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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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!
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.
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
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.
Hubert Massey creates massive public art pieces, like the fresco at TCF Center and large mosaics in parks and overpasses in Detroit, Flint and elsewhere.
Most of his projects take months to complete. Yet most of them start with ideas, and sketches. Massey, who is a co-founder and a board member of Mint Artists Guild, is staying home now, but that doesn’t mean he’s slowing down. He’s creating smaller pieces – paintings, sketches and an obelisk prototype for a public art piece.
“I still don’t have enough time in the day,” he said. He runs Hubert Massey Murals, which brings together artists, engineers, community groups and businesses to create large public art projects.
“I have the habit of getting up early in the morning,” Massey told Mint. He starts with breakfast and a smidgen of news. Then Massey turns on jazz music and turns to work on the creative project for the day. By 3 pm
many days, he’s finishing up and ready to take a walk.
Developing such habits and a schedule help with productivity, Massey said. “Start at a certain time…. Schedule your work hours.”
Here’s three more tips from Hubert Massey on staying creative and productive:
Create a list. Artists need a projects list, where they capture the ideas they may want to pursue, he said. His list includes painting portraits of some other well-known Detroit artists such as Michael Horner and home improvement projects. Keep your list updated and look online for ideas.
Set goals. Know what you want to complete by the time everything is opened up and go after it. Or set smaller goals. Massey enjoys watching documentaries related to science and art, and suggests emerging artists watch one a day of an artist or musician.
Engage with others. Massey likes to hold community forums and ask questions and hear stories. Start this on your social media, or with a conference call with five or seven people. Ask questions such as “what are 10 images you want hanging on your wall?” he suggested.
Don’t worry if your art supplies are thin or nonexistent. Use whatever you find around the home – newsprint or recycled materials or paint on old bowls. “If you’ve got a pencil, then draw,” Massey told Mint.
“You have to be strong within yourself and do what makes you happy.”
Watch for more insights on creatives managing themselves and their work in future posts.
Many people know of Frida Kahlo, the artist from Mexico whose creative self portraits and paintings are gaining favor. The partner of Diego Rivera, she painted herself many times and her family – and her images are now being fought over by independent artists and the Frida Kahlo Corp.
Yet during this Women’s History Month, we decided to look past Kahlo, and introduce five other female artists whose stories and art both inspire us. Here are the first three:
(1915 – 2012)
An American-born artist, Elizabeth Catlett lived for many years in Mexico, where she developed her printmaking skills. While working as a WPA muralist during the Great Depression, she began to her social activism on behalf of African Americans and others. (In 1958, she was arrested during the Union of Railroad Workers strike in Mexico City.) Catlett taught at high schools and colleges – and continued to teach after she became a successful artist. Her sculptures often depict African American women and mothers and children. She is known for the beauty of materials as well as her subjects.
Her work is currently part of the Detroit Collects show at the Detroit Institute of Arts.
A quote from Catlett: “Advance is difficult and departure from the accepted path is dangerous; but difficulty and danger are old acquaintances.”
Helen Frankenthaler championed individuality and experimentation in her career spanning six decades. Known as a prolific abstract painter, she lived by the mantra “ignore the rules.” In 1952, she developed a new way of painting, called the soak-stain method or Color Field, using thinned down paint that soaked into the canvas. This allowed the image and object to become one.
Born to a prosperous Manhattan family, she married artist Robert Motherwell in 1958; they often entertained other artists. They divorced and she remarried an investment banker.
Her ethereal abstract paintings were purchased gradually gained in appeal. Then in the 1970s, at the height of her popularity, Frankenthaler decided to move into woodcut making. She continued painting, inspired by the sky and water from her home on the Long Island Sound. Frankenthaler left a foundation that gives grants to artists and arts organizations.
A quote: “One really beautiful wrist motion, that is synchronised with your head and heart, and you have it. It looks as if it were born in a minute.”
