Guest blogger | The Short Straw

Erin Deters

Today we have a guest blogger, Erin Deters. We asked Erin to tell us about an exhibition she curated on a topic that has a lot of resonance for us all. 

Hello, my name is Erin and I am a Public Ally working in Cincinnati, Ohio, placed at Clifton Cultural Arts Center. When I began my placement at CCAC and learned that I would have a chance to create a personal project, I immediately knew I wanted to find a way to explore people’s personal struggles in this economy. I created Short Straw, an exhibit featuring artists reflecting on the emotional and professional impact the recession has had on their lives.  

 

The show featured 15 local and national artists, and was on display in CCAC’s gallery for the whole month of April. Curating Short Straw allowed me to dive into the Cincinnati arts community and has been an amazing journey.  

I was shocked and spurred to action when I discovered an article in the Wall Street Journal by Sara Murray  titled “The Curse of the Class of 2009,”  which discussed research showing that entering the job market in a poor economy impacts your career advancement and wages for a decade or more. The title of the show reflects artists’ alarm at having drawn the short straw for opportunities. 

As I engaged artists around this theme, I began to learn more about their struggles to pursue art as a career and lifestyle and not just a hobby. The show includes a Master of Fine Arts diploma transformed into a paper airplane, a series of intimate illustrations inspired by weekly trips to sell plasma, and a triptych depicting three figures interacting with life-sized slot machines/booby-traps. These works reveal the how the artists in Short Straw are combating frustration and despair with playfulness and inventive thinking. 

When I began this project I had just moved back to Cincinnati – my home town – to reevaluate my career options after a frustrating and fruitless job search in New York. Short Straw helped me explore and overcome these feelings of frustration, and also turn them on their heads by finding whimsy, delight and inventiveness instead of challenges and closed doors.  

                                                            -Erin Deters, Short Straw Curator, CCAC Program Coordinator & Public Ally Cincinnati 2010 

Promotional postcard from the show.

 

Read the CityBeat story about Erin’s show.

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A success story that’s front-page news

A program in Baltimore supported by Public Allies Maryland was the subject of a front-page story recently in The Baltimore Sun. The headline: Nine years later, a school project that many thought was only a dream becomes a reality. It’s about a project called The Dream House, and it’s a truly impressive story about what can happen when a community is determined. Here’s an excerpt:

No one thought they’d ever really do it. Not even their teacher, who helped them draft the pledge. Yet the kids and their teacher from a rough part of town incorporated, raised more than a half-million dollars, fought government bureaucracy, changed a neighborhood’s mind about inner city kids and turned a derelict eyesore into something beautiful.

Since Allies so often work behind the scenes, this story didn’t pop up on our Google Reader, and it didn’t mention Christina Drushel, Maryland Ally ’10. But we found out about it from Program Manager Laura Bumiller, and then asked Christina to tell us about the part she played in helping these youth achieve their dream. Here’s what she wrote:

Christina Drushel

“Thanks to Public Allies, I had the amazing opportunity to be placed with The Youth Dreamers. It has been my role as the Community Outreach Coordinator to go into the community and get the residents aware of and involved with the Youth Dreamers and create new and exciting ways for the Youth Dreamers to connect and better serve their community.  In order to achieve these goals, we formed the Community Engagement Team, made up of four middle school Youth Dreamers and one high school Youth Dreamer, to brainstorm and implement events, such as Info Nights, Service Days and many pavement-pounding campaigns to get the word out about the Youth Dreamers, their events and community opportunities.

“It has been an amazing experience to be a part of the Youth Dreamers during this historic time in their long nine-year history.  The excitement surrounding this year is real. I can feel it every time I walk into the house or the classroom; I can see it every time there is a new furniture delivery or the students finish a project in the house; and I can hear it whenever the students laugh and cheer for their accomplishments.

“The opening of the Dream House is just the beginning of the Youth Dreamers’ mission of creating a safe and empowering place of youth.  It is a joyous feeling to know that I played a small role in making this Dream come true and it is a feeling that will bring me joy for years to come.  The Youth Dreamers have shown me that I should never be afraid to dream and I should always believe in the beauty of my dreams.”

Here’s a link to the full story. To find out more about Youth Dreamers, visit www.youthdreamers.org.

Why it’s a great idea to host an Ally

We recently collected video interviews from Public Allies sites around the country (there are currently 18 of them). Using a Flip video camera, Public Allies staff collected stories about our organization. This video contains a sampling of comments from people who supervise Public Allies at their nonprofit organizations. By watching it, you’ll get an idea of the many different roles Allies fill and the impact they have. We figured it would be a nice post to start your week, because everyone in it is happy (to have an Ally). Enjoy!

You can find details about hosting an Ally on our official website. Most sites are still accepting applications for the 2010-11 year.

Video | Why Public Allies? Episode 4

Hanaan Joplin, Chicago Ally ’10

Yet another in our series of videos asking Allies, Alumni and others: “So, what’s the point of being an Ally?” In this video, Hanaan Joplin talks about his placement at The Cara Program (also featured in Episode 3, starring his colleague Megan). Hanaan reflects on ways in which the Ally experience has challenged him to step outside his comfort zone. And, he treats us to a sampling of his rapping skills.

Why Public Allies? Episode 5

Raj Shukla, Milwaukee Ally ’03

Here’s Episode 5 in our series, which asks a variety of people to explain the value of Public Allies from their point of view. In this post Raj Shukla talks about risk-taking, community impact, and his efforts to change energy-use habits. He is the founder of a marketing firm called Brightbend and lives in Madison, Wisc. We interviewed him in March in Washington, D.C., where he took part in a gathering of Public Ally Alumni entrepreneurs.

(And yes, we know we are posting this series out of order, but unlike “Lost” you can watch any episode without losing the thread.)

Weekly Snapshot: The Secret Life of Allies

Super hero Allies

By night: Asset-Based Superheroes in San Francisco.

Lani Cardenas, San Francisco Ally Class of 2009-10, photo-documents her Team Service Project progress every week. Since using one’s assets is a Public Allies mantra, Lani and her fellow San Francisco Allies started by identifying the assets on their own team. “We decided to have everyone draw themselves as superheroes, emphasizing their skills,” said team member Lauren LePage. “Lani drew the cityscape and took the picture – she photographs our group every week, wherever we are and in whatever form. And if someone’s missing, she draws or Photoshops them in.” Here’s the  before and after snapshots from this exercise: regular folk by day (below), “super heroes” when they’re working on their service project by night. Capes are a great look for you guys!

Top photo (After): Lauren is third from left (with pen and paper), Lani is fourth from left (with dino tail). Bottom photo (Before): Lani is fourth from left and Lauren is beside her wearing green.  (Snapshots by Lani Cardenas)

xxx

By day, who would know they can strengthen communities with their bare hands?

Ally Voices: PA Los Angeles’ Ashley Smith

If you want to read a terrific blog about the Public Allies experience, let me direct you PA Los Angeles’ Ashley Smith’s True Life: I’m a Second Year Ally. Read the rest of this entry »

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