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Three beautiful questions creatives may ask and answer now

Ask yourself some very good questions to identify your purpose, your direction. (Photo by Emily Morter / Unsplash)

The world is filled with uncertainty and questions. Lots of questions and more questions.

Many of them are irrelevant or lead to nothing but fear and dead ends. Some, though, may help you see the path ahead, your future career or your most valuable contribution.

Questions power the growth of Google and the brilliance of Albert Einstein and the success of many individuals, wrote Thomas Oppong in Medium. He writes about productivity, self-improvement and achieving success.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said: “At a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift should be curiosity.”  If you want some questions to ask your kid sister or a nephew, check out these 20 creative inquiries for children from Minds in Bloom.

So as we face a time of challenge and change, it is time to rev up our curiosity. Let’s start asking ourselves good questions that could lead to something beautiful. Here are three to start:

“What will your essential service be?” This question posed by media queen Oprah Winfrey during virtual college graduations asks you to consider your role in the world, how you will affect humanity.

Why are you here today?  This question could make you probe deep into your purpose in life. Or it could simply help you focus on a short-term goal or project that merits your energy and attention right now.  The here could refer to your neighborhood, your city, the world – or even your dining room table.

What will you create that shines hope or heroism, demands justice or gives aid to the powerless?  This question focuses on your creativity and how you will use it for the greater good. How will you make something that will contribute to the raising of consciousness or the reduction of racism? What wrong will you challenge or what hero will you highlight?

Use these questions as a starting point for conversations with roommates or with family. Or write about them in your journal. Doodle ideas during inktober and draw maps that lead you to a better, brighter more beautiful future.

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Sydney G. James’ big, excellent advice for emerging artists

Sydney G. James near one of her many murals. (Photo: © Bre’Ann White)

Her Malice Green mural in Highland Park, completed in just a few days after months of sitting on the couch during the covid-19 pandemic, was until recently, her latest completed work. It also was her first male figure in “forever.”

Sydney G. James had missed working on the big murals, and she sees big public art pieces as her perfect canvas. Almost all of them depict women of color, often women she knows.

Now  James is finishing something even bigger – a mural in the North End of Detroit loosely based on the Vermeer painting Girl with a Pearl Earring.  James’ Girl with the D earring is approximately 9 stories tall, painted on the Chroma building developed by The Platform.

She is documenting her team’s mural creation on Instagram, but is clear the work comes first. She expects to finish it in about six days, lightning speed especially during a pandemic.

“Produce, produce and then promote.” Put in the work and develop a work ethic, she advised the 13 Mint Artists this summer.

“If you take a job for 50 cents or $5 million, the work should be identical. That’s your currency. That’s still an advertisement for you.”

Sydney James painting a mural on Schaefer Highway in 2017. (Photo: Quicken Loans)

“Each new piece better be better than the last,” James said. That should be your intention. “Don’t make ugly shit.”

Then turn to your artist’s social media and promotion. Use great hashtags and follow exceptional artists. “Follow dope artists from around the world,” she recommended. James was one of five guest artists to talk to the Mint Creative Summer Jobs program.

James shared some of her career journey since graduating from College for Creative Studies in 2001.  She worked in advertising, as a ghost artist on a television show in Los Angeles and taught art in school. Now she’s all in on murals and has painted them in Atlanta, Hawaii, New Orleans, Ghana and many in Detroit, including a number of years with Murals in the Market.

She  believes artists must be willing to say no to clients who will be a pain in the neck or want you to change colors three times. “You got to figure out how you want to plant and where you want to plant your seeds,” she said.

(Photo by Bre’Ann White used with permission.)

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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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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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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

 

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Smart affordable ways to have a well-stocked artist space

Take care of your tools if you want them to last. (Photo: Thom Masat / Unsplash)

Artists, this is the season to make more art.  Using this gift of time to create makes sense, and we are here to share ideas on creative projects – as well as how to stock up on art supplies, creatively and cheaply.

Let’s get started.

Know what you need. Create a list of all the supplies that you likely need for the next six to 12 months.  Add extra items to cover the bursts of creativity  and productivity from staying at home during coronavirus.  Then separate the list into must haves and wish you could buy.  Unless you have a rich uncle or patron, now is the time to focus on the must haves.

