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Young artist aims to spread peace through her paintings

MINNESOTA SPOKESMAN-RECORDER — Olivia Bruce is a recent graduate of Marist College and a full time artist.

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“We Partners” by Olivia Bruce
By Sheletta Brundidge

When walking in the doors of Bouquets by Carolyn Flower Shop on Selby Avenue in St. Paul, you’re awestruck by hundreds of ravishing red roses and heathy hydrangea.

The floral arrangements decorating the shelves are eye candy and they smell better than hot fish grease on Good Friday.

Hanging on the wall behind the spray is something even more dazzling however: a handful of beautiful original pictures designed by a young artist.

Carolyn Smaller, the shop’s owner, proudly declared, “Those were done by my granddaughter Olivia. She’s quite talented. She’s been drawing since she was a young girl.”

Now 23 years old, Olivia Bruce is a recent graduate of Marist College and a full time artist in Washington, D.C. She makes a living selling her signature pieces online and at craft shows.

Bruce uses water colors, markers and color pencils, acrylic and oil pints to come up with one-of-a-kind creations that have captured the attention of Michelle Obama, who selected her to design an official White House holiday tour guide several years ago.

It’s no wonder the former First Lady sought out Bruce. Her pictures are vivid, colorful, lively and fun. Her craftsmanship and skill are that of a seasoned artist twice her age.

One of her pieces, entitled Unity, depicts two women, of different ethnic backgrounds, holding hands, fingers locked, in a show of support for one another.

I want to do my part to spread joy. That’s what my artwork is all about.

In another water color drawing called Love Is, a colorful couple is embracing. The dynamics of the photo are unique because the  man in the picture is painted blue while the woman is colored orange. But as their bodies come together, the colors blend together in one unique pattern.

The pictures were so striking, we had to talk to the artist behind them to find out what inspires her to create these timeless classics.

Bruce recently sat down with Sheletta & Lindy of the Two Haute Mamas podcast and says the Love Is piece is one of her favorites. “I love it the most because of its synergy. I enjoy watching how the colors collide. The picture shows how love is intertwined and connected. Everyone has their own interpretation of what love is. This drawing is my interpretation.”

The young artist says she comes up with ideas from the strangest places, “Every piece has its own inspiration. It may be based on an iconic person like Angela Davis. Or it can be something as simple as watching the seasons change that spur me to draw something new. Inspiration comes from all parts of my life and my environment.”

Bruce says the first picture she recalls creating was a self-portrait when she was just nine years old. “My art teacher allowed us to think outside the box so I just remember picturing myself as a tree and designing my face with all different shades of brown. I entitled it Mocha Mix. It was my first sale. My grandmother bought it from me for $10. I thought that was big money back then.”

“Love Is”

[/media-credit] “Love Is”

Now she has hundreds of pieces to her credit that sell for quite a bit more than the 10 bucks.

Her latest creation, a monthly wall calendar, boasts a dozen of her favorite pieces. “My main motivation for doing this was to bring some beauty to 2019. You know, I just felt like 2018 was such an ugly year with the divisive political climate and all the school shootings. I decided to put my best artwork in one place to create this calendar. Each month, I’ve selected a different design of peaceful beauty that anyone can enjoy.

“My hope is that when people put my calendar on the wall in their office or stick it on the side of the fridge at their home, it brings a sense of love and light to their lives. I want to do my part to spread joy. That’s what my artwork is all about, lifting people up out of what may be a dark place.”

Whether it’s her picture in November of two small boys walking to school in their snowsuits or the September photo entitled Guardian Angel that shows a winged man taking care of a sick child, it’s sure to put a smile on your face.

