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Generosity All Around: Mint gives back in Detroit during a tough pandemic year

Mint summer worker Tommy DuBose leads a free arts and crafts in Palmer Park in September. (Photo: Vickie Elmer for Mint)

“Not being able to do everything is no excuse for not doing everything you can.” – artist, cartoonist and author Ashleigh Brilliant

This year, as the world shut down, slowed down and took stock, Mint Artists Guild embraced the strength and beauty of generosity.

We knew it would be a tough year for children and youth in Detroit, with covid-19 raging, schools closed or figuring out how to go online and families stressed about health, money and more.  We knew we had to dig deep and go big and give as if we had deep pockets and plenty of resources. (That seems like Mint making stone soup, a tale of hunger and coming together to benefit everyone.)

Quite simply, we wanted to do everything we could to support, encourage and engage children and youth through art and entrepreneurship.

Mint has always given back through our programs with and for youth artists and our Paint Detroit with Generosity initiative. Yet during a pandemic we knew we needed to add more – many more ways to support creative children and youth and our community.

So in this season of giving, we want to share some of the ways Mint Artists Guild has given this year – as we ask you to complete the circle and give to us.  We are celebrating Generosity All Around us, and that serves as our theme for the next few weeks.

Here are five of the ways Mint is creating generosity all around Detroit:

Our fifth Paint Detroit with Generosity show is up at Durfee Innovation Society on the first and second floors main hallway. (Photo: Vickie Elmer for Mint)

Inspiration in challenging times. Our fifth annual Paint Detroit with Generosity exhibit is up and free to see at Durfee Innovation Society in Detroit. This exhibit in Detroit gives you a place to go, safely, to walk around and be inspired before Dec. 27.  Please call ahead – 313-437-1549 for an appointment – and wear your mask.

Creativity at home for children.   Early in the pandemic, an artist-friend suggested the need for creativity kits for Detroit children. Mint immediately saw the value and connected with our stellar partners Arts & Scraps and Brilliant Detroit.  We found a sponsor MCCI to help us pay for 10,000 coloring pages – an astounding number for us to print! And thanks to the generosity of foundations and individuals and amazing work of our partners, since late March, we have given away 4,500 of them to families with children and teachers.   

Beautify Detroit. Two of our youth workers chose as their personal paid project for the summer to paint the Little Free Library in Palmer Park. Mint encouraged this as a project because our executive director always fills this Little Free Library with books. Hear about how and why they did it in this wonderful volunteer-created video.

Inspire and share:  Mint launched the first Metro Detroit Youth Arts Competition to engage, inspire and connect creative youth, with lots of support from Mint board member Will “The Poet” Langford. Our prompts encouraged them to share art based on resilience, Detroit’s beauty and art as a unifying force. And with support of our community and the W.K.Kellogg Foundation, we were able to give our 11 winners some $2,400 in cash plus many prizes to young artists and poets and more.  Please listen to Ife Martins’ beautiful winning poem Silence in this post.  These artists and poets created so much beautiful art that we hope to share all of it here over the winter.

Children loved creating with Mint and some came back week after week. (Photo: Vickie Elmer for Mint)

Joy and creativity for children: Mint produced seven youth led arts and crafts in Palmer Park this summer and early fall, thanks to the Detroit Pistons and two foundations. We sent home almost 100 art supply kits and books and more.

This Generosity All Around list sounds ambitious, yet it represents less than half of the projects we have completed since mid-March.  We will share more in a couple of weeks – and we hope you will share some dollars  in a year-end gift. Please give generously.

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How we are adapting our holiday shopping this year

Your holidays are going to be different this year, and so are ours.  Yet we hope you still will celebrate and give creative gifts, some from Mint’s creative Detroit youth.

We know you’re buying more of them online. This move to online purchases has accelerated since the pandemic started in the U.S. and also in Brazil, South Africa, Turkey and elsewhere.  Covid-19 took 10 years of change to online buying and brought it to Americans’ lives in three months, consulting firm McKinsey concluded. Half of Americans expect to spend more online than in stores during the holiday season.

So because of this trend and because of growing covid-19 cases, we are playing it safe and selling most of our art and artisan gifts online this year. Instead of preparing for pop ups at Eastern Market or Small Business Saturday, Mint is stocking up our online Shop with beautiful handmade artisan gifts and art.

