Paper collage art for bird-safe windows

Paper collage workshop for bird-safe windows at the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh by Ashley Cecil

I recently had the great honor of making Charley Harper-inspired paper collages with budding naturalists at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. But this wasn’t purely about crafting for the sake of creative expression; our creations were bona fide conservation tools. Yes, once laminated, the avian collages were hung on the outside of the artists’ windows to break up the reflection on glass that causes bird-window collisions (one of the leading causes of bird fatalities to the tune of up to one billion birds a year in the US alone).

The workshop came to be after the museum’s program manager learned about my work at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and asked if I would be interested in offering an art and science activity to their museum visitors. Not only did I enthusiastically say yes, I invited the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania to partake in the fun. They were on-site to take visitors out on mini birding walks and to show them how to log what they found on eBird

These kids blew me away. Not only was the activity a win for a surprisingly wide variety of ages, each and every one of them was incredibly focused on the task. I can honestly say I have never taught a workshop with such flawless success (hopefully I’m not jinxing future workshops).

Case in point, the collage above on the right was made by a girl maybe three years old. For those of you not familiar with the dexterity of toddlers, merely holding scissors at that age is a feat of great accomplishment.

And the adults were just as engaged. I think a few of them were using their kids as an excuse to get in on the action.

I’ll close with this little guy, who totally gets Charley Harper. Before I understood were he was going with his collage, I almost interjected and tried to offer help thinking he didn’t grasp the concept. Luckily, I kept my mouth shut and was wowed when I realized this kids knows what he’s doing with scissors and a glue stick.

If you’re interested in hosting such a workshop, get in touch via ashley (at) ashleycecil (dot) com.


Vote to support art and citizen science workshops for urban youth

A small action on your part can have a big impact in Pittsburgh – vote with a like to support my collaboration with the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania to offer art and citizen science workshops to urban youth – Voting has closed.

ashleycecil-aswp

Good news! I’m joining forces with another outstanding nature conservation organization to offer art and science programming for youth this spring, and you can help make it happen. The Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania and I are in the running for a “100 Days of US” grant through the Sprout Fund to support a series of workshops that fuse hands-on art activities with citizen science.

Watch our proposal video to learn more. Then, cast your vote today with a like in the upper righthand corner of the page – Voting has closed.

Your vote gets us one step closer to providing children with hands-on learning and direct interaction with nature to help them develop their own works of art that will tangibly be used as conservation tools in their own communities.

And, they’ll get to interact with live birds. You don’t want to rob a child of the opportunity of getting up close and personal with a live bird, do you?


“Louisville Counts!” benefiting Art Sparks

CH-final-small
24″x30″ oil on canvas
SOLD

While dropping  off  this portrait to my client (Gill Holland of  the Green Building)  I discovered a connection between the portrait and another project Gill has involved me in.   It turns out the children’s book I have been  asked to contribute another piece of artwork to is dedicated to the subject of this portrait, his daughter Cora.

Louisville Counts cover

The book, “Louisville Counts! A Children’s Counting & Art Book,” is a project that assembled 22 artists to create unique, child-friendly pieces of art to accompany 22 pieces of Louisville trivia. Each piece corresponds with a specific number, from 0-21, encouraging the reader to count their way through the book using everything from Muth’s Candies to baseball bats to Olmsted parks and even disco balls.

All 22 pieces  will be  on display September 4th – 25th at the Green Building Gallery and  sold in a silent auction  that runs for the duration  of the show. All proceeds from all sales of the book, as well as the gallery’s share of the sales of the corresponding artworks, go directly to Art Sparks Interactive Gallery, the children’s gallery at The Speed Art Museum.

Participating artists include: Chris Radtke, Nico Jorcino, Jacob Heustis, Cynthia Reynolds, Natasha Sud, Monica Mahoney, Gibbs Rounsavall, Bryce Hudson, Amanda Bishop, J.B. Wilson, McKinley Moore, Julius Friedman, Lloyd Kelly, Russel Hulsey, Billy Hertz, Letitia Quesenberry, Thea Lura, Sarah Lyon, Valerie Fuchs, Skylar Smith, and Stephen Irwin.