To get check out Bruce’s calendar and see some of her original artwork, log on to her website https://www.oliviasprints.com

To listen to her entire interview with Sheletta & Lindy on their Two Haute Mamas podcast log on to their website twohautemamas.com

This article originally appeared in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

Sheletta Brundidge

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  1. Sheletta Brundidge

    Sheletta Brundidge

    February 12, 2019 at 6:44 am

    @AnOriginalOliv @MNSpokesman @NNPA_BlackPress Thanks
    for helping me get the word out… https://t.co/riG8emxstS

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Organization uses art to teach developmentally disabled

WAVE NEWSPAPERS — Located on Pacific Coast Highway, one of the busiest highways in the Los Angeles County sits an inconspicuous three-story building. Looking at the front of the building, the perception is it’s a typical office space for some paper-pushing company. But, step inside the first floor and the camouflage of the building disappears to reveal what Able ARTS Work is all about. 

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Able ARTS Work (Image by: ableartswork.org)
Able ARTS Work (Image by: ableartswork.org)

By Bria Overs

LONG BEACH — Located on Pacific Coast Highway, one of the busiest highways in the Los Angeles County sits an inconspicuous three-story building. Looking at the front of the building, the perception is it’s a typical office space for some paper-pushing company. But, step inside the first floor and the camouflage of the building disappears to reveal what Able ARTS Work is all about.

Every morning, clients, one by one, are dropped off by buses and vans coming from their homes. To start the day on a good foot, they’re greeted by the big, bright smiles of the staff and a welcoming “good morning.”

Within one room, there are people with a variety of different disabilities with varying levels of ability. Some may have an autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, intellectual or developmental disabilities, neurodegenerative disorders or other socio-emotional disorders. No matter their circumstance, they’re all ready for a day of activities.

“If you talk to our students here, they don’t view [being disabled] like a bad thing or a hindrance,” Art Instructor Ellen Bae said. “They think about it as something that’s just a part of them and they’re not ashamed to say it. They’re very aware they have a disability and they’re proud to be themselves, and I think that’s really important.”

Able ARTS Work started in 1982 in a Long Beach parks and recreation building with one music therapist, Helen Dolas, the founder, and was later joined by an art therapist and five students.

Dolas founded the program while completing her master’s degree in special education. From its humble beginnings, the organization’s services have grown and are now offered at four different locations in the Long Beach and South Bay areas.

To add to its uniqueness, each location provides different opportunities for their clients, but has overall become a safe space for the disabled with their philosophy of “love before learning.”

The Long Beach location, also known as the Achieving Results Together (ART) Center, operates on a six-month semester schedule and works a community center with each student signing up for a class or two, and then attending that class for a few weeks.

The icing on the cake is Able ARTS Works has its clients suggest classes. What they suggest, the teachers sometimes make.

“A lot of times we create them because we do something in a class and find that there’s a huge interest in it,” Katie Fohrman, program and community inclusion director, said.

“For example, we decided to do a marionette and [chose] to do a dog. So, I did the dog marionette with them and they named him Snoop, like Snoop Dogg,” Fohrman said with a laugh. “And it was so popular and they loved it so much and I found that it was so beneficial that I created an entire semester class on marionette and shadow puppet making.”

But their classes aren’t only about having fun and creating something to show people. Able ARTS Work is a program that has board-certified music and art therapists, like Fohrman, who is an associate professional clinical counselor for the program as well.

When clients are at Able ARTS Work they work on building skills and courage to do things out of their comfort zones.

Staff members like Bae and Fohrman love what they do. They’re passionate about the company’s mission and love helping their clients broaden their horizons every day.

It’s not just about art and music for them, it’s about how their clients can benefit from working with them in the long-run.

“I think they definitely gain a fellowship; they gain a partnership; and they also gain the confidence to chase their dreams and pursue what they really want to do,” Fohrman said. “A lot of our clients want to be professional artists and we provide that avenue for them. We provide that avenue for them to believe in themselves and follow their dreams.”

INFORMATION BOX

Organization: Able ARTS Work

Founder: Helen Dolas

Social Media: www.facebook.com/ableartswork

This article originally appeared in the Wave Newspapers

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Graphic Artist Georg Olden, the Black Man Who Designed a Postal Stamp

OAKLAND POST — We’ve been breaking down barriers in just about industry you can think of. However, the graphic arts industry isn’t an industry that comes to mind right away. However, while Chubby Checker was twisting thing up and Wilma Rudolph was slamming them over the net and Cassius Clay was knocking em’ out, Georg Olden was putting the pen to the paper in art form.

