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Heroes earn low wages and high praise – and ours show up in Grand Rapids

The heroes of the covid-19 pandemic wear scrubs and stethoscopes or care for frail seniors. They carry a megaphone, cook eggs and work overnight to refill grocery shelves.

And they show up in the paintings Mint Artists summer workers created last year, which formed our first traveling exhibit Heroes; Now & Then. That exhibit will be on display at the Grand Rapids Art Museum through May 22, with timed ticket entry.  The Heroes show debuted last year in Detroit.

Like many of our Heroes who come from around the globe, America’s heroes are everyday workers who earn a median wage of $10.93 an hour as grocery cashiers or $13.48 an hour for health care jobs including orderlies, health aides and housekeepers. They are considered “essential workers” and lauded by politicians and people who rely on their labor.

Health care workers protest low wages last year. (Photo: Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona / Unsplash)

And yet these heroes and essential workers face common issues: 55 percent of them live paycheck to paycheck and some 60 percent are taking steps or see others speaking up to improve health conditions at work, a Harris Poll found.  Almost one in four health care workers report reduced income during the pandemic, especially for doctors, paramedics, health technicians and others.

Heroes face distress, stress and fears for themselves and their loved ones as they do their jobs. Many in health care do not believe the hero label will last long.

Yet Mint prefers to believe that heroes – and our hero paintings – will inspire and endure. We hope they encourage valor and thoughtful consideration of who is a hero as well as greater appreciation of the heroes who live among us.

“If enough people hear about their actions, they can inspire others to do something heroic too,” philanthropist Bill Gates wrote in a blog post about seven unsung heroes of the pandemic. One of them is Laxmi Rayamajhi, health care worker in Nepal who hikes for hours to provide contraceptives to women in remote villages.

So take time to read some books about everyday heroes. And please visit our heroes in Grand Rapids or on our website in a booklet Mint prepared.

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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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Stick with us for beautiful stickers and holiday gifts

Buy this trio of stickers together for more beauty and affirmation.

Mint Artists Guild is creating a lot of momentum in our programs and community activities. Now, we have extending that to merchandise. We just developed a new line of beautiful and inspiring stickers, all based on youth art.

We launch the first three today in our online Mint Shop.  These three stickers all are based on paintings created in the Mint Creative Summer Jobs program.  They join the Mint greeting cards and Mint prints, plus our first poster focused on social justice and a very few pieces of original art, all for sale through our website.

Stickers have become a form of self expression, creativity and caring about causes.  College students in Michigan and Virginia share their personality, passions, positivity and their love of dogs, sports, bands or travel through stickers. Stickers are placed on hotel room doors to certify the rooms are sanitized. A Dallas chef created a sticker line to celebrate friendship and her Latina culture with sugar skulls and tacos.  

Stickers have been around for decades. They started as bumper stickers to share sentiments on cars and trucks and grew to include stickers for laptops and devices, for nails, for water bottles, windows and other places.

For Mint, stickers are a way to share youth art and encourage and inspire individuals to more beauty, faith in themselves and their futures and generosity. That’s why we sell our stickers in twos or threes. So when you buy them, you have one to share and one for yourself.

Generosity, after all, is beautiful. Just like our stickers!

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Our Heroes: See them now at the Scarab Club in Midtown Detroit

Hero paintings by Zora Flounory and Alexis Bagley; © Mint Artists Guild, 2020

In  challenging times, the world needs heroes. We invite you to find one in these small portraits created by Mint Artists Guild.

These 15 small paintings will carry a big impact. And as the exhibit’s title Heroes: Now & Then reminds us, heroes may not be heroic every day. Occasional heroes and unknown heroes also deserve celebration.

Each portrait was created by a Detroit youth artist working for Mint during the pandemic, working from their homes. They chose their own heroes – and they are a diverse group from many eras and from today’s headlines.

The show debuts this Wednesday, Sept. 2, at the Scarab Club and will be up through Oct. 10.

The Heroes: Now & Then show shares at least three lesser known heroes:

Willem Arondeus, a Dutch writer, artist and activist, joined the resistance against the Nazis. His main job was to falsify papers for Jews in the Netherlands.  Painted by Mint summer worker Vianca Romero,  Arondeus saved hundreds or perhaps thousands of Jews from death, only to be executed himself. His final days are the subject of a short historical film called Willem.