Buy together.  Identify a purchasing partner – an artist who works in your medium who you like and respect. Or join an artists group. If you join forces with three painters, buying canvases in bulk makes sense.  This works equally well for jewelry artists, photographers and others to share raw materials or finishing supplies.

Go to bargain hunter buying places. Go to garage sales or head to Arts & Scraps, once it reopens, on Detroit’s East Side. Or if you’re close to Ann Arbor, go to SCRAP Creative Reuse. Estate sales work, and sites such as Estatesales.net allows you to search to see if they offer the supplies you need most.  CraigsList Free and junk yards may yield great items for sculpture, frames and more.  Just practice safety online and when you meet in person to collect supplies. Also: Look for artist-to-artist sales. These take place sporadically for artists to sell off extra or unused supplies and creative work.

Care for your tools. Buy a better quality and then take a little time to maintain. “Well kept art supplies can last for years,” according to a post republished in FineArtTips. So carefully wash your paint brushes and pat them dry after each use. Do the same with other creative equipment. 

Track your spending.   This can be as simple as a shoe box for all receipts or more high tech: a digital  log of every nickel spent on supplies, frames, packing materials and more. These are business expenses and they may be tax deductible. Read more about artists’ tax deductions in this post.

Set aside funds.  Each time you sell a piece of your creative work, place 20 percent of the proceeds – more if your material costs are high – in a special bank or credit union account to pay for supplies and equipment.  This practice will provide funds to replace canvases or silver wire or whatever runs low.

If you still cannot buy all your supplies, you may need to borrow money – from a family member or close friend – to stock your creativity. Just be clear about when and how you will repay this.

Perhaps your favorite aunt or pal will be glad to receive a painting or pendant instead of cash for a loan.

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Fly into creative activities during coronavirus shutdowns

 

If you are stranded without a school or university schedule, or staying home as a precaution against COVID-19, you may have been handed a gift of time. 

It may not feel that way now, with galleries and museums closed and friends far flung and everyone feeling off balance or afraid.  Yes, we need to practice social distancing, wash hands regularly and thoroughly and take other precautions outlined by the CDC and World Health Organization.

You and almost everyone else are missing out on a lot – art shows and plays, senior trips and so much more. And yet, this time could be when you create your first masterpiece that will hang in MOMA or appear on Netflix in a few years.

“You can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will,” best-selling author Stephen King said. “The scariest moment is always just before you start.”

So let’s get past that- and start working on superb goals for the next two to three weeks. Here’s some creative ideas:

Paint and create. Create a friendly competition with another young artist to see who completes more work in the next two weeks. Work on several pieces at once, like artist Shirley Woodson.  Create work inspired by the world today, or imagine and create a better one.  “Write about some of your ideas for a better home, school, neighborhood or church. What’s missing? What could you add to or take away from the world you live in now? Draw or paint or create a collage or clay sculpture to represent your ideas,” suggested artist and educator Adwoa Muwzea in answer to my request for ideas on Facebook. 

Learn to cook. Your family may feel stressed because there’s no real routine. Or your grandma or mom may be worried about money, about work or other things. So offer to make dinner for 10 days and then come up with creative recipes – from your family history or culture or from a great collection of recipes online. Cookbooks work too, especially ones aimed at newcomers like these six, including The Starving Artist Cookbook . It was written by artist, illustrator and graphic designer Sara Zin.

Make money.  Yes, start a small business and stash some cash.  My friend Wendy Shepherd, who has worked myriad creative jobs including delivering tap dancing messages, suggested making, bottling and selling handmade hand sanitizer, because it is in short supply.  Or offer your services as a babysitter, dog walker, photographer, personal chef or organizer to neighbors and friends. Be thoughtful and cautious about this. Do something small and safe, and if you have questions about it, speak to parents or trusted advisors.

Create with your pet. Dedicate some of the extra time at home to your pet, my pal Pam Murray suggests.  “Write stories from the pets’ point of view. Illustrate or film the story from the pets’ point of view, which could be pretty amusing if you have a Corgi- nothing over knee level,” she wrote on Facebook.

