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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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Five ways to connect with a creative mentor

 

A teacher may be able to recommend a mentor – or he could become one. (Photo Photo by Monica Melton / Unsplash)

Gil Ashby figures he has mentored thousands of young people, through his career at College for Creative Studies and outside it.

The illustrator joined CCS in 1999, and was its first African American department chair. Ashby  always strives to give mentees “the notion that they have power within themselves,” he told an audience at the Detroit Institute of Arts in February. He appeared with one of his mentees, and with artist Hubert Massey, one of Mint’s co-founder.

Ashby has an impressive track record of illustrating graphic novels and children’s books and more. Read more about him in the Society of Illustrators award and feature. He has helped many CCS students with their careers.

So how does an emerging artist in Detroit land a mentor? Mint asked Ashby and the DIA panel. Here are five answers, two of them from Ashby and the rest we added ourselves:

  • “Be curious,” Ashby said. Ask questions at panels and webinars.  Seek new information and new people. Read up on the speakers beforehand. All this will make you a standout.
  • Be kind.   Your chances of landing a mentor improve if you volunteer regularly because you will meet new people.  They also improve if you bring homemade cookies to the meet-up, or offer to help your teacher after class. People are more likely to help those who are helpful.
  • Get out there. “Go where the action is,” Ashby said.  Now that things are opening up again, show up at gallery openings, at artist talks and creative group meetings and “that person will reveal himself.”  Or try Creative Mornings, the Detroit Fine Arts Breakfast Club or a university club or organization. 
  • Know what you need.  Identify the essential insights or assistance you hope to gain. A mentor could help you hone your artist’s statement or search for a job. You may want a mentor who can help you set up a website, or connect you to the decision makers at an influential museum. Or maybe you want someone who has a studio full of tools and equipment. Be clear what you are seeking and ask for a short – 15 to 30 minute – conversation about it.
  • Search online. Seek mentoring organizations and organizations local, national and international. Re:create offers free virtual mentoring for graphic designers, creative directors and more.  Detroit has many youth mentoring organizations, some based on athletics or geography or other topics. Search the National Mentoring Partnership’s database to find one.  Or look on LinkedIn and spend some time creating your professional network too.

Want more advice? Read this excellent guide to landing a mentor by Barking Up the Wrong Tree  and five tips for choosing the right mentor. Or follow these  step by step instructions on researching and approaching a professional mentor who’s a stranger, offered by coach Sabina Nawaz.  

Share your mentoring ideas with us in a comment, or send us your suggestions.

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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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Doodle and watch documentaries

Schedule time to sketch and doodle. (Photo: Unsplash)

It’s time to explore the world, to meet artists and to share our rainbows of  everyday or surprising objects .

This week’s Creativity for Challenging Times episode features three ways to add a little joy and newness into your life.  For more ideas, we recommend going back to the first one or second one to score some other ideas.

Here’s our new projects in episode nine:

Doodle.   Set your timer for 30 or 35 minutes and just daydream with your pencil.  Draw anything and everything that comes to mind. At the end of that time, head to Doodlers Anonymous or a similar drawing site to join communities and drawing challenges.   Challenge yourself to doodle for an hour a day – or 30 minutes if your schedule is slammed – every day for a week.

Dip into documentaries. Be like artist Hubert Massey and alternate between science and art subjects. Or watch these eight documentaries about Detroit.  Or tune into documentaries about artists and photographers, selected by Widewalls, an online art magazine..

Rainbow scavenger hunt. This idea from Living Arts teacher Stephanie Mae works as a competition between siblings or a challenge among art friends. Gather many items – in the rainbow of colors. Then group them and pose them and photograph them.  Post your work and be sure to tag Mint and Living Arts.

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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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Chalk creativity and creating hope

Mint Artists Blake Hern helped us launch the Cheerful Chalk Challenge with this beauty on Detroit’s East Side. (Photo: Blake Hern)

 

From hopscotch to tic-tac-toe,  there’s plenty of ways chalk can cure your boredom. It’s perfect for spring and summer activities. So we hope you join Mint Artists Guild’s Cheerful #ChalkChallenge

We launched this last week and already are seeing sidewalk art and encouraging messages in Detroit and around the country and the world, some under the #chalkyourwalk hashtag.  

