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TaNiah McQueen: Mint Alumni combines creative artist and caring nurse

TaNiah McQueen has always been a care-giver since she was a girl. She remembers taking care of family pets and always being interested in medical equipment.  

More recently, as a second-year nursing student, her care extended to larger groups; she gave about 50 covid-19 vaccines to individuals at TCF Center in downtown Detroit and on another day, in a nursing home.

She’s always loves to create art, and especially art that feels natural and beautiful such as trees or flowers. TaNiah joined Mint Artists Guild’s first Learn and Earn program while attending Cass Technical High School. She was in the same initial cohort as alumni Ackeem Salmon.

She created many florals, including a large painting overflowing with roses. It became Roses roses, one of our best-selling greeting cards.  Then TaNiah donated the original painting to Mint in appreciation for all she gained and learned with us.  She participated in several art fairs, selling paintings, jewelry and more. And as a Mint Alumni, her work appeared in the Secret Garden at the Belle Isle Art Fair and in some holiday pop ups.

This huge floral painting briefly appeared at the Belle Isle Art Fair Secret Garden. © Taniah McQueen

Yet her career path headed straight toward nursing, and her caring for others through sickness. She pursued it with dedication at Wayne State University. She has worked at local hospitals and volunteered last fall to give flu shots at the Wayne State’s Campus Medical Clinic.

At TCF, she joined a group of nursing students who helped out for two days. Some people came in and were frightened to take the vaccine. “Don’t worry. I’m a pro at this,” TaNiah told them. 

Getting into nursing school wasn’t easy but TaNiah persevered. And as she did, the art she created started to reflect her study of human anatomy and the body. She painted beautiful human hearts and lungs after an anatomy class helped her draw them more precisely.

“The human body really is art too,” TaNiah told us. “The body, nature and life itself is where a lot of my inspiration comes from.”

She sees science and art as “very much connected” as art imitates life and reflects its nuances.

TaNiah McQueen’s painting shows lungs growing. © TaNiah McQueen

This summer, she will work in a pediatric clinic, travel and spend more time on art making. (She recently started experimenting in resins.) After graduation, expects to work in a hospital as an intensive care unit nurse, or perhaps in a hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit. She plans to go back for her doctoral degree, focused on the Doctor of Nurse Anesthesia Practice. And yes, she expects to continue making art.

Some day, her work may hang in a hospital’s halls and help a visitor de-stress, as TaNiah McQueen scrubs in to save a patient.

Advice: “Stay focused. … Don’t be afraid try out new techniques … so you can determine what you like/don’t like, and never undervalue your artwork. Also, it’s imperative to join groups such as Mint to gain experience selling your art while also making meaningful connections.”

See her art: Follow her on Instagram for occasional art pieces. View her earlier work on this website. Or perhaps she may join Mint at an alumni art event later in 2021.

What’s next: TaNiah plans to open an Etsy shop to sell resin work, bookmarks and other items. Also her final year Wayne State’s nursing program.

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How Frederick Douglass resonates today

Mint alumni Breonna Collins is an artist, filmmaker, student and creative entrepreneur who launched Gospel Beauty, which sells soap, accessories and other beauty items. She attends Wayne State University, where she is majoring in biochemistry with a minor in animation.

She has an active, curious mind and is always coming up with ideas and insights. So we asked her about Black heroes and historical figures.

Breonna Collins, Mint alumni

Who is your favorite person from Black history? Why does he / she resonate with you?

I have many favorite people from black history so it is too hard to say who is my single favorite. But I’ll select one for what’s going on in the world. And that person would be Fredrick Douglass.

1856 photograph of activist and orator Frederick Douglas from National Portrait Gallery

How does Frederick Douglass speak to and connect with the Black Lives Matter and other black campaigns and movements going on today?

I personally feel like organizations today would benefit from him because he could break down the meaning of what America is about. Not to mention he was a slave who freed himself and rebuilt himself. He went from being a slave to statesman. So, I believe he could teach these organizations how to get progress done. I believe he would have kicked any corrupt person out of the group. People like anarchists, extremists etc.

How do you interpret Black history in the context of today’s situation, good and bad?

I believe that Black History Month is a good month to celebrate how far Black people have gotten in America and around the world.

I think of Black History Month as a sacred month, like a sacred shrine that holds our tears, smiles, blood, pain, sorrow, laughter, our entire culture! A time where we can pay homage to the great ancestors before us who had to do the hard work to get us here. Not just black but, whites too. Black History Month isn’t just an African American thing but it’s an American thing. Because the lives we mourn, celebrate and respect this month bled to build this nation. And it’s a horrible memory that America has but, one that must never be forgotten so that it doesn’t happen again!

Learn more about Frederick Douglass in this PBS short written biography, in The Guardian interview with his biographer or watch this 7-minute FreeSchool video on Douglass’ life and journey to freedom. Follow Breonna Collins on Instagram.

Portraits used with permission.  Frederick Douglass painting © Joel Tesch.

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Mint Alumni Ackeem Salmon, artist, art teacher and so much more

Mint kicks off a series of Mint Alumni feature profiles. Look for one a month for at least nine months this year.

Ackeem Salmon has already achieved a lot – with awards, art activities and accolades in Detroit and internationally. He has much more in store this year and next.  Yet he acknowledges he’s never won a “proper photography competition” and he still needs to complete his teaching credentials.