Write a play – in a day.  Sometimes a short project gets creatives revved up and ready for more. This brilliant idea for a play writing competition for college students was shared by my friend, theater and events consultant Nick Rowley. And it will leave you with time for other creative work:

Catch up. Your room’s a mess and you are behind on AP Calculus. So set aside two to three days for each and work diligently, using the pomodoro method to catch up. (Set a timer for 25 to 35 minutes and ignore everything else while you work diligently on a task. Then take a short break and start again.) Some people may need to catch up on their sleep, too.  Go for that after you have finished cleaning your room.

For artists and writers who appreciate specific ideas or prompts, we recommend creating art or writing a story or poem around the theme Abuela, Grandma, Bibi or on Resilience.  (Mint is working with Hannan Center on an art and storytelling show focused on Abuela and resilience seems like it will be a worthwhile topic for this year.) 

If you need help being productive while working at home, Fast Company magazine has excellent advice. If you need help achieving your goals, read our seven tips and find an accountability partner – another artist or your sister.

The key is getting started – today – on a creative or entrepreneurial project.  If you want to share your work in progress, please post it by Wednesday at 5 pm EST on Instagram and tag us @mintartistsguild .

Come back on Wednesday morning for more ideas on making the most of the time at home, with some incredibly creative projects for young creatives.

Photo: Vojtěch Petr on Unsplash

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We are creating a beautiful partnership with Arts & Scraps

Arts & Scraps previous pop up took place at Stef-N’Ty in Detroit’s North End. The next one comes to the Bagley community. (Photo: Arts & Scraps)

Creative partnerships bring such beauty into the world. And the partnership between Mint Artists Guild and Arts & Scraps certainly will offer that – and a lot of creative activities and a few jobs for youth, when it lands in the Bagley Community  at the end of March.

Mint is hiring emerging artists as the staff for Arts & Scraps’ Neighborhood Network pop up in Neighborhood HomeBase community center run by the Live6 Alliance. A grand opening is scheduled for March 28 at HomeBase, 7426 W. McNichols, four blocks west of Livernois.

Arts & Scraps Neighborhood Network pop ups are funded by a $75,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan. It includes a pop up near Clark Park in Southwest Detroit this spring. Previous pop ups were held in the Grandmont Rosedale and North End neighborhoods of Detroit.

The main goal is to offer Arts & Scraps to all, Arts & Scraps executive director Ang Adiamack said. She works from Arts & Scraps main office and store at 16135 Harper Ave.

“Being so far east is great in many ways, but it does mean we are hard to reach for west siders. This opportunity opens up the possibility of resourcing artists, entrepreneurs, makers and more across all of Detroit, which we are really excited about. In addition, being able to have youth staffing the pop-up in Bagley is incredibly exciting. We love the work Mint does empowering students to grow their own artistic career,” Ang said.

Mint Artists Guild provides entrepreneurial training and workforce development opportunities to creative youth. It has partnered with Arts & Scraps for two years with Mint’s Paint Detroit with Generosity initiative. Mint also buys arts and crafts supplies from its East Side store.

“We adore creative collaboration and any time we create opportunities for youth, the community and a partner, that achieves our win-win-win goals and makes us very happy,” said Vickie Elmer, Mint’s executive director and co-founder.

This Paint Detroit with Generosity painting by Jessica Fligger hangs in Arts & Scraps East Side headquarters, donated by Mint Artists Guild.

The pop up jobs mix retail sales and customer service, art making and leading arts and crafts activities for all on Saturdays. Youth must demonstrate that they are responsible, resourceful and enjoy making craft projects. They must be available to work most Saturdays from mid-March through early June.

Young creatives ages 15 to 21 may apply by sending Mint a resume and information about themselves.  Please apply to mintartistsguild@gmail.com by March 5.  Interviews will be scheduled in early March.

The Neighborhood Network pop up at HomeBase will feature Arts & Scraps recycled creative supplies, plus Mint greeting cards and a few Mint prints.  Mint intends to hold regular free arts and crafts activities on
many Saturdays. 

UPDATE: The pop up will postpone opening until it is safe to do so. Watch for details on Arts & Scraps and Mint’s social media when state and federal authorities give us the all clear. 

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Five ways to make more time for your creative work

 

Some weeks fly by and at the end of them, we wonder why we never took time to sketch, to paint, to write or edit a poem.   Tests and college admissions essays, volunteer work and family commitments distract us from our creative work.  