So here’s two more ways to join the chalk fun and two other creative ways to engage while sheltering at home:

Chalk caricatures. Chalk is a tricky medium to work with, messy yet fun. Test your own and a friend’s artistic skills and draw each other as funny exaggerated characters, using phone photos. If you’re up for a real challenge, try doing it together – at least 6 feet apart. Funniest drawing wins all the marbles.

Have a family photoshoot.   Family photo shoots and portraits have been around for centuries for royalty and wealthy families, then for more  families through the 1960s, 1970s and 80s. Let’s bring them back.  Pastbook offers 30 creative family photo ideas. Put on your fanciest or silliest threads.  Set up your smartphone/camera and take a photo to document this monumental time in our history.

Mint Artists Michael Johnson left a positive message on his sidewalk. (Photo: Michael Johnson)

Spread the creativity and inspiration. Go around your neighborhood leaving inspiration quotes for all the world to see! You’d be surprised at how much the little positive things affects others greatly. So grab some chalk and go make a difference. 

Create your  family tree.  With everyone being safe at home, this is a perfect time to interview  relatives who live with you or call those who don’t.  Turn this into a fun interview-style activity to learn more about your roots. Use this family history questionnaire – 175 questions from Bobcats World – to start a journey of discovery.  Follow our previous posts with advice on interviewing your Grandma. 

Check back next week for more creative activities for challenging times.  If you want to recommend some, please email us your ideas!

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More creative ideas: Dance, sidewalk messages and art made from nature

Learn contemporary or traditional dance. (Photo: Murilo Bahia / Unsplash)
Join in the cheerful chalk challenge. This was created by Mint Artists’ Eleanor Aro.

 

It’s lucky week seven of our creative activities and we know you’re ready swing into spring and get outside for some of your creative activities.

So grab some sidewalk chalk, stretch your muscles and take your sketch book outdoors. Let’s get started on some new or renewed creative projects.

Create nature art.  It’s Earth Day and its springtime, so make things from nature’s bounty and beauty. Gather stones from a neighborhood park. Pick seven different leaves and lay them into an art piece. Use sticks and mud and bits and pieces gathered during a long walk to create. Or turn bunches of leaves and flowers into “nature’s paintbrushes.”  For inspiration, read the Artful Parents interview of artist Richard Shilling who calls it “land art.”  For more ideas on marking Earth Day, unsubscribe to catalogs and try more ideas from Teen Vogue.

Dance like nobody’s watching. Learn how to ballroom dance – fox trot, cha cha or other steps. Or try modern dance or tap dance – as long as your dance partner is yourself or someone who is at home with you. Dance inside – our outside. Look into one of many free online lessons from The Dance Store or Learn to Dance or others. Or check out dance options from Dance Lives in Detroit, a new local nonprofit resource.

Do a DIY day:  Create your own journal or a sketch book. This JelArts tutorial shows how to be crafty and save money by making a sketchbook at home. Paint on your favorite pair of jeans. Jimena Reno shows how to paint and turn them into a unique fashion statement.  These suggestions from Mint marketing intern Journey Shamily are crafty and creative fun ways to make the

Join in the cheerful chalk challenge. This was created by Mint Artists’ Eleanor Aro.

world your canvas. 

Create with sidewalk chalk.   Join Mint Artists Guild and several other nonprofits in the cheerful chalk challenge, a way to encourage families to go outside for activity and play and then create an upbeat message or piece of art using sidewalk chalk.  Follow all safety rules as required by state and federal mandates.  Share your chalk art on social media with the #chalkchallenge and #chalkyourwalk hashtags and send your best image to us to share. 

 

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

 

Mint cofounder Hubert Massey talks to Mint artists in our studio. (Photo © Brendan Ross for Mint)

 

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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Paint a poem and more mixed up ways to get creative

Poetry and painting go hand in hand. (Photo Trust Try Katsande / Unsplash)

We are in our sixth week of sharing creative activities for youth, for all who are staying home to stay safe.  Some of us are feeling bored and uninspired.  Others may need something different to break up our usual creative work.  Others may be wishing they could take a “spring break” from real life, but know that isn’t possible right now.

