|This beautiful creation by Stan Clark of |
AstroBotanical was recently on display
at Artiszen Gallery in Vallejo, California. .
During the time I was active on the Seattle Fringe Festival
Board (almost fifteen years ago, now), the Columbine shootings took place. As you probably recall, that
hellacious act was a topic of horrified conversation for many weeks. A few
months later (when everyone shuddered at just hearing the word “Columbine”), I
gave a fund-raising speech for the Festival.
While I don’t recall my actual
words, I do remember their gist: “Being involved in fringe theatre may not be a
career path for the actors and directors, may not meet audience standard, may ultimately fail on an artistic level, but one thing is for
sure: People who have the freedom and opportunity to express themselves through creating any form of art seen by others are generally not people who express themselves through violent
acts. The arts, as a creative outlet, can be salvific to people who may
feel they have no voice.”
I meant that statement from the bottom of my heart, because
I knew firsthand how self-expression in any medium that has an audience—whether
it be performance or graphic—how essential it is for a healthy self-image, which—in
turn—is a critical part of managing interior rage, anger, and discontent.
Now . . . what does the now defunct Seattle Fringe Festival have to do with Artiszen Gallery in Vallejo,
Vallejo’s population until fairly recently has been
notoriously underserved in the arts. As the first city in the country to
declare bankruptcy, it does not have funds to grant for the Arts. In fact, it doesn’t
have the funds to grant for meal or shelter programs. Its government is
barebones. When Artiszen Gallery opened a few years ago in an especially
depressed part of Vallejo, it was hailed as one-of-a-kind.
Freely opening its doors to the townspeople who lived in the
neighborhood, it has gradually become a stunning showcase for local artists who
may have no other voice in the community. Some of the artists are out of work;
some are youth who may or may not be in school; some are managing addictions
and suffer deprivation that I can hardly imagine. BUT THEY ARE ALL WELCOME
inside the gallery, and—as a result—the quality of creative work is
ASTONISHING. Artiszen is credited with changing the neighborhood it serves and
has become a local icon for the personal turnaround that comes from aspiration.
Now, my pitch: Artiszen is in the midst of raising funds to
provide classes and gallery space for aspiring youth and adult citizens of
Vallejo to show their work by means of a Kickstarter fundraiser. Do you know
how a Kickstarter Campaign works? A dollar goal is set with a timeline. People
make pledges. If the dollar goal is filled, pledges immediately come due (on donors’ pre-registered
credit cards). If the entire amount isn’t pledged, no one pays anything. They are out nothing. Zip. Zero. And—unfortunately,
so is the recipient of the Kickstarter. In this case, the gallery. It gets
nothing. Zip. Zero.
I’m asking my readers to look at this link and ask
yourselves—can I spare $25? With less
than two weeks remaining in the campaign, your small donation could be
redemptive for someone with the desire to express him or herself creatively. It
could make the difference between a life as a respected citizen and life as a disenfranchised person, even a criminal.
That sounds melodramatic, but it’s true. You're giving the gift of hope.