Write to legislators with resistance postcards

Many of you are writing to your legislators expressing concerns regarding a plethora of topics deeply impacted by new leadership and proposed policy change. Thank you! If you’d like to add powerful visual messages to your snail mail efforts, Kelly Beall, the mastermind behind Design Crush, has made over 40 illustrated resistance postcards available for download on her website (here are the latest 17 and the original 24 postcards), including the one below from yours truly and a few of my person favorites from Brandy Marie Little and Allison Glancey of Strawberryluna respectively.

Pittsburgh artist Ashley Cecil's resistance postcard design for Design Crush


Strawberryluna's design for Design Crush's #resistance postcards

Happy resisting!

Cover art for Democracy and Leadership


There’s nothing like being paid multiple times for the same painting. Indeed, licensing is one of the beautiful things about being an illustrator, which is why I was thrilled to be asked by Eric Thomas Weber to license a painting from a few years back for the cover of his latest book, Democracy and Leadership: On Pragmatism and Virtue. I bet those of you who started following my work back in my “Painting Activist” days would enjoy it, so check it out.


Building People Power

Barack and Michelle Obama
8″ x 10″ oil on canvas, $350 ($50 donated to Kentucky Jobs With Justice)

By guest writer, Attica Scott, Kentucky Jobs With Justice Coordinator

I’m in DC this inaugural weekend and thinking about what this moment in history means. For two days, I sat in meetings of the National Organizers Alliance thinking about how Obama’s election is helping to advance our movements for human rights and social justice. When I see the future first family, I see community and culture. But then I walk outside and I see overwhelming amounts of fanaticism and I get concerned about what we are building power for.

Are we creating an environment that will set up Obama for failure? Will we turn our backs on him when he cannot solve all of our problems like toxins from nuclear weapon waste being dumped into the water supply of towns in New Mexico and causing cancer to its residents? Or are we building a new kind of power that demands that those of us who consider ourselves organizers hold Mr. Obama just as accountable as we do all other elected officials?

As a non-profit organization, we at Kentucky Jobs With Justice cannot engage in partisan politics. But that means we need to intensify our electoral organizing year-round in a way that says to folks that we need you involved on the regular. That we are moving from this “moment” to building “movements.”

I think that what this moment means is that we are called to rebuild and redefine community organizing. Rebuild in a way that maintains the enthusiasm that was created during the Obama campaign and acknowledges that organizing takes many different forms. Redefine in a way that recognizes the complementary nature of new forms of on-line organizing and deep-rooted ways of building relationships. It is up to us to do the hopeful work that leads to change in our communities every single day.

Kentucky Jobs With Justice
1800 W Muhammad Ali Blvd, Suite 2E
Louisville KY 40203
Check us out on MySpace

DONATE NOW at www.kyjwj.org to support economic justice & workers’ rights

‘Climate Change on Canvas’ at UN conference

As excited as I was to be a part of the Oxfam “Climate Change on Canvas” project, I was disappointed to hear outcomes from UN the conference left something to be desired.   Theo Ratcliff of Oxfam International reported, “The conference in Poznan was meant to be a key milestone between the start of negotiations in Bali last year and their conclusion at Copenhagen next year. But it has exposed a shameful lack of progress. By now, developed nations were meant to have outlined their plans for emissions reductions, finance and technology; they have failed to do so.”

I heard a similar report on NPR, which described failure between wealthy and developing countries to agree on collaborative efforts to fund and otherwise positively affect climate change (such as the Adaption Fund).   A reporter for the San Fransisco Chronicle summed up the conference with, “…they came, they talked and they departed. And that’s about it.”

For a glimpse of the conference in review on a lighter note, check out pictures of the “Climate Change on Canvas Project on the Oxfam flickr page.   I was truly impressed with the Oxfam initiative to engage artists, students and community groups in this public awareness campaign.   They get a spot in my top 5 nonprofit groups.

‘Climate Change on Canvas’

48″ x 72″ oil on canvas

I am so incredibly honored to publish this post. This enormous painting was commissioned by my favorite kind of client, a nonprofit organization. I was selected by Oxfam America to create an image that represents the connection between climate change and poverty. The work will also represent Oxfam America’s Climate Change on Canvas project at the next United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting in Poznan, Poland in December, 2008.

Oxfam America is an international relief and development organization that creates lasting solutions to poverty, hunger, and social injustice. The goal of the Climate Change on Canvas project is to use artwork and visual imagery to challenge the UN delegates to recognize the effects of climate change on the world’s poorest communities. Lacking sufficient resources, poor communities are least prepared to adapt to the most severe impacts of climate change. To learn more about Oxfam’s climate change campaign, visit www.oxfamamerica.org/climate

Oxfam America is just one of many Oxfam International affiliates who will be creating canvases for this project. Similar works of art will travel from all over the world created by professional artists, unknown artists and members of developing communities to be exhibited at the UN conference, representing a unified global movement around climate change and poverty. This piece will go to Poland and come back to the US where Oxfam plans to use art as a mobilization tool around climate change in 2009.