Most of these beautiful pieces were created in the Mint Creative Summer Jobs program, which hired a record 13 youth artists during the pandemic.  Your purchases will assist us to hire even more in the summer of 2021.  Here’s two ways you may buy from Mint online this year:

Michigan Holiday Art Fair: This online art fair brings together artists who would have been part of a half dozen fairs produced by Integrity Shows.  The Michigan Holiday Art Fair previews on Nov. 29 and 30 and opens with live and recorded artist studio tours, craft making, music and Santa Claus from Dec. 1 to 6.  Mint is one of six nonprofit beneficiaries of this, and some of our Learn & Earn artists will sell original paintings, photography and more to guests.

Mint Shop online: All our merchandise is available through our website, and we continue to add new items. Look for new lithographs created in

This limited edition lithograph comes from the Mint Summer Jobs team.

the Mint Creative Summer Jobs program to be added soon – some are Detroit focused and one features a nurse. We also expect to add a beautiful new greeting card that is all Detroit. (Mint also is sending more cards this year – thank you cards and holiday cards.  Connecting with our friends and partners never felt so important or good.)

Yet we know some people will want to shop local, so Mint has merchandise in several local establishments that we adore:

  •  Akoma:   Buy our Mint cards and calendars as well as some limited edition art at this beautiful women’s art and maker cooperative at 19359 Livernois.
    Choose this beautiful assortment of Mint holiday cards.
  • Art in Motion:  Mint greeting cards and posters are available at this ceramics and clay studio and artisan gift shop at 19452 Livernois.
  • Detroit Artists Market:  Buy our holiday card packages or pick up a calendar at DAM in Midtown Detroit. Buy a piece from Mint Learn & Earn artist Prince Matthews or one of our Mint Prints.
  • Detroit Institute of Arts: The DIA has a variety of Mint cards for sale, but not our holiday cards.
  • Literati:  This bookstore in downtown Ann Arbor has Mint calendars and is available for curbside pickup only. Sorry no browsing its books and coffee because of covid.
  • Michigan Artists Exchange:  This shop in Great Lakes Crossing Outlets in Auburn Hills is co-owned by an artist friend and located near the Nordstrom Rack. It carries holiday and regular cards and our calendars.

We may add more outlets to pick up our cards or our beautiful new Paint Detroit with Generosity calendars and when we do, we will share them here – and on Twitter and other social media.

Certainly, we will miss seeing you in person this holiday season, but we know it’s  temporary to protect everyone. Instead, we hope you will stop by the Michigan Holiday Art Fair, where Mint will lead a free craft online and where a virtual chat will connect us every day. See you Dec. 1 through 6!

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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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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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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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Mint’s successes and miracles: A yearend letter from our director

Alexis, Natasha and other Mint Summer workers learn painting techniques from our teaching artist. (Photo Seyi Akintoroye for Mint)

Dear friends of Mint,

Mint Artists Guild is finishing a year of successes and firsts. We are proud of these – and we see how many more opportunities and challenges we could tackle in 2020 and 2021, with your support and donations from individuals, businesses and foundations.

Some of our successes have names: Seyi, a photographer, learned to paint with acrylics in our Creative Summer Jobs program, and has three paintings on display in the Fisher Building through Jan. 3.  Alexis took a leadership role in our Summer Jobs program and joined our board of directors.  Journey landed a paid marketing internship with Mint, and is being mentored by an amazing marketing expert. Through Mint, De’Shaia’s work is for sale at the Detroit Artists Market and she will have another piece in the DAM All Media Show,

Others show up in places that seem like minor miracles for a small nonprofit. Mint’s greeting cards for the first time are for sale in the Detroit Institute of Arts Museum Store, through mid March. Mint’s Paint Detroit with Generosity show is hanging in the Fisher Building, one of the architectural giants and my favorite building in Detroit. And Mint sold greeting cards and brought along an alumni to sell his art at an artisan market in New Orleans, through our collaboration with the Palmer Park Art Fair

Mint Artists summer worker Bryan looks over the Paint Detroit with Generosity show at the Fisher Building opening in November. (Photo: Journey Shamily for Mint)

Our Learn and Earn artists sold a record amount of art at Mint pop ups and in the Mint tent at art fairs: $11,500, or about 20 percent more than in 2018. We hired our first Wolverine Pathways interns, a University of Michigan program that boosted our Summer Creative Jobs staff to ten, twice as many as two years ago. Another first: Several alumni graduated from universities and started creative careers in costume design, graphic design and more.  (We plan to profile a few of our alumni in 2020 and recognized Damon FirstBorn Chamblis at Mint Masterpieces in October.)