Bosses ask us to work an extra day on the weekend, the day we intended to dig in and start creating. Yet we want to be artists and we long to create art.

So Mint Artists Guild wants to help you start to achieve your goals – they are written goals, right? – by sharing some time management techniques. Here’s five:

Create time blocks for creative projects.   Set up your creative routine around a regular time to work. This could be an hour a day, first thing in the morning, or four hours each Saturday.  It could be Friday evenings, as long as you are comfortable missing out on dates, art openings and more. Choose a time when your creative energies are strong, though there is scientific research that shows you can be very creative during non-peak times and when you’re tired. Create a must-create habit on specific days and times. “Attend to it everyday—the results are worth the effort,” wrote Sarah Rauch in a Tiny Buddha post.

Make work-in-progress visible.  Leave the paints and brushes in plain view or the uncut leather and tools to work it sitting on a side table. Having them right there will make it easy to resume creating. “When you walk into your space, they should be staring you down,” wrote Jeffrey Silverstein in The Creative Independent’s tips-packed piece  on balancing full-time jobs with creative work. Silverstein is a teacher, musician and writer.

Create a good neurochemical balance. This means creating when your serotonin and dopamine are high.  Reduce your stress levels with a quick meditation and eat some protein and healthy foods just before you start working – and your creativity may soar.

Develop real deadlines.   Deadlines can help focus your mind and your attention. And deadlines that matter work even better.  So when your work is due to be hung in a gallery show on Friday, you must have it finished and delivered before then. If you promised a collector they could pick up a piece on Sunday, you want it finished and ready to be wrapped up a day or two before then. For Mint Artists,  deadlines exist for the Youth Art Fair in Northville, our Abuela, Grandma, Bibi intergenerational show with Hannan Center and the Palmer Park Art Fair in Detroit.

Use your time well.   We all get the same 24 hours a day, so how much time do you spend on social media or watching Stranger Things or other Netflix shows? Oil painter Chelsea Lang writes of training herself to be a morning person so her art comes first (before her day job). She also  evaluated which activities distract from art-making without giving her leisure time joy.  Yes, this means cutting out marginal activities to make time and energy for your creative work.

If you need more inspiration to start creating regularly, read the Mint blog post about artist Judy Bowman setting one big goal and using that to guide her choices, and also Shirley Woodson’s approach of creating many paintings at once.

Start small, perhaps by setting aside three hours a week to make art and see how that blooms into a bigger commitment to your creative future.

 

Photo:Deva Darshan on Unsplash

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Meet Mint Artists jeweler and board member Trinity

Trinity Brown at a Mint pop up in Eastern Market, December 2019. (Photo: Vickie Elmer)

Trinity Brown learned wire wrapping herself while on a break from dancing, following tips on a YouTube video.  She had had surgery on her back for scoliosis. She started doing shows at 13 and soon joined Mint, the youngest artist to start in our Learn and Earn program.  

She is a senior at University High School Academy in Southfield, where she’s on the varsity tennis team, captain of the UHSA Dance Co. and the Student Congress.  She worked as a Wolverine Pathways intern for Mint over the summer. And she also has served on Mint Artists Guild’s board of directors for two years.

She sets a goal for how much she intends to sell at each show.  And in 2019, she applied for and participated in the Ann Arbor Art Fair. 

“Mint has taught me everything I need to turn my art into a career…. Mint means everything to me and my art,” said Trinity.

She established the Curved Emerging Artists Show in 2018, with support and coaching by Mint and two of its cofounders. It has grown to almost 50 artists in 2019. 

She is known for wire wrapping during board meetings, Mint events and anywhere. And she’s the artist who wants to create and sell more jewelry – and help other artists sell more of their work too.

Trinity Brown, standing outside the Mint Studios in Palmer Park. (Photo ©Keith Emmerich for Mint)

Fun fact:  She hardly ever wears her own jewelry, because when she does, people buy it from her fingers or neck.  That’s especially true for her best selling copper pendants.

Future plans: Attend a leading business school focused on entrepreneurship and art.  

See her work:  On Instagram at @TrinsWireCreation or many Mint events.  

Hear more from Trinity in this 2018 video.