I am a servant leader and 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.
September 2018: Artvention 2018 at Eastern Kentucky University’s Noel Studios, in honor of World Suicide Prevention Day. Over fifty participants impacted by suicide joined together to make a “I’m Still Here” banner and mixed media collages and textiles. New this year at the annual event was a videographer who captured individuals’ stories about the artworks they created. Like last year, the products of Artvention will travel to conferences and be exhibited in artistic spaces, raising awareness about suicide and prevention efforts, including post-vention events like this that I helped create and facilitate.
July 2018: Upward Bound, Eastern Kentucky University summer program, 2017 and 2018. Also, through a fortuitous meeting with staff at the Lexington Living Art and Science Center, I was connected to the University of Kentucky’s unique LexEngage program.
Spring and Fall, 2017: 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.
As a teaching artist I helped UK students interact with students at William Wells Brown via unique visual art experiences that focused on pride in themselves and the rich history of their African American Community.
In fall of 2017 I facilitated a painting panel project with LexEngage and William Wells Brown students, focused on the silk colors of the racing jerseys worn by the African American jockeys during the heyday of the Kentucky Association Racetrack, on which William Wells Brown Elementary now stands. It stood in Lexington’s East End neighborhood for more than a century before it closed in 1933 during the Great Depression.
The panels turned out so beautifully that in 2018 they were exhibited at the Kentucky Horse Park’s International Museum of the Horse, within the new Black Horsemen of the Kentucky Turf exhibit. The panels were also made into a poster, being sold to benefit the afterschool programs at William Wells Brown.
September 2017: ArtVention is a unique program I helped design and implemented through Eastern Kentucky University’s Psychology Department, focusing 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. Our first ArtVention was held September 13, 2017, in honor of worldwide suicide awareness and in honor of participants’ losses to suicide, including my own of Owen Carl Chaney, 1981-2016.
Artvention will be held annually during September, on or around World Suicide Prevention Day, September 10.
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.
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!
Present: In 2016, I made a life-changing move to Berea, Kentucky, first to complete a service year as an AmeriCorps VISTA Leader, supporting two dozen VISTA Volunteers placed in non-profits in Central and Eastern Kentucky, and then, in early 2018, accept a position as Program Director for an AmeriCorps program housed at Eastern Kentucky University’s College of Justice and Safety.
This brings my recent personal and professional goals full circle: To be a servant leader helping vulnerable individuals through service. I still hope to realize a secondary goal: to secure funding to create an underserved artists community and cooperative to empower the talented poor to become change agents, as well as stimulate dialogue about suicide awareness and homelessness, building bridges of connection and understanding within this community and providing underserved artists with both the inspiration and tools to seize their own future.