Angela Davis, a civil rights leader, also worked on behalf of black prisoners and for LBGTQ rights. She appeared on the FBI’s most wanted list and later was acquitted of all charges. Angela Davis, painted by Mint summer worker Michael Johnson, has written many books and taught at universities. Read more about her in this Academic Kids post.  

Woman from the Gulabi Gang.  Started in Northern India in 2006, this group of women activists protect other women from domestic abuse, violence and the patriarchal system. Gulabi means pink in Hindi. “I get a lot of respect and dignity when I wear the pink sari,” says Maya Davy, a mother of five told the CBC. Painted by Mint summer worker Zora Flourony,  some Gulabi Gang members now drive taxis, taking on that male bastion.

Note that we are not sharing images these portraits in our blog because we really want people to go to The Scarab Club to see them.  The show is upstairs in its beautiful and historic building, next to the plein air paintings. Plus the main exhibit is photographs, so now we’ve shared three reasons to visit.  (The Scarab Club is open 12 to 5 Wednesday through Sunday, and has a small parking  at 217 Farnsworth, Detroit, directly behind the DIA.)

After you’ve visited our heroes, please wander a couple of blocks to Hannan Center to see our Abuela, Grandma, Bibi exhibit through Sept. 30. (It is closed weekends.) Because of covid-19 limits and safety protections, please call Hannan ahead to reserve; 313-833-1300 x. 0.  Or head to the DIA Museum Store or the Detroit Artists Market and buy Mint greeting cards.

Please subscribe to our blog. In a future post, Mint will recommend hero books for children and teens, books mostly selected by independent bookstore staff.

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From justice to automakers to essential workers, Youth Arts Competition winners are diverse and creative

This colorful piece by Moumita Chawdhury is one of our Youth Arts Competition winners. It represents workers helping the world during covid-19, and people of many faiths unified in prayer for the world. © Moumita Chawdhury.

They live in Detroit, of course, and Hamtramck, Holly and Fraser. They work in crayons, acrylic or watercolor paint, ink and many other mediums. Their creativity and work are as fresh as the latest headlines – and as timeless as the puppy who is part of one child’s picture.

They are the eleven winners of the Metro Detroit Youth Arts Competition, winners, winners whose diversity and creativity make them wonderful representations of Detroit and of Mint Artists Guild’s hopes and expectations.

“We hope for better things, in Detroit. We rise from the ashes, each day, to build our communities. The Youth Arts Competition is a manifestation of our uniquely Detroit spirit of hustle and hope,” said Will ‘The Poet’ Langford. Langford worked with Mint co-founder Vickie Elmer to hustle to launch and develop the competition, starting in June. They both serve on Mint’s board of directors.

The winners range from kindergarden to college and chose a wide variety of subjects for their art and poetry. Mint intends to share more of their stories and work in future blog and social media posts, so here briefly are our 2020 winners:

  • Moumita Chawdhury, 18, Hamtramck, “Unifying, The Hope of a New Beginning,” oil pastels and colored pencils from Bangladesh.
  • Ishaan Kundapur, 13, Northville. “Beautiful Detroit: Birthplace of the Auto Industry,” water color. (Mint greeting card winner)
  • Sydney Lenn, 17, Fraser. “No Justice, No Peace.” Black and white photograph.
  • Ife Martin, 16, West Bloomfield. Silence. Spoken word poem.
  • Tahlia Ray, 16, Detroit. “Unity.” Fiber art.
  • Arise Elisabeth Rock, 15, Detroit. “The Ascension” three-part acrylic painting. And City of People, poem. (Yes, she won twice, though the judges did not know that.)
  • Justus Smith, 10, Detroit. “Rising from the Ashes.” Mixed media piece.
  • Fae Taylor, 6, Hazel Park. “The Daytime.” Mixed media with crayons.
  • Fiona Taylor, 5, Hazel Park. “Puppy’s eyes.” Mixed media with paint. (Yes they are sisters and yes, the puppy piece is adorable!)
  • Aarionna Totty, 9, Holly. “Community Vision.” Mixed media / vision board.
This winning photograph is called “No Justice. No Peace.” It was taken by Sydney Lenn. who also participated in this protest. © Sydney Lenn

Several of the pieces reflected the Black Lives Matter movement or the covid-19 crisis that engulfed the world and how art brings us together in trying times. Others shared the beauty of Detroit, with its leafy trees and lovely streets. About a third of the winners created based on each of our three themes: Detroit is beautiful, art as a unifier and Detroit’s “we rise from the ashes” motto.

