Sunday, June 14, 2015

Reader, can you spare a . . .

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, California?  

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.  

Please . . . help Artiszen.  Click here to read more.  

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