Yet we also faced sadness and setbacks. We worked with artists who lost a close family member and several who could not find transportation to workshops or a summer job. We did not create any large public art pieces this year, nor did we add to our butterfly mosaics in Palmer Park.

Mint will spend time in the year ahead setting goals and strategic plans looking ahead for five years. We see many opportunities and growth possibilities, and many beautiful partnerships with other nonprofits, foundations and businesses.

Our emerging artists want to plan more creative community service projects, and we are committed to supporting them. And we want to develop more entrepreneurship workshops and training, perhaps by collaborating with other organizations.

We need your generous gifts to keep growing and giving and opening doors to creative careers and community art projects. A donation of $75 supports a Mint pop up, and includes buying snacks for our young artists. A yearend gift of $250 will support three weeks of a youth’s Creative Summer Job. Give $5,000 and we will bring free weekly arts and crafts activities to a second Detroit park next summer.

So please find the donate button near the top of this page and give generously. If you prefer to send a check, please mail it to Mint Artists Guild, PO Box 21667, Detroit, MI 48221.

And thank you for being part of our successes and our growth.

Vickie Elmer
Mint executive director and co-founder

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Holiday cards: back story and today’s beauties

Sir Henry Cole’s first holiday card.

 

Credit or blame Sir Henry Cole for the tradition of sending holiday cards to family or friends.

The man who would go on to become the first leader of the Victoria and Albert Museum created what the Smithsonian magazine says is the first Christmas card in 1840. That’s when he realized he did not have enough time to send hand written notes to all his friends. It would have been impolite to allow their greetings to go unreturned, so he approached an artist friend, who drew a family celebrating the holidays surrounded by people helping the poor. His time saving tool was, the Smithsonian magazine said, the first Christmas card.

Very soon, others followed his lead, and the practice grew with the industrial revolution and as women took the role of connecting far-flung family members. Card quality improved along with image reproductions and an array of greetings featuring landscapes, sporting themes and more varied images, instead of merely showing cherub and children singing in snow storms.

By the late 1800s, people collected Christmas cards the way they collected coins as card makers organized competitions for new images.  

Mint Artists Guild’s first holiday card was inspired by an image by alumni Espacia Fotiu. She hand painted cards and gave one to Mint’s co-founders Vickie Elmer and Mark Loeb in appreciation for their help in launching her creative career.  The next year, in 2016, Mint debuted its holiday card featuring a tree surrounded by a community of peaceful people.

A year later, we celebrated the holidays in Palmer Park, with a card designed by intern and former Summer Worker Alana Rider. It depicted the historic Palmer Park Log Cabin, decked in snow and holiday lights. (The Log Cabin never uses electric lights, so that’s artistic license; it is being restored by our friends and partners the People for Palmer Park.).

Trees, starry nights and the historic Log Cabin in Palmer Park show up on our earlier Mint holiday cards.

Mint skipped a holiday card in 2018, but we’re bringing forth a beauty this year. Our new holiday card is based on a beautiful painting of poinsettias by Annie Kinney, who often paints floral pieces.  It is bright and bold and features the flower that blooms in millions of homes, churches and businesses at the holidays. (How the poinsettia became the flower of the holidays is a story for another time, though read this article for some cool history.)

The Mint poinsettia card  debuted in November at the TedXDetroit and Detroit Institute of Arts pop ups. It will be available during the holidays at the Detroit Artists Market, at Germack Cafe in Eastern Market and soon at WSG Gallery in Ann Arbor.  Or join us at  our Mint pop ups at Eastern Market on Dec. 1, Dec. 8 and Dec. 22 and at Noel Night on Dec. 7.