I’ll be at the opening reception on Friday, September 4th, which is a First Friday Trolley Hop (for you wine moochers out there).   I hope to see you there.


‘Women of Mass Construction,’ Stephanie & Aaliyah

Stephanie-&-Aaliyah-500x613

11″ x 14″ oil on masonite board

Gallery caption:

Project Women (now the Family Scholar House) provides housing to single mothers who are experiencing homelessness and supports them in obtaining a baccalaureate degree, thereby enabling them to break the cycle of poverty for themselves and their children.

 

Although Aaliyah coming into this world is the best thing that ever happened to Stephanie, being a committed single mother left her unable to give adequate attention to her own needs, specifically her education.   Without her college degree, Stephanie knew finding employment that would afford them stable, sufficient income was not a reality.   Project Women has provided them with housing and given Stephanie the support she needs to pursue her degree full-time.

Stephanie’s quote in the painting:

I began to believe that this was a blessing designed specifically for me.   I am now in an environment that understands the importance of education and does everything possible to help keep me on track while I pursue my dreams.


Champions 4 Her 2009 in T-minus 10 days

For months, eleven artists have been creating beautiful street paintings designs with clients and staff from the nonprofit partners of the Norton Women’s Pavilion Champions 4 Her Festival.   These designs will be translated onto the sidewalk of Witherspoon at Water Front Park the morning of Saturday, June 20th, which coincides with a 5k walk/run.

Last year’s event and street paintings were a huge success.   The goal was to raise $100,000 for the participating nonprofit partners, but instead over $170,000 was allocated to the organizations.

Join us this year to see the street paintings unfold at your feet, participate as a walker/runner, and check out all of the educational/health booths.   You can register here for the 5k.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yWhKGJkxaXM

And thank you to the artists for all of their hard work and service:


‘Women of Mass Construction,’ Joi Boyd


11″ x 14″ oil on masonite board.
SOLD
See all artwork available for sale.

Gallery caption:

Women 4 Women envisions our community as one of the best places for girls, women and their families to live and work.   This vision guides our mission, which is to dedicate ourselves to improving the health and economic well-being of women and girls by increasing awareness, expanding resources and creating solutions to strengthen our community.

Joi’s experience with Women 4 Women has been specific to their “Finance 4 Her” financial education program.   Joi started as a student, learning to more effectively manage her budget and save.   She now serves as an instructor/volunteer financial coach for the program.   Joi teaches other women how to gain the same financial independence she has established by securing their own finances.   She’s seen improvement in their quality life, as well as her own, by getting out of financial ruts, even while on the tightest budget.

Joi’s quote in the painting:

I’m going to start with this much and end with this much more.   When you write all of it down, it makes you realize what you can really do.


‘Women of Mass Construction,’ Hannah Lamppin


11″ x 14″ oil on masonite board.
Email me at ashley.cecil at gmail.com for purchasing inquiries.
A donation from sold painting will be made to the Women’s Second Chance Scholarship Fund.

Gallery caption:

Girl Scouting provides a place where today’s girls can become tomorrow’s leaders. Most girls join a local troop for fun and friendship, but they also find out about building character and self-esteem and serving their communities. In Girl Scouts, girls find a safe place to discover, connect, and take action.

Hannah has experienced the fun and games most of us associate with Girls Scouts, but the organization has also helped shape this shy young woman into budding, confident public speaker.   Her experiences with Girl Scouts have provided her with safe and supportive opportunities to tackle her Central Auditory Processing Disorder.   With encouragement and coaching from her troop leaders, Hannah’s language challenges have taken a backseat when she has given speeches across the country and even in Japan.

Hannah’s quote in the painting:

My world was certainly made a better place which has enabled me, by extension, to make the world a better place for others.   It was a very empowering feeling to think I what I said, or what I did, really mattered to these younger girls.


the ‘Ville gets green(er)

Louisville city skyline
2′ x 4′ oil on canvas
SOLD
See all artwork available for sale.

By guest writer, Mark Appleberry, of Sustain (a business dedicated to providing the resources necessary for families and individuals to live more sustainably).