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Georg Olden with his design for the postage stamp commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.

By Tamara Shiloh

We’ve been breaking down barriers in just about industry you can think of. However, the graphic arts industry isn’t an industry that comes to mind right away. However, while Chubby Checker was twisting thing up and Wilma Rudolph was slamming them over the net and Cassius Clay was knocking em’ out, Georg Olden was putting the pen to the paper in art form.

Georg Eliot Olden (yes without the e) was born in Birmingham, Ala., on No­vember 13, 1920. Georg was introduced to cartooning and art while attending the all Black Dunbar High School.

He attended Virginia State College but did not finish. Instead, he took a job at the Office of Strategic Services (now the CIA) as a graphic designer. During this time, he also published cartoons in the National CIO News, The New Yorker and Esquire.

Georg said he removed the “e” from his name so that he would be noticed by magazine editors.

After World War II ended in 1945, Georg’s supervisor recommended him to the vice president of the CBS TV division and at the age of 24 he became the head art director for and one of the first African Americans to work in the newly evolv­ing television industry.

Soon after joining CBS, he was also invited to attend the San Francisco confer­ence that eventually led to the formation of the United Nations.

He was named the of­ficial graphic designer for what would be the U.N. In­ternational Secretariat.

In 1960, he joined BBDO, one of the largest advertis­ing agencies in the nation. In 1963 he left BBDO to join McCann-Erickson, another major advertising agency.

It was here where he became the first African American to design a com­memorative postage stamp for the U.S. Post Office. His stamp was a tribute to the Emancipation Procla­mation at its 100th anniver­sary.

In 1970, Olden was laid off by McCann-Erickson. Georg claimed that his fir­ing was racially motivated to prevent him from ac­quiring a senior executive status. The discrimination case failed. As it turns out, of the 21 people who were let go, 20 of them were white.

Georg then decided to reach out to the Center for Constitutional Rights, which filed a class-action lawsuit against McCann Erickson in U.S. District Court in New York.

These events caused many personal issues for Georg. By 1972, he had separated from his second wife and moved to South­ern California to start his own company.

He lived with his 28-year-old German girl­friend, Irene “Maya” Mikolajczyk. Around this time, Georg made his di­rectorial debut directing an episode of ‘The Mod Squad.’

On January 25, 1975, just days before the class-action suit was set to go to trial, Mikolajczyk shot and killed Georg in possible self-defense.

Having a strong case, she pleaded not guilty, was released on $1,000 bail and acquitted of the charge on May 14, 1975.

This article originally appeared in the Oakland Post

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Artist Makes Magic With Bottle Dolls

OAKLAND POST — Simply said, Goddess­Mother SupaQueen (yes, that’s her name) makes dolls. She got started in 2012 while living in New Orleans and drew inspiration looking at bottles in her home: wine bottles, liquor bottles, even olive oil bottles.

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GoddessMother SupaQueen with two of her bottle doll creations. Photo courtesy of the artist.

By The Oakland Post

Simply said, Goddess­Mother SupaQueen (yes, that’s her name) makes dolls.

She got started in 2012 while living in New Orleans and drew inspiration looking at bottles in her home: wine bottles, liquor bottles, even olive oil bottles.

A writer (of horror) the Oakland mother of three draws on a lively imagination and spiritual insight to create the dolls who ‘speak’ to her as she gathers the elements to complete them.

Besides the bottle itself, she relies on found objects and materials: fabric leftover from a dress made for her, sticks, tree bark she sees on walks in the city or along a beach; corn husks; even the paint she prefers comes from a store on Telegraph avenue that sells odds and ends of paint.

For the eyes of the dolls she’ll use cowrie shells, beans or pennies, having re­called the expression about an untrustworthy person who would ‘steal the pennies off a dead man’s eyes.”