Winners were chosen by current Mint Artists, our alumni, professional artists and writers and two of Mint’s co-founders. All of the winning art will be professionally framed by Jo’s Gallery or Sherwood Forest Art Gallery. And all the winners receive a prize package and $225 in cash prizes, underwritten by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and individual donors. Then the art will go on display in Detroit at our partner businesses and at a Mint Showcase along Livernois, known as “the Avenue of Fashion.” Our two poetry winners will share their spoken word in public too. (Winners will receive their art back by yearend to hang in their place of honor. Follow Mint on Facebook or Instagram for details on showings.)

“We want to celebrate youth creativity and business generosity in a competition focused on Detroit’s beauty and resilience and on art as a unifying influence in today’s challenging world,” said Elmer.

Rising from the Ashes is the mixed media piece of 10-year-old Justus Smith of Detroit. This is his first art prize. (© Justus Smith)
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How and why we are creating fun, free art kits for Detroit children, with amazing partners

Part of the first 500 creative activity kits at Brilliant Detroit. (Photo: Vickie Elmer)

It started with a comment on our co-founder’s Facebook page, a suggestion that families in Detroit may not have enough materials to create at home

Those few sentences identifying the need to distribute art boxes along with food in Detroit came from Yvette Jenkins, owner of Love Travels Imports.  (In the three degrees of separation, her shop shares space on Livernois with Art in Motion, which had hosted Mint for several workshops and participated with us in the Palmer Park Art Fair.)

Yvette’s comment inspired us to action. Soon we were connected with two other nonprofits: Arts & Scraps and Brilliant Detroit. Both of them are our partners in our Paint Detroit with Generosity initiative.

By 12:35 on March 13th – that’s 313 Day or Friday the 13th – the first emails flew out to Arts & Scraps executive director Ang Adamiak under the subject line: “Incredibly timely idea: Art boxes while DPS and other schools are closed.”

Our co-founder and executive director Vickie Elmer had already started brainstorming ideas. She saw this as something big and beautiful – 5,000 or more kits given to children in Detroit, fast and free.

Yet we knew we also had to line up funding and figure out how to get these kits to families with children, since schools, recreation centers and libraries were closed to protect against COVID-19 spreading.

It turns out Brilliant Detroit was a well, brilliant choice for many reasons, including its network of eight neighborhood centers that serve thousands of children and their adults. Its CEO and co-founder Cindy Eggleton knows how to collaborate and make things happen. So before we could say “coronavirus rhymes with iris” three times, we had funding for the first 2,000 kits.

A child created this penguin from one of the first kits. (Photo: Brilliant Detroit)

About two-thirds of the contents of the Creative Activities Kits created by Arts & Scraps, Mint and Brilliant Detroit. (Photo: Vickie Elmer)

The art kits contain all kinds of recycled art supplies from Arts & Scraps store and warehouse, from paper to cones to glitter and crayons and popcicle sticks and more.  Then we add in two two-sided Mint coloring pages, which were printed partly with underwriting by Detroit marketing firm MCCI Corp., and Jennette Smith Kotila.  (One degree of separate here: Jennette was managing editor of Crain’s Detroit Business when Vickie started writing for the publication. They worked together on Crain’s Most Influential Women special section and more.)

Last Monday, March 23, three volunteers recruited by Mint picked up the first 500 kits from Arts & Scraps and drove across I-94 to Brilliant Detroit’s headquarters. They all were women.

This project is starting to sound like a women’s empowerment activity – and in some ways, it is. Three women working with women to support mothers and children, grandmothers and fathers in a challenging time.

The first kits were given to families in Southwest Detroit who are connected to Brilliant Detroit.  “Thank you for supporting us to help our children. To motive them, and to learn to imagine,” said Gloria Vera, a mother of three children who received the kit last week.

Two of the Ramos children with some work made from the Creative Activities Kits. (Photo: Brilliant Detroit)

Creativity and making art have many benefits to children from problem solving to developing fine motor skills.  It  also is good for relieving boredom or stress.

“Here’s a little of the work that we have done,” said Judith Ramos, mother of four. She shows off work by her children Yajairi,  Yesenia  y Yamilet.made from the kits.  “Thank you to all the people who have taken the time to give us this material to keep our children busy at this difficult time. Thank you, and I hope God protects you.”

