What are you using as measures of your success?

Hmmm. We will consider ourselves a huge success when a few of our teens’ work show up at the DIA or MOMA or another contemporary museum. We also see success when one of our young artists or alumni has a solo or small group show at The Charles H. Wright or Galerie Camille. And we have a few other measures we are developing including average sales at an art fair that approaches $500, name recognition for Mint –  and the share of students who attend college.

How will you pay all those teens and for mentors and all the other costs of Mint?

We hustle a lot and sell a lot of art. We expect our budget to come from earned income, individual donations and foundations. We expect to win some grants. And we expect to sell a lot of art and greeting cards (based on teen art) and creative services. Live painting, caricatures and teen photographers for events, creating murals and mosaics, parties and celebrations also will bring in revenue.

As a nonprofit, we expect to use a mix of volunteers and paid staff for our activities and programs. (Right now we’re all volunteers.)  Plus we’re creative types and we will come up with new ideas and services.

And who are their teachers and instructors? 

We work with experienced artists from metro Detroit – including Dorothy Jett-Carter, who runs a small training company, Linda Buck, who has taught in an array of schools, Donald Calloway, who teaches and adores children and B.J. Foster, a Detroit artist and educator.  Muralist Hubert Massey, who’s the vice president of our board of directors, artist Paula Schubatis, sculptor Austen Brantley and other artists have spoken to our workshops.

Michigan State University’s First Amendment Clinic shares information on copyright and protecting creative work.

For new workshops we seek diverse and experienced professionals who own or lead galleries, art consulting and could make budgeting and business planning creative and fun.

Who are the teens in your program?

They are a diverse group of youth of many backgrounds and ethnicities, joined by a love of art and creativity. Many are from Detroit but they also come from Ann Arbor, Shelby Township and other suburbs. They start with a proficiency in art and a zeal to learn more about creative careers and to sell their work.

Mint recruits in several Detroit Public Schools high schools – and has artists who attend Cass Tech, Renaissance, Detroit School of Arts and Western International. Our teens attend those schools as well as Henry Ford Academy, Community High School in Ann Arbor, Ferndale High School and several private or charter schools.

For our summer jobs program, we partner with Grow Detroit’s Young Talent and hire a wider variety of youth including some who are in college. They also must have creative talent and a desire to make creative work that goes to local nonprofits and our pop ups.


Why do you expect that this nonprofit could succeed?

We have plenty of evidence, found in an organization that is our role model:  Artists for Humanity, established in 1991, hires up to 250 Boston area creative teens for projects such as designing cool new Reebok tennis shoes or a recycled paper flower installation for a major bank. About 85 of its teens are paid to paint and create art in an oversize studio during the summer.

Artists for Humanity sold or leased more than $1.5 million in fine art, design services and other creative products, and the average teen earned $2,153 in wages and or commissions in 2014. AFH senior leadership serve as Mint advisors and mentors, and have already helped four other similar organizations establish themselves.

In Detroit, Mint is creating strong partnerships with local and regional nonprofit organizations including Junior Achievement, Downtown Boxing Gym, the Sphinx Organization and the Ruth Ellis Center. And in only 18 months, we track several successful Mint alumni who are using the lessons and relationships developed Mint to thrive.

Our other hope for success comes from the diversity and commitment of our co-founders, who bring artistic, business and community building skills to Mint.

Why is this organization important and relevant now?

Mint fills a hole in the Detroit arts and nonprofit scene, which has many youth organizations focused on dance, music, theater and writing. Until now, none concentrated on visual and digital arts, or on creative career paths.

Yet Detroit has a growing array of art galleries and studios – and artists have moved to the city to live and work, drawn by affordable housing and a creative environment. This creative culture thrives but many artists do not, scraping by. We want to change that and teach young artists basic business and career skills that will raise their confidence and incomes.