Calling her business ‘Wa­ter Witch Creations Ancestor Bottles and More’, Goddess­Mother’s advice to future art­ists is ‘never half step.”

She takes her own advice in that regard as a doll may take up to two weeks to com­plete.

Response to her work is interesting, she said. The first doll she sold evoked the im­age of Yemoja, the Yoruba goddess of the ocean and the buyer said that it changed the energy in her house, giving it a feeling of peace.

She replenishes her cre­ative urge by re-reading a card written to her by a friend in the 1990s encouraging her “to take your gifts and fly.”

Water Witch Creations is proof of her flight.

This article originally appeared in the Oakland Post

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City Re-Establishes the Cultural Affairs Commission

OAKLAND POST — On July 16, the Oakland City Council passed an ordinance that re-established the Cultural Affairs Commission. This leg­islation paved the way for the body’s return after an eight-year hiatus. The ordinance included amendments that redefine du­ties, modify the membership and quorum requirements, and clarify the appointment process of the Cultural Affairs Com­mission.

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Roberto Bedoya

By Conway Jones

On July 16, the Oakland City Council passed an ordinance that re-established the Cultural Affairs Commission. This leg­islation paved the way for the body’s return after an eight-year hiatus.

The ordinance included amendments that redefine du­ties, modify the membership and quorum requirements, and clarify the appointment process of the Cultural Affairs Com­mission.

“The re-animated Cultural Affairs Commission will in­form additional implementa­tion steps of our Cultural Plan and advise on all matters per­taining to cultural and artistic development in Oakland,” said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. “Arts and culture make up the foundation of Oakland’s unique history and identity. This com­mission will play a key role in honoring that history and sup­porting Oakland’s future cul­tural and artistic health.”

The Cultural Affairs Com­mission will serve as an advi­sory body to the Mayor, City Council and City Administrator on all matters affecting cultural development in Oakland. “The Cultural Affairs Commission members will act as ambassa­dors and advocates as we lift up the role of culture in building a just and equitable city,” said Roberto Bedoya, Cultural Af­fairs Manager.

This body will work to meet the objectives of Belonging in Oakland: A Cultural Develop­ment Plan, which seeks to lift up the role of culture in building a just and equitable city, and po­sitions diversity at the heart of the work of City government.

The Cultural Affairs Com­mission will be comprised of 11 commissioners: 10 regular appointments and 1 appoint­ment selected from the Public Art Advisory Committee. Ap­pointments to the Commission will be made by the Mayor and confirmed by the Oakland City Council.

Interested applicants should apply HERE

This article originally appeared in the Oakland Post

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Freedom and Order: The Quilt Masterpieces of Gee’s Bend – Revisited

THE TENNESSEE TRIBUNE — A new exhibition has just opened at the Philadelphia Museum of Art: “Souls Grown Deep: Artists of the African American South.” It includes sculpture, painting, and some of the amazing Gee’s Bend Quilts. As the public has a new chance to view these quilts, I want people to know of a thrilling class taught by Aesthetic Realism Consultant and artist, Marcia Rackow in which she described the beauty of so many of them and placed their importance as art and for people’s lives.  In the museum/gallery classes she teaches, The Visual Arts and the Opposites, the art of the world is studied—from the masters at the Metropolitan Museum, treasures of African art, to the latest works showing in New York’s galleries—based on in the great principle stated by Eli Siegel, founder of the education Aesthetic Realism: “All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves.”

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By Alice Bernstein

A new exhibition has just opened at the Philadelphia Museum of Art: “Souls Grown Deep: Artists of the African American South.” It includes sculpture, painting, and some of the amazing Gee’s Bend Quilts. As the public has a new chance to view these quilts, I want people to know of a thrilling class taught by Aesthetic Realism Consultant and artist, Marcia Rackow in which she described the beauty of so many of them and placed their importance as art and for people’s lives.  In the museum/gallery classes she teaches, The Visual Arts and the Opposites, the art of the world is studied—from the masters at the Metropolitan Museum, treasures of African art, to the latest works showing in New York’s galleries—based on in the great principle stated by Eli Siegel, founder of the education Aesthetic Realism: “All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves.”