Salmon joined Mint’s first cohort of Learn and Earn artists at the Palmer Park Art Fair in 2015 and participated in our first Scarab Club exhibit. He shared his art-directed photos such as Soul of the Arts, a creative grouping of classmates at Detroit School of Arts, and other striking images.

Ackeem Salmon’s momentous photo Soul of the Arts, from 2015.

In May 2020, he graduated from College for Creative Studies with a degree in photography and minor in fine art.  After gig work through the summer, he landed a job teaching art to elementary and middle students at Detroit Academy of Arts and Sciences, a private charter school.

Even before graduating from CCS, he had returned to Detroit School of Arts to mentor students and teach, and to work with them again on the Midtown Arts and Auto Festival.

“I come from a family of educators and people who are in academia,” Ackeem  said.  “So it kind of comes intuitively. I enjoy being a part of someone’s journey, to pay my experiences forward.”

“It’s sharing the excitement” of students succeeding, he said.

His photographs and mixed media pieces already are in many private collections – and likely to be in even more after his show at the gallery Collected Detroit in 2022.  This follows his one-artist show at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in 2016  and his 2018 project in Paris highlighting fashion, art and youth aspirations.

Yet Ackeem points out that he’s been turned down many times for artists calls, shows and awards. “I do feel the rejection and hurt” when that happens, he said.  And he also has seen the serendipity several times of judges or people involved recommending him to different projects. That’s how he came to join Mint, by submitting a poster to the Palmer Park Art Fair. When the judges realized he was in high school, they connected him with Mint.

He is a visual artist and art director – and a musician who plays violin and flute. He has performed music at a number of events, including some he organized. Ackeem has won the Pierians Foundation’s Jessie M. Colson Award is given to a deserving artist who exhibits high potential in their future practices. And he has collected art awards from the NAACP, Microsoft, Scholastic among others.

In coming months and years, he hopes to develop funding to return to Jamaica, to take more photographs and interview creative elders.  Several of his senior thesis photographs Remembering Yellow taken in his native Jamaica are on display in a window in Midtown Detroit.

Mint Alumni Ackeem Salmon at a collector’s private show, with Mint board member Margaret Wilson and others. (Photo: Vickie Elmer)

“I thought it a really cool opportunity for a kind of public art,” he said. Much of his work is autobiographical or looks deeply at what it means to be human and Black. He often serves as the art director for his photography and mixed media work.

Last year, Ackeem worked for DesignCore‘s Design in the City through a grant funded by Gucci Changemakers. His LinkedIn profile already shows many roles.

“I want to find a happy medium in making my own art work,” said Ackeem.  “I’m the little fish trying to find the island.”

Ackeem’s advice: Keep going after what you want, even if it takes a few attempts. “With Young Arts, I tried so many times. And that last time I got selected” as a finalist, he said.  So seek feedback and apply again.

His work: See some of it on his art Instagram Ackeem Salmon Art, or his artist website, which he created himself.

What’s next:  He is working on teaching credentials for art and French, and also still needs to get his driver’s license.  He also is painting and making new pieces for his next exhibits.

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Silence: Spoken word artist Ife Martin’s winning poem

We asked young poets to share their words, their passion and their perspective around the prompt of Detroit’s motto:

“We hope for better things. It shall rise from the ashes.”

Ife Martin wrote passionately about Detroit and she performed her piece on Livernois during the debut of the Mint Showcase. She is one of our 2020 Metro Detroit Youth Arts Competition winners, and a high school student from West Bloomfield.

Here is a line from her poem Silence:

Our fire glows against the same moonlit sky that silhouettes our city

A beacon of hope that shines bright through the darkness

A promise – our forever flames burns.”

Poem is © Ife Martin and please see her perform it all in this video, created by Mint marketing director Kelly O’Neill:

Her piece is one of three winners who chose the “rise from the ashes” theme. Other visual pieces are on display in windows along Livernois. as the  Mint Showcase on Livernois continues through Nov. 1.

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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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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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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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Start boosting your productivity with advice from mega-artist Hubert Massey

 

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

This mosaic wall in Southwest Detroit was created by Mint cofounder Hubert Massey several years ago. (Photo: Vickie Elmer)

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.

© Vickie Elmer 2020 for Mint Artists Guildart

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Meet these female arts for Women’s History Month

This Frida Kahlo painting, called The Two Fridas, was completed in YEAR. (Painting courtesy Frida Kahlo Foundation)

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:

Elizabeth Catlett 

(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.

A sculpture by Elizabeth Catlett is on display at the DIA through mid-March. (Photo © Charlene Uresy)children, or the struggles of African American life. She became one of Mexico’s most celebrated artists.

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.”

More information:  This site gives Catlett’s biography and many images of her sculpture Or read this National Museum of Women in the Arts page. Read her New York Times obituary from 2012.

Helen Frankenthaler 

(1928-2011)

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.

Grotto Azura by Helen Frankenthaler, painted in 1963.

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.”

More information:  The Helen Frankenthaler Foundation;  Read her New York Times obituary.

Berthe Morisot

 (1841-1895)

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.

Berthe Morisot painted this piece, called The Bowl of Milk, in 1890.

Another quote by Morisot:  “My ambition is limited to the desire to capture something transient, and yet, this ambition is excessive.”

Read more:  The Barnes Foundation, which staged a major exhibition of Morisot’s work.  My Modern Met’s profile of her. 

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.

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