You should know that Oxfam is also looking for similar works from art students from around the country. If you are interested in learning more about this component of the project, email Oxfam’s Lead Student Organizer, Gabriel Barreras, at gbarreras[at]oxfamamerica[dot]org.

Thanks to Oxfam staff for contributing content for this post.

‘Women of Mass Construction,’ 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.

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

“The Unforeseen” showing tomorrow

For those Louisville residents interested in the topic of land development, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth (a statewide advocacy group) will be showing a screening of the documentary The Unforeseen at the Kentucky Center for the Arts tomorrow, Aug. 24.

The film is an fair and unbiased look at both sides of the story of transformation in the landscape of Austin, Texas as big plans were set in motion in the 1970’s and 80’s to develop a residential neighborhood. As I would imagine is always the case with land development, there was a polarization of opinions and beliefs that threw politics and law in to the messy mix. Click here to watch a preview of the film from a PBS interview with the director.

A private reception with the director, Laura Dunn, will begin at 6:00 at Bomhard Theater (tickets for the reception are $100). The screening will begin at 7:30, followed by a panel discussion with the filmmaker as well as local authorities on land use policy, economic development, and environmental impact. General admission tickets are $15. Click here for more details.

The film title was inspired by a poem from Kentucky writer and environmental activist, Wendell Berry, who wrote,

“I walked the deserted prospect of the modern mind. Where nothing lived or happened that had not be foreseen. What had been foreseen was the coming of the stranger with money. All that had been before had been destroyed. A new earth had appeared in place of the old made entirely according to plan.”

You WILL have morals!

A close friend, immersed in philanthropy through her job at a charitable foundation, sent me this editorial piece in the Wall Street Journal that resulted in some very interesting dialog about corporate social responsibility (CRS, or just CR, as I refer to it). The piece, entitled “Do Good — or Else” is a shallow look at where the responsibility falls in the corporate world where many companies have a powerful social impact. Initiating interest for the article is was a recent decision by the president of Indonesia “to sign a bill this month requiring companies to spend money on ‘corporate social responsibility’ programs. It would be the first instance we know of world-wide that CSR is mandated by law.”

I’m incredibly interested in this topic and for months have been trying to get through a rather dry book about CR, called The High-Purpose Company, by Christine Arena (although “dry” is not meant to deter you, by virtue of the subject, it’s simply not Harry Potter). Arena highlights companies blazing through all obstacles obstructing the way to the highest profit, crippling many bystanders and the environment along the way. The author spends just as much time, if not more, focusing on successful for-profit companies (holding their own alongside less socially conscientious peers) that have shifted directions by maintaining their fiduciary duty to shareholders while making that profit selling a product or service that alleviates a pain in the world, rather than creating one. Most aren’t this angelic, but many at least have a socially-neutral footstep, and give back in some other capacity as a result of their success.

The editorial in the WSJ specifically focuses on whether or not governments should mandate that corporations act morally. It makes my stomach turn when I think we even have to ask ourselves that. In reality, having the upper hand against your competitors means honoring your “legal” obligation (to first make money for your shareholders) trumps whatever socially negative impacts that upper hand creates. This discussion, between, let’s say, a corporate CFO and a nonprofit program director would just go in circles, as it has between myself and my business-finance other half.

Businesses operating “freely” in an open market have enormous potential to build thriving economies and healthy nations. They can be the lifeblood that stimulate and kick-start a peoples’ ability to participate in the growth of their own economy. Inclusion of a triple-bottom-line, foresight, personal ethics, and business incentives to encourage such behavior might thwart the need for intervention by the government. I feel that many corporations are pushing to the point that status quo has evolved into continuing with whatever unethical practices benefit the company, fully aware of the harm they create, stopping only when caught (unless they can use the power of money to change laws in their favor, making misconduct legal).

The WSJ writer said, “A corporation, after all, is just a legal designation; it’s individuals, not paper firms, who have moral responsibilities.” Agreed; so if those individuals are the executives of these corporations and it’s up to their personal determination whether or not they decide to act morally, then we’re all just left hoping they make the right choices, which is clearly not always the case. So someone, supposedly the government, has to regulate that. What other alternatives are there? Effective implementation of such regulations ideally would be on an international level so as not to put any one country at a disadvantage. Such a stupendous feat is, however, a heavier matter than my Sunday morning schedule will allow, although it certainly deserves a later look.

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.

“In My Country” is a must see

I just finished watching this wonderful movie:

“Langston Whitfield (Samuel L. Jackson) is a Washington Post journalist. His editor provocatively sends him to South Africa to cover the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings, in which the perpetrators of murder and torture on both sides during Apartheid are invited to come forward and confront their victims. By telling the unvarnished truth and expressing contrition, they may be granted amnesty…”

The film is a beautiful balance of an emotionally charged factual history with personal struggles in establishing new perceptions of race, and of complicated love. You have to see it!


