Quote for Martin Luther King Day

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Through multiple meetings with the incredibly energizing CEO of the Center for Women and Families, Denise Vazquez Troutman, I have been introduced to several sobering realities of domestic violence. Earlier this year Denise gave me a tour of the CWF main office, which includes both administrative offices and residential spaces for their clients. While we walked the Center’s halls I heard the story of her unconventional and self-designed first several months at CWF, which included working at the receiving desk where women in crisis call or come to the Center seeking protection and aid. A corporate background left Denise shocked as she learning first-hand the diverse reach of domestic abuse. Women suffering from domestic violence fall into no singular category. Victims are beaten and thrown onto laminate and marble floors alike. No specific age, race, religion, or education seems to ward off the abuse. Organizations like CWF assist these women and their children in breaking away from their dangerous relationships and establishing a healthy stable life.

The Center for Women and Families has posted a calendar of events related to this month of awareness. Click here to view the activities. If you’re not in Louisville, here are 2 national resources for you find a way to get engaged:

Direct link to YouTube clip

Women celebrate 87 years of suffrage

Tomorrow marks the 87th anniversary of the 19th amendment to the American Constitution, providing women with the right to vote.   It’s incredibly hard to believe there are still women living today who, in their lifetimes, have not been afforded suffrage.   It sounds like something tucked away in a dusty old history book, far removed from modern times.

From 9-5, the Frazier Arms Museum in Louisville is offering free admission to all women and girls in honor of Women’s Equity Day.   Crafts, interpretations, and other activities will take place before a 6:30 performance (which I don’t think is free) of “‘The Long Road to Victory’ in which Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and others come to life!   This one-woman performance showcases a story of vision, courage and tenacity.”   Click here from more details.

The best way to end this post is with a quote by a woman who, unfortunately, did not live to see the amendment enacted, but devoted much of life to ensuring the right for future generations:

“…The day will come when man will recognize woman as his peer, not only at the fireside, but in councils of the nation.   Then, and not until then, will there be perfect comradeship, the ideal union between the sexes that shall result in the highest development of the race.” – Susan B. Anthony

Happy 89th Birthday to Nelson Mandela

Today is anti-apartheid activist and former South African president, Nelson Mandela‘s, 89th birthday. I guess last night’s TV airing of “In My Country” was no coincidence.

If any one is interested, I would love to take on a portrait commission of Mandela and make a contribution to his foundation or any of the many directly related or ancillary organizations continuing the work of his legacy.

World Refugee Day

World Refugee Day, Established in 2000 by the United Nations General Assembly, is tomorrow, June 20th. Here’s a little food for thought in honor of tomorrow:

  • As of January 1 2007, UNHCR (UN High Commissioner for Refugees) reported a total of 21,018,589 people of concern to the organization (including refugees, asylum-seekers, returned refugees, internally displaced and stateless persons).   That’s nearly equal to the number of residents in the state of Texas.
  • According to the UNHCR, as of April 2007, some 2.0 million Iraqis have been forced to flee their country, and another 1.9 million are displaced internally.
  • UN officials estimate, that in Darfur, over 400,000 people have lost their lives and some 2 million more have been driven from their homes.   Here is a link to a great documentary video, “On Our Watch,” that sheds light on the life of many Darfur refugees.

There are a number of ways you can get involved in helping refugees.   I most strongly encourage you to find a refugee resettlement office in your area where you can donate furniture or other needed goods, or get more closely involved by volunteering with refugee families in your city.   They often need transportation and help getting on their feet (ie language courses, job placement, etc.)   The World Church Service or many local Catholic Charities offices are often a great place to start.

Remembering a much loved Barbaro

8″ x 12″ oil on canvas $350
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Having bought a horse with babysitting money at 13, I’ve learned a few things about these astounding creatures (rule #1, learned the hard way: always, ALWAYS wear shoes around your horse). I found that there is often a stark contrast in the way a “pet horse” is treated verses a racehorse. I’ve always been a firm believer that if they could chose, a horse would much prefer to be a pet over a designed machine whose worth is wed to its ability to make money. Barbaro’s owners, Roy and Gretchen Jackson, proved that their money-making 2006 Derby winner was also loved and respected. In a show of their commitment, the Jacksons went to exhaustive lengths to give the champion colt every possible opportunity to heal after a devastating break of his right hind leg during last year’s Preakness race. But after 8 months of surgeries, steel pins, laminitis and more, Barbaro was put down yesterday morning. It was a sad day of loss for many of his fans in the bluegrass state and elsewhere. In this press conference statement, Gretchen Jackson reminded me these thoroughbreds are sometimes just as cherished as childhood quarter-horses: “Certainly, grief is the price we all pay for love.”

Lets not linger on the somber details of the end of Barbaro’s life and instead remember his amazing success as the undefeated, 132nd Kentucky Derby winner by a rare 6 1/2 lengths, not matched since 1946 (after, I might add, 5 weeks off).

Remembering Martin Luther King Jr.

6″ x 9″ watercolor, $70 ($10 donated to The King Center, FYI, the link to this site has automatic audio)
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I hope you have found time in your day for reflection on the meaning of this holiday. If it isn’t moving to you, I can only imagine there much more for you to know about the life of Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Right Movement. This morning, I read a story on Seth Godin’s blog about the disappointing lack of recognition this day receives.

The FedEx woman stopped by my office on Friday. She wanted to know if we were going to be open on Monday.

I explained that our hours really never make sense, but that my team and I would be thinking of Dr. King and his work all day, regardless of what we were doing.