Sir Henry Cole wants you to send some Mint cards this year.

Mint’s new holiday card features the beautiful flowers of Annie Kinney.

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Art for all: Make more Mint crafts and coloring pages

Free arts and crafts in Palmer Park, summer 2018. (Photo © Vickie Elmer)

Mint Artists Guild believes in crafts – and we offer them to children in Detroit regularly.

Seven times this summer, we hosted a free arts and crafts activities for families and individuals in Palmer Park, with support from the Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency and individual donors. We set up right outside the Mint Studios and children showed up in swimming suits from the Splash Park or after a family outing.

We will offer it at Eastern Market three times – Dec. 1, 8 and 22 – and with the People for Palmer Park at future events. We showed up at Youth Design Day and welcome other opportunities to get creative in the community.

Often these events include coloring pages created by Mint Artists.  One of our newest beauties is called “Rabbit feast” and it was created by Mint Summer worker Jessica:

We create these to engage children in art and creativity and to show off ours.  We know that creativity and art inspires altruism, creative problem solving – and youth to stay in school.

You can help us create more free art opportunities. Here’s three ways:

  1. Invite us to your event. We will bring coloring pages and /or crafts, for children or adults. Cost starts at $37 an hour, three hour minimum, to bring  in two emerging artists.  Please be in touch at least two weeks before the event or conference.

2. Download a coloring page You may use our Rabbit feast coloring page or else our Ladybug Coloring page. Please print seven copies or fewer for free, our gift to you. If you need more than that, please donate $25 or more to Mint first!

3. Underwrite a new coloring page by Mint Artists. This support gives youth work – and gives your company visibility. Imagine your company name at creative events and arts and crafts throughout 2020. This sponsorship starts at $375 for an independent business with one location. Please contact us if you are interested. (We have other business sponsorship opportunities too.)

We love getting creative with our emerging artists and children as young as 2, and hope you will come along as we give more coloring and craft opportunities throughout Detroit next year!

If you want to talk to us about any of these, please stop by and see us on Friday at the TechTown Detroit pop up from 11-3. Or drop us a line and we will schedule a conversation. We will even bring along a coloring page and crayons!

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How we are going to win a window on Woodward in 2020, with one minute of your help

Mint has a competitive streak and this time, we really want to win!

We are one of five nonprofit finalists in the Nonprofits in Action: 2020 Design Showcase, created by Co.act Detroit  and Design Core Detroit.   We already see ourselves featured in the Co.act window along Woodward Avenue next year.

Winning could be easy, with a little help from our friends.  Yes, that’s you! All it will take is one minute of your time, or if you’re feeling generous three minutes on three different days. Vote for us in this competition by scrolling to the very end of this voting tally and check Mint Artists Guild.

That’s it.  Just vote – any day and every day through Nov. 13.

Then look for representations of our work and of our creative, entrepreneurial and generous youth to show up at Woodward and West Grand Boulevard in 2020.

Photos: window by Alberto Lucas Perez on Up ; Mark Loeb for Mint Artists Guild

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Tea and friendship

Guests at our first Mint Tea, held in a home in Ann Arbor.

 

Friendships start in many places.  Ours are starting in homes and offices, in galleries and studios, over tea and cookies or tea and granola bars.

We have started a new “friend-raiser” called Mint Teas, most of which will take place in individuals’ homes.  They bring together a group of creative or entrepreneurial people who are interested in the work Mint Artists Guild does, or intrigued by our mix of business and entrepreneurship training and creative projects.

The first one took place this summer in Ann Arbor, hosted by a creative entrepreneur who has purchased Mint art and donated to us before. She invited a handful of friends:  artists, a teacher, a financial type and a former museum leader.  Mint brought along cool iced tea, one of our emerging artists and some stories on our early successes.

Now that colder weather is here, we look forward to serving hot tea and sharing stories about some of our alumni, such as Damon FirstBorn Chamblis, who was honored as our Featured Alumni at Mint Masterpieces. 

 Anyone may host a Mint Tea in a business, a home, a community center or someplace else. So please, get in touch. Select a date; set a goal for your fundraising and let’s drink to our creativity and growth!

Host a Mint tea – it’s easy and fun. (Photo: MorgueFile)