allow, Mint will run free weekly arts and crafts in Palmer Park. And all that comes on top of our fifth annual Paint Detroit with Generosity initiative, which this year focuses on nonprofits serving children and youth.

So please give a little or give a lot as we create beautiful opportunities in Detroit. Here’s the direct link: https://ioby.org/project/lets-grow-meaningful-youth-jobs-creativity-and-beauty-detroit