Instead, we suggest you take a break from your usual and try something inspiring or surprising – right in your home or back yard. We’ve got you covered this week with an array of offerings for all ages:

Create something random. Websites such as Art Prof, Doodle Addicts and many others offer ideas to draw. Whether it be a character, scenery, your fears or curtains billowing through a window, the possibilities are endless.  Mint marketing intern Journey Shamily, who made this recommendation, especially likes Artpromps.

Try some improv.  The Detroit Creativity Projects’ brings improv artists out to share cool games in its Improv Project new YouTube Channel.  Try one for something fresh and fun. Or check the Canadian Improv Games online training center for more improvisation ideas.

Interview your grandma.  Grandpa also could be a good person to

Spend a couple of hours interviewing your grandmother. (Photo: Ashwin Vaswani / Unsplash)

interview to learn more about your family history or to discover the most difficult moments in their lives.  Create a list of questions or draw from these 20 by Family Search.  Follow the excellent etiquette and other advice from genealogist and author Sharon DeBartolo Carmack. If you need more family history research tools, check our previous post for some excellent recommendations.

Put poetry into your painting.   Pair poetry and painting, and you have something twice as wonderful. Perhaps you will insert a line of poetry into your art work. Or perhaps your piece will be inspired by a piece of poetry.  Choose a poet whose work is filled with imagery such as Mary Oliver (try “Song for Autumn” or perhaps “Spring”)  or by Lucille Clifton (perhaps “My Dream About Time” ) or Eleanor Lerman (“That sure is My Little Dog.”)  Or maybe you want to write your own poem and then illustrate it! It is still National Poetry Month.

Look back on our five previous posts for more inspiration and look forward to more coming next week from Mint Artists Guild.

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Poetry, painting, portfolios: More creative activities

Paint quickly or leisurely and share a sliver of your life.  (Photo Ankhesenamun 96 / Unsplash)

We are weeks into our “stay home / stay healthy” quarantines and some of us may be going a little stir crazy.  Others may feel uninspired or bored.

Yet we need to following our governors’ mandates and stay away from friends, school, clubs and gatherings and coffee shops.  We still may partake of  parks – and plenty of creative activities at home.  For while our patience and peace of mind may be running out, our creativity will continue.

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use the more you have,” poet Maya Angelou said. 

So get started on one or two of this week’s creative ideas for challenging times:

Listen to poetry. Head to Poetry Out Loud and listen to old time and contemporary poems read by actors and poets. Maybe you will head to a park and listen to or read a poem. The site also has some amazing collections of poems, focused on spring and cityscapes.  We like the wide array and diversity of poets represented and appreciate the ease of searching for a poem. We wish there were more poems recordings but perhaps with another month of stay at home, stay safe, there will be!

Learn to be happier.   Yale University’s most popular class starts this week – and it will introduce anyone to the Science of Wellbeing. “We think we need to change our life circumstances to become happier,” Laurie Santos, a Yale psychology professor told CNN.  Yet it’s often the little things like social connections or gratitude that matter most. Sign up for free on Coursera; it will take about 19 hours to complete. 

Be a “two-minute genius.”   Artist and writer Danny Gregory‘s book Art Before Breakfast offers oodles of exercises and activities to encourage visual artists to create, sometimes while eating eggs or biscuits. We are savoring his exercises at lunch and dinnertime too, and recommend one the calls “Two-minute genius.” Divide a page in your sketch book into eight or ten or more squares. Then take two minutes “to draw anything you see in one of those squares….It’ll make you want to fill more and more squares every day,” Gregory wrote.  He wants us to document our lives, and in these times we should have plenty to sketch.

Work on your portfolio.   Start organizing your portfolio – whether you’re applying to colleges or seeking a gallery to represent you or expanding your creative website.  Make sure you get outside advice and share some stories behind the art you created. This advice comes from California College for the Arts.   And don’t stop at one; you may need a few different portfolios

Paint imperfectly.  Set up your paints and then set the timer for 55 minutes. Create something in an hour, and suspend all your judgment about it.  It could be messy and incomplete.  It could need another hour to get better.  The important thing is getting it going and knowing that it’s only a short time out of your day – but a time without boredom or worry or unhappiness.

We know these are not perfect for everyone. So for more ideas on creative projects for challenging times, check our first posts, which featured writing or drawing your pet,  depicting yourself as fruit, learning faceprinting and singing along to ’60s music.