She sighed deeply and said, “Every year, we’re supposed to ask if offices are going to be open, and last year it made me so sad, I had to stop asking. I even got written up for not doing it.” It turns out that most people either said, “what holiday?” or “oh, we don’t celebrate that…”

So in honoring King, here are few things about the man you may not know, which speak to his excellence and success:

  • King received his BA in sociology from Morehouse College at age 19
  • In 1955-1956 he led a successful effort to desegregate Montgomery, Alabama, buses
  • In 1964, King became the first black American to be honored as Time magazine’s Man of the Year.
  • In 1965, King organized a mass march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, that created national support for federal voting-rights legislation
  • At the age of thirty-five, Martin Luther King, Jr., was the youngest man to have received the Nobel Peace Prize. When notified of his selection, he announced that he would turn over the prize money of $54,123 to the furtherance of the civil rights movement.
  • Delivered to over 200,000 civil rights supporters, King’s “I have a dream” speech was ranked the top American speech of the 20th century by a 1999 poll of scholars of public address.

It certainly makes me feel that regardless of how hard I think I work to make this world a better place, I’m not trying and doing nearly enough. Will I look back on my life and think that my efforts and contributions were as honorable as King’s? This day is meant to stir such questions, and I hope similar introspection has found its way into your thoughts.

Residents of historic neighborhood relive their experiences in “Portland Stories”

8″ x 10″ oil on canvas, $300 ($50 donated to Church of Our Lady)
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Over the years, the Louisville neighborhood of Portland has shifted from an original hub of commerce in the early 1800’s to a densely populated residential neighborhood. Of course, a lot has happened in between point A and point B. Many of such stories were told by the people who lived them at “Portland Stories” hosted at the historic Portland landmark, Church of Our Lady.

Seated at the stunning altar in a semi-circle were ten proud Portland residents reading from scripts as if in the early rehearsal phase of a play. The amateur performers varied in race, age, sex, education, and socio-economic background. I was delighted to see the narratives were told by residents representing the area’s diversity since my perception of Portland is that of a predominantly minority neighborhood harboring a disproportionate amount of Louisville’s homicides and other crimes. I am entitled to say this since the first apartment I can remember living in as a child hugged the Portland area. Instead of telling people the proper name of the street I lived off of, Dixie Highway, I gave them the fitting adopted name, “Dixie Die-way.” My father also grew up in the vicinity in housing projects that made for stories strikingly parallel to some told by the performers. You know, “…too skinny because ketchup sandwiches don’t get you far,” and “the shade of my cousin’s front porch was a favorite hangout on hot summer days.”

The Portland Museum played a large part in organizing the event by providing rehearsal space and transcribing the stories. It was a wonderful performance highlighting endearing chronicles of Portland. Events in this same vein are scheduled fairly often to engage the community in its lively history. Reverend John Burke conveyed that the community’s involvement is not what he would like. I’m optimistic that continued efforts, such as bringing in the Squallis Puppeteers, will entice a larger audience. Speaking of which, stay tuned for coverage of tonight’s New Year’s bash with the Squallis Puppeteers, and a happy New Year’s to you!


The Mary Byron Foundation says it’s “Time For A Change.”

8″ x 10″ oil on canvas, $200 ($50 donated to the Mary Byron Foundation)

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A handsome and cheerful crowd convened this weekend to support a foundation that battles an incredibly somber issue, domestic violence. On the 13th anniversary of Mary Byron’s murder, the foundation named in her honor celebrated its successes and roused energy for many more.

The Mary Byron Foundation is a public grant-making charity that supports services nationwide addressing domestic violence. This year’s gala event, “Time For A Change,” featured keynote speaker, actress Meredith Baxter. Through Baxter’s moving testimonial of her own battle with domestic abuse, the audience got sense of how close to home this issue is to many people we often assume are immune to its reach. Statistics like 5.3 million women, and 3.2 men being abused by an intimate partner every year bring the severity of the issue to light.

One of the greatest accomplishments of those involved in the foundation was the launch of a system called VINE. The around the clock service quickly informs victims when their offenders are released from custody or scheduled to appear in court via phone, the internet, or email. Appriss is the company responsible for the creation of VINE as well seed funding to help establish the Mary Byron Foundation. Both organizations have successfully intervened and prevented many would-be cases of abuse, or worse.

Such celebratory events must serve as medicine to mend the broken hearts of Mary’s parents (president and vice president of the foundation), who have channeled their energies into making tangible change around the crime that claimed their daughter. Out of tragedy comes triumph.

Just after the Thanksgiving feast, I’m reminded of world hunger

Wedged between modern towering structures facing the Hudson River sits a slice of Irish history that demanded a break from my walk in Battery Park this weekend. The Irish Hunger Memorial is a collage of lush native Irish flora, hard-edged design, and meandering walkways all hugging an authentic Famine-era cottage woven together to create a design “to raise public awareness of the events that led to the famine of 1845-52 and to encourage efforts to address current and future hunger worldwide.”

My sketch, from the interior of the memorial, frames one of many stones (this one engraved with a Formee’ Cross) which stands erect, mimicking the skyrises across the river in New Jersey. The oddity of thick grass and ancient stones among all of New York City’s visual frenzy contributes to a design that “communicates with the visitors on many levels, resulting in a powerful, yet flexible, framework within which to convey information encouraging action through commemoration.”
Designer Brian Tolle quickly redirected my attention from my rare morning off, back to my intent of being in New York at Thanksgiving – hunger. With that in mind, much of my focus this week will be on bringing you more artwork from the city revolving around that issue. Stay tuned.