The particular class which I tell of now and was happy to attend in 2003 was taught by Ms. Rackow at the Whitney Museum’s exhibition “Gee’s Bend: The Women and Their Quilts,” which included 70 quilts made from 1920-1990 by descendants of slaves in rural Gee’s Bend, Alabama. Astounding in their variety and ingenuity they were described by one critic as “some of the most miraculous works of modern art America has produced.” They came to national attention with the Freedom Quilting Bee, a cooperative arising from the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s, and were sold at Bloomingdale’s and Sak’s, providing income for the quiltmakers. But they were largely forgotten until the 1990s, when they were rediscovered by art collector William Arnett and his family—and led to travelling shows which have been touring museums ever since.

Ms. Rackow described the African American women who made the quilts, and whose families were tenant farmers on the former Pettway plantation. Most grew up in log cabins with walls covered with newspapers and magazines to keep out wind and cold. Here quiltmaking, handed down over four generations, was a necessity of life, making use of old, worn-out clothes, remnants, cotton sheets and feed sacks. In a documentary shown at the Whitney, women told how nothing was thrown away: “There were no extras. We were so poor, you couldn’t imagine it.” Some walked many miles a day working in the fields.

Yet in the midst of misfortune and pain they made these beautiful quilts. All art, Eli Siegel was the philosopher to explain, arises from the deepest desire in every person: “to like the world honestly.” We saw stirring evidence for this as Marcia Rackow discussed the designs and technique of many quilts. “Out of a life of great hardship,” she said, “these women show the indomitable desire to like the world, give form to it–beautiful form.”

She read these questions about Freedom and Order from Eli Siegel’s historic Fifteen Questions, “Is Beauty the Making One of Opposites?”:

“Does every instance of beauty in nature and beauty as the artist presents it have something unrestricted, unexpected, uncontrolled?—and does this beautiful thing in nature or beautiful thing coming from the artist’s mind have, too, something accurate, sensible, logically justifiable, which can be called order?”

Said Ms. Rackow, “There is a terrific sense of symmetry and order in the quilts, and also something very unexpected, free, even mischievous.” She discussed Arcola Pettway’s “Lazy Gal” Variation 1976, a Bicentennial quilt composed like an American flag—a drama in corduroy stripes of intense, vibrant colors and also cool colors. While the pattern is regular—horizontal bands of stripes, she pointed to subtle and unexpected color combinations—one dark blue horizontal strip next to the brown is restful, but next to red it vibrates. “There is,” she said, “a true spirit of independence in the way the women quilted.” 

This was visually evident in varieties of classic and often used designs: Chinese Coins, Flying Geese, Housetop, and Lazy Gal, which I liked very much. Yet each work is unique. Annie Mae Young said: “I never did like the book patterns….I like big pieces and long strips. However I get them, that’s how I used them. I work it out, study the way to…find the colors and the shapes and certain fabrics that work out right.”

Loretta Pettway’s “Medallion” (1960), made of synthetic knit and cotton sacking is one of the most dramatic and beautiful. Said Ms. Rackow, “It looks so modern in its design. On a black background there is a narrow white rectangular border—very simple, with a rectangular shape in the center. The white band is wild—it doesn’t follow the outside shape but curves and dances in space. There are curving rows of white stitching on the black, like tiny stars in the night.”

“The rectangular shape in the center,” she pointed out, “is created by two columns of lively colored stripes—vertical on the left, horizontal on the right. Lavender, pale green, orange, bright red and black, are in a free, vibrant relation. There is an optical effect of almost opposite colors: lavender and orange and the sweetness and acidity of lavender again with green. There’s a terrific interplay of surface and depth: we go into darkness and emerge from it. It is very orderly and symmetrical, but also wonderfully mischievous: the shapes are not quite rectangular, and the stripes are uneven and curve in space. The regular is irregular, in motion. It is an amazing work.”