“Green living can mean so many different things. It can start with buying the first re-usable shopping bag, switching to toxic free cleaning, buying from local farmers, or even giving second life to an object instead of buying new.   It starts with small decisions that can have significant impacts on the future.   Everyone we meet that is making steps towards sustainability is an inspiration.   We would like to acknowledge a few our friends, right here in Louisville, who are making great strides forward and inspiring hope along the way.

Ben and Julie Evans – The aspiring filmmaking team, along with another friend, Mark Dixon, are the creative genius behind “Your Environmental Road Trip [YERT],” www.yert.com.   These three took a year to visit all 50 states, putting themselves through extreme eco-challenges, interviewing over 800 environmental leaders, experts, and regular citizens from all walks of life, and documenting sustainability across America – as they like to say, “the good, the bad…and the weird.”   The documentary is pregnant with hope, laughter, and over 500 hours of “green” footage.   It is slated for release in full at the end of this year.   For now, satiate your curiosity with over 50 short fun films on their webpage.   For anyone interested in helping with the feature film, contact Ben at ben@yert.com.

Paul Schellenberger – An 18 year veteran of vermicomposting (worm farming), Paul is a passionate environmentalist excited about educating people about worm farming and composting in general.   Paul consulted from the outset with Breaking New Grounds, a local Louisville vermiculture operation.   You can find BNG’s compost at local Heine Brother’s Coffee shops.

John W. Moody – John is enabling sustainable living by connecting people with local farmers.   His involvement with the Whole Life Co-op., as well as his educational seminars, convey the message of “simple living”.   John regularly speaks on composting and encouraging people to think before carelessly buying, consuming, and discarding.   He and his wife also speak to young parents about raising happy, healthy children.   You can learn more about what John is doing by exploring www.wholelifeco-op.com

Green Convene – The Green Convene is non-partisan coalition to promote sustainable policies in local government.   Led by an informal steering committee of local volunteers, the Green Convene is working to coordinate and bring together the many local Louisville movements addressing a variety of sustainability issues in the Louisville Metro area.   They are always in the market for volunteers and participants and you can join here.

These are just a few of the great people and organizations in and around Louisville dedicated to helping Louisville become a greener, environmentally friendly community and we’re proud of their efforts!”

Thank you Mark!   I’ll add to that list the Green Building, Ohio Valley Creative Energy, and BrightSide (supported in part by Gallopalooza), all of which are highly worthy of your clicks.


‘Women of Mass Construction,’ Arla O’Neil


11″ x 14″’ oil on masonite board.
Email me at ashley.cecil at gmail.com for purchasing inquiries.
A donation from sold painting will be made to the Women’s Second Chance Scholarship Fund.

Gallery caption:

Because art nourishes the human spirit, the Louisville Visual Art Association enriches community life by educating people about the value and meaning of today’s visual arts and by championing artists and the creative process.

When Arla moved from Las Vegas with her mother in the 4th grade, she expected her school experience to be the same as it was in Neveda.   The transition was short of ideal, and Arla faced a rough adjustment to her new home.

Arla’s mother got her involved in the LVAA’s Children’s Free Art Classes to reconnect her with a familiar creative outlet, visual art.   Expressing her ideas on inviting sheets of empty white paper helped Arla gain control of her emotions, open up to others, and express herself creatively.

Arla’s quote in the painting:

We had just made a major move. It helped me learn to interact with others as well as to express myself. I would just forget what was going on in the crazy world or what made me angry, and create.


Nonprofits, be heard!

By guest writer, Michelle Jones of Consuming Louisville

Social Media Club Louisville is presenting a Social Media Bootcamp for Nonprofits. The workshop will cover the basics of social media including the tools and technologies needed to participate, best practices for getting organizations active in the social media space and address some of the unique benefits and challenges nonprofits have in social media from fundraising to increasing organizational awareness.