This French Impressionist hung out with Monet, Renoir and Degas. Her work appeared with theirs at many Impressionist Salon shows. Édouard Manet is said to have kept three of her paintings in his bedroom. He painted her many times, starting in 1868, the year they met. She worked as a copyist at the Louve and became the first female Impressionist. Morisot painted women and girls, including her daughter Julie who was depicted repeatedly. She documented women’s lives. “She is due for full-blown fame,” wrote Peter Schjeldahl, The New Yorker‘s art critic.
Another quote by Morisot: “My ambition is limited to the desire to capture something transient, and yet, this ambition is excessive.”
Mint will share a quote a week from one of these artists on our Instagram and Facebook. And we will introduce two more female artists later this month. As a woman-led organization, we are inspired by these women, and hope you will be too.
Jessica Fligger showed up with her family for the Mint Paint Detroit with Generosity opening last month, a rare artist with a rare opportunity – two of them.
She left 90 minutes later with two interviews completed and her paintings shining. This young painter and ceramics artist was thrilled to have her art featured in the Fisher Building – and in the interviews.
The second was closer to home. Mint marketing intern Journey Shamily, who has sold art with Jessica through the Mint Learn and Earn program, talked to her about her show at the Fisher, which comes down on Jan. 2.
” I just knew that I wanted my interview with her to be fun for the both of us while still giving her a chance to talk about the beautiful art she made for three beautiful nonprofits. I truly did have a blast and with this internship I can mark ‘interview someone’ off my bucket list,” said Journey Shamily.
Guilded by her Mint mentor Kelly O’Neill, Journey also edited the video of Jessica Fligger, which is presented here and on our YouTube channel.
Jessica was paid to create original paintings and art through Mint’s Creative Summer Jobs program. (Follow us on Facebook or Instagram to see some of the paintings created or stop by the Fisher Bakery by the afternoon of Jan. 2 to see them all in person.)
Jessica is one of the rare artists who was accepted into both of our training and development programs. Both she and Journey learn creative and business skills through Mint – including how to answer questions from guests or in front of the camera.
Mint Artists Guild’s Creative Summer Jobs program teaches career skills, and particularly focus and productivity and managing several projects. Mint also teaches young Detroit artists to improve their paintings, and create mosaics and more.
For the art skills building, we turned to Jacqueline Edwards Lane, an art teacher extraordinaire who worked for Mint. She spent hours coaching our youth on the finer points of mixing acrylic paints, creating more realistic eyes, finishing mosaics and much more.
“Ms. Jackie,” as she was called this summer, spent most of her career teaching art to youth in Detroit. Her summer with Mint workers infused her with new energy to create more new work, drawn from the youthful energy and creativity of the Mint workers.
“They already bring a lot with their skills and their enthusiasm,” she said. And many of the workers, who range in ages from 14 to 21, started making art at 3, the same as their art coach. Hear more of her story and how it entwines with Mint’s in this new video.
Watch for details on the Paint Detroit with Generosity exhibit, to be held later this fall at the Fisher Building, where the fruit’s of Mint’s summer work and Ms. Jackie’s coaching will be available for all to see.
And if you wish to see Mint hire more youth – and donate more paintings to local nonprofits – in 2020, please become a monthly donor and support our nonprofit’s growth.
Judy Bowman’s success as an artist started after she retired from her career as an educator. Yet if Mint Artists Guild had been around when she were a teen, she wonders whether she might have pursued creating and selling art more earlier in her life.
A new video, created by Mint marketing lead and board member Kelly O’Neill, shares Judy’s story – and her appreciation for Mint.
“If you keep plugging at it, you’ll get there. … Keep doing it because you’re going to be a success. You’ve got the drive. You’ve got the energy.”
Judy has supported Mint Artists Guild with her time and experiences, her art and more. She serves on the honorary committee for Mint Masterpieces, our party with a purpose on Oct. 19. Buy your tickets now and enjoy art, music and fine food in a major art collector’s eclectic home. Or please follow Judy’s lead and donate to Mint today!