If you want more children to  be creative in these crazy times, please  donate to the Arts & Scraps fundraiser today.

If you wish to download one of our coloring pages from the kits, please download this one from the Palmer Park Butterfly Garden for free. 

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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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Mint’s big beautiful success by the numbers for 2019

Mint’s executive director Vickie Elmer and artist Eleanor Aro shared stories and our art and cards at the Detroit Institute of Arts member only shopping night in November 2019.

We just closed out a year of firsts – our first exhibit held at the Fisher Building, our first time selling anything at the Detroit Institute of Arts and our first summer where we employed 10 artists and creatives.

We hit double digits and many of Detroit’s best venues in one year.

We hope you like our success by the numbers for 2019, and that you will pitch in some  dollars to grow our successes this year.

Here’s a look at 2019 by the numbers:

2  Wolverine Promise interns who worked with us, Catherine and Trinity. It was our first time participating, as we prepared to launch a Mint marketing internship program.

 

3  Emerging artists who serve on Mint’s board of directors, up from two last year.

 

weeks of free arts and crafts in Palmer Park.  That seven weeks is more than double the previous year, thanks to support from individuals and others.  We aim to offer nine weeks this year, with your support.

 

10 emerging artists from Detroit who were part of our Creative Summer Jobs program, up from six in 2018

 

12   Mint greeting cards that are on sale at the Detroit Institute of Arts Museum Store through mid March, as part of the Detroit Collects show.  They debuted at the member-only shopping night in November.

Paint Detroit with Generosity paintings to be donated to 27 local nonprofits, followed by a similar number going to charities supporting children and youth in 2020.

 

 

35   Rosa Park limited edition giclee prints created, thanks to our partnership with Sherwood Forest Gallery .  They are selling superbly at Mint pop ups and events – and through our online store.

 

71   Yes, more than six dozen volunteers helped Mint with projects, events, workshops, Mint Masterpieces and more.

 

1,023 –  Number of hours our Summer Creative Workers were paid for creating with and for Mint in July and August.

 

$11,500 – Estimated amount of art, jewelry and artisan gifts sold by Mint’s
Learn and Earn artists this year through Mint.  They endured rain, a storm, cold temperatures and made great friendships and connections through these pop ups and art fairs. 

We gratefully acknowledge the support of Blossoms full service florists, Grow Detroit’s Young Talent, Integrity Shows, People for Palmer Park, the Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency, and many individual donors and small businesses who make these accomplishments possible. We ask that you will support us too so these success numbers will be bigger and more beautiful by the end of 2020.

Read our 2017 success by the numbers report here and our 2016 success report here.  We were so busy preparing for growth at the end of 2018 that we did not create a success list, though we did tally some of the numbers used for comparison.

Photos: Waldemar Brandt and Jan Kaluza /  Unsplash;  Vickie Elmer for Mint.

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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.

 

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Success! De’Shaia lands in pro shows with Mint

De’Shaia Ventour, a senior at Cass Tech, started making more elaborate duct tape painting after she joined Mint and sold her work at the Palmer Park Art Fair and other Mint events. 

She still creates beautiful duct tape flower pens and wallets, but her work has gotten bigger, more elaborate and in more venues.

Her duct tape painting Black Roses will be for sale at the All Media Exhibit, beside established artists including Darren Darby, Carole Morriseau, who taught art at Cass Tech, Bryan Tillman and others.

It’s her second time in the Detroit Artists Market. She had a few pieces in the Art for the Holidays show, which just ended.

For the All Media Show, Mint has a second piece at DAM too. The Mint Red Fish mosaic was created in the Mint Creative Summer Jobs program 2018, by a group of artists including Lakiya Ealey, Jordan Johnson and Lia Massey.  Someone who buys  the mosaic fish will support Mint in hiring 12 or more youth in our creative summer jobs program this year.  (All sale proceeds for Black Roses goes directly to De’Shaia Ventour.)

The Red Fish mosaic was created in the Mint Summer Jobs 2018.

The All Media exhibit opens on Friday and is up through Feb. 15 at the Detroit Artists Market, 4917 Woodware Ave., Detroit. The show is curated by Mint co-founder and Vice President Hubert Massey.

Black Rose, a duct tape painting by De’Shaia Ventour.

The De’Shaia video was created by Mint intern Journey Shamily and is © Mint Artists Guild, 2020.