I personally became really interested in working with nonprofits on social media issues when raising money for a national nonprofit during their annual event in Louisville. I was incredibly frustrated that they had no fundraising widgets or even banners or buttons that I could easily add to Consuming Louisville. The organization also made it, in my opinion, far too hard to donate online. I didn’t and still don’t understand why an organization would put barriers to participation and information in place when social media makes sharing so easy. The only explanation I can come up with is that the organization doesn’t know and understand that the internet makes it possible to do things differenty. So it’s my sincere hope that this workshop can help Louisville nonprofits do things a bit differently, a bit better, and our city will reap the benefits.

Our plan for this bootcamp is to give Louisville nonprofit staff members information about what social media is, explore some specific social media tools and how these tools can benefit nonprofits. We’ll also go over some of the best practices for engaging in social media. Kind of “how to be a good social media citizen. We want to give Louisville nonprofits information and skills they can put into practice immediately as well as information that will help them decide what directions to focus their staff and budget on in terms of social media campaigns. In short we want to share what we know to help Louisville nonprofits so they can flourish and do even more good for Louisville.

Social Media Bootcamp for Non-Profits
Tuesday January 27, 2009
8:30AM-10:30AM

The fee for the Social Media Bootcamp for Nonprofits is $50 per person and space is limited. Register here.


‘Women of Mass Construction,’ Ashlee Swift

Ashlee-Swift
11″ x 14″ oil on masonite board

Gallery caption:

Youth Alive seeks to enhance youths’ life experiences by giving them role models and a network of support mentors to guide and direct them in their developmental years as they become our future leaders.

The organization’s executive director, Kenny Boyd, recently told me one of his top priorities for the week was securing the remainder of Ashlee’s St. Francis High School tuition. Ashlee loves attending St Francis, an educational opportunity she would have missed out on otherwise. She commends Youth Alive for bringing racial diversity to the high school’s student body.

Ashlee’s quote in the painting:

Some people give up on kids.   They don’t do that. We have mentors who pretty much become our best friends. When I see them, they always give me a big hug.

“Women of Mass Construction” was a grant-funded project I undertook in 2008 wherein I interviewed 15 women and girls who were clients of a Kentucky nonprofit that helped them make a positive transformation in their lives. After collecting their stories and photos, I painted their portraits (12 portraits; 3 paintings include 2 people), which were exhibited at Gallery NuLu in Louisville, Kentucky. Nearly all of the portrait subjects, their families, and staff of the participating charities attended the opening. Donations from gallery guests and a portion of my sales were given to the Women’s Second Chance College Scholarship Fund.


First ‘Champions 4 Her’ sets a high standard

I could hardly believe my eyes as I turned 360 degrees on Saturday to witness the behemoth project I had spent so many months coordinating unfold onto the pavement in vivid color.   This street painting festival was part of the first annual Champions 4 Her walk/run festival benefiting 10 Kentucky charities serving women and girls.

The goal was to raise $100,000.   1,680 runners, 75+ community street art participants, 9 local artists, and 1 international renowned street painter later we raised more than $150,000.   Not too shabby for a first go, eh?   To see more event photos, go to my flickr account.

Not even a week has past and I’m already hearing a buzz about being tasked with breaking a street painting Guinness World Record next year (hopefully donations raised are proportional).


Countdown to ‘Champions 4 Her’

I have spent at least the past six months coordinating the street art festival for an upcoming umbrella fundraiser for 10 Louisville nonprofits. One week from today (Saturday, June 21), ‘Champions 4 Her‘ walk/run will launch its first year at Waterfront Park.

Initially, I was asked to scout and hire an internationally renowned madonnaro (street painter) to set the festival apart from the plethora of other walk/runs in the city. I loved the idea, but immediately thought of the truly unique opportunity the concept of a street painting festival afforded clients of the 10 organizations we were raising money for. I agreed to find a feature artist for the event to draw in the media, but pitched the additional idea of having each of the beneficiary partner organizations create their own amateur street paintings depicting how their respective nonprofit assisted women and girls in our community.

The idea was not hard to sell, and soon I was also hiring a team of local artists to guide the novice nonprofit participants through the process of a creating a roughly 8′ x 12′ chalk pastel painting in one day.