Ms. Rackow continued, “The women who made these quilts came to expression that shows the desire for aesthetics in the human spirit. These quilts, in their form and beauty, are an implicit criticism of the brutal economic and racial injustice these women endured.” I have learned from Aesthetic Realism that unless the opposites of freedom and order, or freedom and justice are together, horrors result.  Slaveowners in the South, after all, felt it was their freedom to own other human beings.  

I have also learned that we all have a choice when we see something in the world that is ugly and can’t be liked—we will use it either for contempt or respect. With all these women saw and endured, they made art in these beautiful quilts.  There is good freedom, even something critical—things are shaken up—but that shaking up is in behalf of respect and true order.

I was moved to tears by Lutisha Pettway’s “Bars,” 1950, denim and cotton 80×84 inches. A memorial to her husband who died, it is made from his only possessions: work clothes. The worn out, faded areas,  bleach stains, dark places where pockets and cuffs were removed, become elements of a large design. Nine vertical columns of pant legs and sleeves, patches filling out holes, and here and there a syncopated horizontal band—all make for a tremendously alive feeling: a oneness of presence and unbearable absence. Through the energetic rhythms of fabric, what emerges from the worn cloth is something that puts together abstract design and deep emotion.

What I saw and learned in this wonderful class brought to my mind these lines from Eli Siegel’s poem, “Let the Seeing Go On,” lines I see as standing for the Gee’s Bend artists and their quilts:

Take worn and tattered something 

And show it, too, unworn, untattered, 

unimpeached; 

Seen largely.

Alice Bernstein is a journalist, Aesthetic Realism Associate, civil rights historian and editor/co-author of  the book, Aesthetic Realism & the Answer to Racism. Consultant and art educator Marcia Rackow is on the faculty of the not-for-profit Aesthetic Realism Foundation. Learn more at: www.AestheticRealism.org

This article originally appeared in The Tennessee Tribune

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Google Offers Job to Davian Chester, the Artist Who Created the Viral Juneteenth Doodle

OAKLAND POST — In the new age of technol­ogy, social media networks like Twitter and Instagram are serving as effective recruiting channels. In addition, often times tal­ented candidates are finding jobs without applying the tra­ditional way. These candidates are being recruited by employ­ers through social media be­cause of their highly engaged profiles that display their ex­pertise and skills.

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Davian Chester. Photo courtesy of gossiponthis.com.
By Brittani Hunter

In the new age of technol­ogy, social media networks like Twitter and Instagram are serving as effective recruiting channels.

In addition, often times tal­ented candidates are finding jobs without applying the tra­ditional way. These candidates are being recruited by employ­ers through social media be­cause of their highly engaged profiles that display their ex­pertise and skills.

Recently, artist Davian Chester was offered a job by Google after his photo of his Juneteenth doodle went viral.

Google is known for mak­ing creative doodles for holi­days and historical milestones, but when they somehow forgot to commemorate Juneteenth, Chester decided to take mat­ters into his own hands.

“I was planning on mak­ing an art piece for it anyway, but I noticed Google did not do anything at all. And for a large company like that to cre­ate doodles for literally every­thing under the sun and have nothing at all today, I thought it was odd, ” Chester shared.

“I feel it’s very important for us to know as much as we can about our ancestors,” Ches­ter said. “So I feel Juneteenth is already something that isn’t be­ing spread across as much as it should be.

The sketch of a Black per­son’s hands breaking free of shackles formed to spell out the word “Google” went viral and by the end of the day had been shared by hundreds of thou­sands of users on social media.

Chester’s talent and viral post ended up getting the atten­tion of tech giant Google. On June 24th, just five days after his doodle went viral, Ches­ter revealed on Facebook that Google offered him a job.

This article originally appeared in the Oakland Post

Brittani Hunter From Mogul Millenial

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