Art Bag Lady Outreach & Engagement

I am an art and creative activist: an innovative, veteran arts educator, driven to open doors for and raise public awareness about marginalized folks such as the homeless, suicide survivors and bereaved, elders and at-risk kidz through art, and use collaborative art experiences to engage and empower them. I use creativity as a tool to teach, bridge gaps, foster understanding and social justice, in hopes of creating social change.

Art gives people a sense of ownership, control, identity, accomplishment, community and social engagement, and that is why I have partnered with several local social service and arts organizations to help provide this important outlet, and give these populations a voice Using my many decades of experience as a maker, exhibitor and curator of art, I also facilitate exhibitions of these accomplished artworks. By taking “outsider” art out into the community I help make their compelling stories visible, as well as build awareness and understanding.

Recent outreach: Through a fortuitous meeting with staff at the Lexington Living Art and Science Center, I am now connected to them and the University of Kentucky’s unique LexEngage program.

LEXengaged is a first-year residential program on UK’s north campus, close to downtown Lexington, in which civic engagement is applied to students’ day-to-day life. Through course readings, discussions, guest speakers, and off-campus tours, participants gain a greater understanding of the larger community, focusing on engagement, service learning and social justice.

My job as a teaching artist is to help UK students interact with students at William Wells Brown via unique visual art experiences that focus on the topic of homelessness — something near and dear to my heart.

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Spring and Fall 2017: ArtVention is a unique program I am designing and implementing through Eastern Kentucky University’s Psychology Department that will focus on visual art experiences that help suicide survivors and bereaved visually process their grief and loss, as well as build awareness of the stigma of suicide that keeps survivors and the bereaved from healing. I am designing a t-shirt and a unique healing art experience for September 2017, during suicide awareness week and in honor of Owen Carl Chaney, 1981-2016.

2013-2016: ArtSpeak was the name I chose for the unique art-related healing, empowering, creative and critical thinking programming I designed and implemented for Peace Zone Recovery Center in 2013, and the men in United Caring Services transitional housing program in 2014.  But it also expresses my unique philosophies about art, based on personal experiences as a veteran arts educator and artist challenged with mental health issues: it gives a voice to those who cannot speak, and visualizes stories that are otherwise impossible to tell. See more on ArtSpeak on Facebook.

 

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In September of 2014, I linked my ArtSpeak Art For Empowerment work with AmeriCorps by accepting a position as Project Manager for RiverBend Academy, a non-profit arts organization in Henderson, Kentucky. That contract period ended in August 2015. In 2015-2016 I used my AmeriCorps/RBA connections to launch myself as an independent teaching artist, funded by CYJS in Henderson, KY. The Center for Youth Justice and Services is a resource located at Henderson County High School that provides services for youth that have behavioral, family, and school related problems. I provided arts enrichment/empowerment/engagement activities to middle and high school aged kids at Central Learning Center/Academy, Henderson High School’s CHEERS and the Henderson County Housing Authority after school programs, where I worked with the most brave, creative, amazing kids I have ever met!

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I have since moved to Berea, Kentucky, and just finished a service year as an AmeriCorps VISTA Leader, supporting two dozen VISTA Volunteers placed in non-profits in Central and Eastern Kentucky who help them via sustainability and capacity building projects that help people out of poverty. I plan to stay in the Berea area, and continue my work with non-profits that help underserved audiences and the homeless.

My long-range goal is to secure funding to create an underserved artists community and cooperative empower the talented poor to become change agents, as well as stimulate dialogue about homelessness and build bridges of connection and understanding within the community, THEIR community.  Through working together in an artists cooperative, creating individual as well as public collaborative artworks and voluntarily, publicly sharing them, I hope to provide underserved artists with both the inspiration and tools to seize their own future.

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