“Food Stamp Challenge” a guaranteed weight loss diet for congressmen

$21 a week for food? Anyone relying on food stamps to feed themselves wouldn’t find this such a crazy idea. Apparently, this is “the amount the average food stamp recipient receives in federal assistance.”

I found a shocking article in the Washington Post detailing 4 congressmen’s experience of eating for one week on a humble $21 ($1 per meal).   The objective was to gain an understanding of the magnitude of this reality for those living it week after week.   The “Food Stamp Challenge,” presented by the House Hunger Caucus, meant “the four House members [could not] eat anything beside their $21 worth of groceries. That [meant] no food at the many receptions, dinners and fundraisers that fill a lawmaker’s week.”

The article is certainly worth a read.   I was particularly reminded of the implications such budget restrictions have on one’s   health options.   Only the poorest quality foods, laden with additives, bad fats, sugar, and refined/processed carbohydrates, are affordable. It’s an ugly equation resulting in a snowball effect of further poor and compromised quality of life.   Read for yourself; here’s a link to the article.

Venezuela, part 7

10″ x 20″ oil on canvas
See all artwork available for sale.

Traveling to Venezuela in February of this year left me perplexed about my own stance on various forms of government, capitalism, and corporate involvement in politics, the media, and foreign affairs. I met with many disadvantaged Venezuelans who made the benefits of socialism hard to dispute, if as nothing more than a transitional solution to their social and economic crisis. On the other hand, I associate with many people working for, starting, and investing in capitalist ventures who logically make solid arguments as to why competition in an open market benefits society, including who least fortunate.

Essentially, I’ve come to the conclusion that corporate responsibility is the issue at the heart of the problem. Venezuela’s poor majority has repeatedly elected a president who promises social and economic salvation. Hugo Chavez stood on a platform of free health care, education, and the availability to business opporunities; exactly what the majority of Venezuelan people want and need. It’s hard for someone in this position to consider the downfalls of socialism when children are going hungry and uneducated because there is no work (that pays a living wage) for family members. If corporations thought beyond their fiduciary duty of making money for shareholders, the social impact of their decisions would be taken into consideration. Christine Arena, author of The High Purpose Company, calls this the triple bottom line.

Going into the details of what constitutes an especially responsible or pathetic company is the start of a very long-winded spiel that you’re better served to read about in The High Purpose Company. What is worth expanding on is my endorsement for organizations that offer first-hand exposure to the countries and people grappling with these issues. Paintings, like this one, are the result of my trip to Latin America with Witness for Peace. I applaud the broad itinerary the organization compiled for the delegates with meetings and appointments covering the full gamut of political perspectives. There’s no better way to develop an informed opinion than to witness with your own eyes what is going on behind the curtain. It certainly shifted my thinking.

Michelle Obama campaigning in Louisville for hubby

As much interest as I have in politics, I don’t think I could ever tolerate the personal sacrifice that comes with the job.   Tonight I heard a devoted Michelle Obama speak about her husband and all the reasons why she fell in love with the “good-looking” “nerd” from Hawaii with the “weird name.”   For those same characteristics, she knows she needs to support her husband’s efforts in bringing his talent and passion to Americans as President.   It’s a very steep personal price to pay, but she married him because of his sincere devotion to service, therefore she feels committed stand by him as he takes it to the highest level.

Mrs. Obama is an extremely well posed, well spoken professional with a intimidating career balanced with a down-to-earth personality coming from a middle class, public school background.   It was wonderful to put a personal story with Barack Obama‘s name.   Sifting through main stream media and gossip is never enough to form an honest opinion about a politician.   Events like tonight help give clear perspective as I continue to take information about the candidates.

100 Wise Women

Myself and 99 other “wise women” heard Kentucky State Auditor, Crit Luallen, speak this morning at a “One Hundred Wise Women” breakfast.   I had planned to post a quote of inspiration from some popular philosopher, poet, or visionary from antiquity.   After hearing Crit speak, I instead decided to share with you what I found inspirational about her talk.

Given the nature of her work, Crit is inundated with statistical information about the state of Kentucky.   A very large portion of this information is terribly depressing.   I hope I have this wrong, but I swear I heard her say that 3 in 20 students in the state will graduate from high school (please, please correct me on this if my ears heard incorrectly).   In spite of such dismal facts about our state, Crit has forged on and devoted much of her self to affecting change.

Crit highlighted three crucial characteristics imperative for strong leadership that fully resonated with me that I’m sure you will appreciate as well:


All three especially remind me of traits becoming evermore important as things heat up on the campaign trail.   Kentuckianas will vote for governor later this month and, of course, presidential candidates are revved up like we’re voting tomorrow.