I saw a lot of wide eyes as I sat in on the introductory meetings between the art teams and the artist they were paired with. This is the first time many of the participants have been to exposed to the visual arts on this level. Working with a full-time professional artist has really expanded their perception of the abilities of the arts to impact a community.

Within a few weeks I was getting concept sketches of each group’s final design. It has been such a treat to get photos in my email inbox and snail-mailbox of the art they’re designing.

You can support these wonderful organizations by registering yourself or a team to do the walk/run, or just come by and see the art in action.

I did of course hire a feature professional artist for the main street painting. Her name is Tracy Lee Stum and she will start on her piece the Wednesday before the event. Feel free to stop by Waterfront Park during the day to see her at work. She (and the other street paintings) will be in the parking lot in front of Joe’s Crab Shack.   See you June 21!


Rocking the Boat


7″ x 9″ watercolor, NFS
See all artwork available for sale.

Ok, so I admit that when a painting comes before the idea for a new post, I have to dig a little deeper to find a contextual match. This painting above of a scene in New York had me a bit stumped. I think my dad may have told me a time or two, “ask and you shall receive.” So, I asked fellow blogger, Anna Hackman of ‘Green Talk’, if she had any ideas. Oh, did she. How perfect is this:

New York City based nonprofit “Rocking the Boat uses traditional wooden boatbuilding and on-water education to allow high school age youth to develop into empowered and responsible adults. Through these mediums, Rocking the Boat empowers South Bronx students to deal with everyday realities that are often not addressed at home or in school…programs directly serve over 2,000 students and community members drawn from a range of New York City public high schools and neighborhoods…Rocking the Boat teaches, challenges, nurtures, and motivates, providing the tools to transition into the next phase of life. Kids don’t just build boats at Rocking the Boat, boats build kids.”

Way to hit the nail on the head Anna!

All too often I hear the ignorant gripe, “Programming like this is waste. We need to focus on pushing math and science.” Programs “like this” teach youth responsibility, leadership, confidence, and how to collaborate on goal-orientated outcomes. Becoming a successful adult who contributes to society entails far more than acing your SAT. I have personally witnessed many teenagers participate in such projects and become be far more articulate, social, engaged and invested in their own futures (not to mention less interested in peer-pressure induced activities like doing drugs and competing for bragging rights for the most sexual partners). It’s kind of hard to study chemistry when you’re high or 13 and pregnant. Organizations like Rocking the Boat are preparing our youth be learners who have the capacity to absorb their education.

Alright, I’ll get off my soapbox. I think I’m still a little heated about all of the recent across-the-board cutbacks (from state and federal to dried up foundation funds).

Ps-I should mention that this painting was created from a photo taken specifically of another organization certainly worth mentioning: the New York City Downtown Boathouse. Next time you’re in NYC, you should definitely going kayaking on the Hudson with their all-volunteer staff of instructors (one of whom is pretty cute. I think I may have a crush).


Happiness is…


18″ x 24″ oil on canvas, SOLD.
See all artwork available for sale.

Are you happy? Would you say you’re a happier person than a citizen of a neighboring country? How do you measure happiness?

A 2006 study calculating happiness by nation has added a new unit of measurement to the typical equation of income and access to quality health care and education. Inserting the new variable seems to be based on the theory of “what goes around, comes around.” The Happy Planet Index reminds us that we live in the environment we help create by naming ecological sustainability as one of its 3 primary indicators. No one wants to call smog-filled community without clean water home. The study “shows the relative efficiency with which nations convert the planet’s natural resources into long and happy lives for their citizens.”

A more traditional study would likely name a Scandinavian country such as Denmark the world leader of pleasure and contentment. The Happy Planet Index bestows the title to the unlikely candidate of Vanuatu, a small freckling of islands in the South Pacific that only gained its dependence from Britain and France in the 1970’s.

Analyzing life satisfaction, life expectancy, and ecological footprint yields some very surprising results. Mexico and Columbia are 2 of very few countries on the index’s world map positively denoted in green. Give their survey a spin for yourself to gain a better understanding of information collected for the study. Hopefully you are happy and/because you’re ecological footprint is petite.