‘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
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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,’ Anonymous


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:

The Center for Women and Families engages individuals and community in the elimination of domestic violence, sexual violence and economic hardship through service, education and advocacy.

This domestic violence survivor endured unspeakable abuse and hardships inflicted by her husband, which took her years to escape.   She described walking through the doors of the Center for Women and Families as one of the scariest days of her life.   I would say, given the beautiful woman she showed herself to be in our interview, it was also one of the most pivotal days in her life, as well for her two children.

“God replaced my tears with laughter.

He replaced my fears with faith.

Now, my soul overflows with joy, peace, and thanks.”

Quote in the painting:

We were like broken winged birds when we first came through these doors.   For my safety and sanity, I had to leave everything I knew.   With the love of God, we have been loved and nurtured.


‘Women of Mass Construction,’ Virginia Durrance


11″ x 14″ oil on masonite board.
SOLD
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Gallery caption:

Women In Transition is a grassroots organization run by and for poor people working on four primary campaigns: 1. Dismantling Classism, 2. CORROC (Claiming our Rights, Reclaiming our Children), 3. Affordable Housing Trust Fund, and 4. Louisville Living Wage Campaign & Raise the Wage.

Virginia’s involvement with WIT began after years of struggling to keep custody of her two daughters.   Poverty was most often the obstacle that stood between her and her children.   Although she worked two jobs, it didn’t provide her family with their basic needs.

WIT ‘s services would have been a tremendous asset during those challenging times, but Virginia has benefited greatly from the amazing social justice advocates she has since met.   She now volunteers as a parent advocate, helping others living below the poverty level navigate the legal system as they work to maintain custody of their children.

Quote in the painting:

If I had known of an organization like this then, I wouldn’t have lost my girls.   They motivate me and inspire me.


‘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.


Call for Louisville artists

Yes, it’s merely November 08, but I’m already gearing up for next year’s Champions 4 Her.   The annual festival will take place on June 20th, 09 and my team of artists will be expanding by a few.

Champions 4 Her is an umbrella fundraiser for multiple local nonprofits that serve women and girls. The 08 walk/run festival raised over $162,000 and we pulled off a phenomenal series of vibrant street paintings that engaged community participants from each of the nonprofits benefiting from money raised.   The artwork was a tremendous attraction to the event, which wouldn’t have been possible without the professional artists who worked with each of the groups to design and create the street paintings.

I’m looking for a few more visual artists who are interested in participating as a street painting facilitator.   It entails meeting with the group you will be assigned to at their facilities for a series of sessions to collaboratively create a final design of what will go onto the pavement at Water Front Park the day of the event.   Each group will consist of some combination of clients of the organization, volunteers, and/or staff (few of whom will have any artistic experience).   This is not an opportunity for artists to showcase their own work.   The objective is to guide your group through the art-making process and give them creative license.

There are plenty more details, such as the stipend and so on.   If you are interested, or know someone how may be, please send me an email at ashley.cecil (at) gmail.com.


‘Women of Mass Construction,’ Sherry Spanyer


11″ x 14″ oil on masonite board.
SOLD
A donation from sold painting will be made to the Women’s Second Chance Scholarship Fund.

Gallery caption:

The mission of Family and Children First is to “strengthen our community by helping families with children maximize their emotional, social and physical well being through behavioral health and social services, advocacy, and prevention efforts.”

Sherry was 40 years old when her sister convinced her to press charges against the man who sexually abused her, and several of her family members, for years as a child. Although she calls the experience “’empowering,” she also found it very frightening. Therapy at FCF helped Sherry navigate her way through a stockpile of feelings keeping her from fully moving on with her life. The shame she felt left her silent during early group therapy sessions. Now she openly shares her story with new clients of FCF to help them through the same process of recovery.

Sherry’s quote in the painting:

I always thought I was the only one. I blamed myself for years. I was able to let go of the shame. It was the most nurturing place to tell my story.


‘Women of Mass Construction,’ Pae Dah


11″ x 14″’ oil on masonite board.
SOLD
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Gallery caption:

Kentucky Refugee Ministries is a resettlement agency authorized by the U.S. Dept. of State to assist refugees who have been legally admitted to the United States, as victims of warfare or other forms of persecution because of their religious or political beliefs.

Pae Dah came to Louisville as a client of KRM from a refugee camp in Thailand where she lived for two year after being forced from her home country of Burma. Although Pae Dah is still separated from several family members, and adjusting to American culture and the English language, she smiled through most of our interview as she spoke of her new found freedom.

Pae Dah’s quote in the painting;

I’ve come to Louisville and I am very happy because it is freedom.


‘Women of Mass Construction,’ Whitten Montgomery


11″ x 14″’ oil on masonite board.
SOLD
A donation from sold painting will be made to the Women’s Second Chance Scholarship Fund.

Gallery caption:

Kids Acting Against Cancer (KAAC) raises money to help the fight against cancer primarily through ticket sales to youth musical performances.

Whitten, and her sister Jaclyn, founded KAAC out of their dream to help kids and their families suffering from cancer. Inspired by their mother, Sandy (an 11 year cancer survivor), their mission is to literally act to help find the cure. The girls, along with countless other children of all ages, have put on musical productions to raise money for the charity. In addition to entertaining, they have distributed backpacks and gift packs to sick children locally as well as made generous donations to several cancer charities.

Whitten’s quote in the painting:

I wanted to find a way to use acting to help my mom. It started as something to keep our minds of it. For the first performance 30 people came and paid $3 to see us perform ‘Annie’ in my basement. To date we’ve raised $250,000 (she’s 18 years old).


‘Women of Mass Construction,’ Diana & Madison


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:

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Kentuckiana helps children reach their potential through professionally supported one-to-one relationships between youth and adult mentors.

When Diana’s daughter left for college, she set out to fill her empty nest with a child in need of her time. BBBS paired Diana with Madison, a Katrina evacuee. Diana has helped Madison through the transition to a new city under less than ideal circumstance. Aside from recreational outings, they’ve also delved into Madison’s social challenges at school. The two journal together about what makes Madison angry. Then, they shift the focus to positive thoughts about the people in Madison’s life. Although these experiences are meant for Madison’s wellbeing, Diana admits they’ve equally benefited her.

Quote in the painting:

‘She’s here! She’s here!’ I’ve never had someone so excited to see me. It’s wonderful to make a difference in her life.


‘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.


‘Women of Mass Construction,’ Alexis & Kelsey


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

Gallery caption:

Alexis and Kelsey, Court Appointed Special Advocates of Jefferson County
The Court Appointed Special Advocates program provides training and support to volunteer advocates who serve as a voice in court for the best interests of abused and/or neglected children through the jurisdiction of the Family Court.

These two beautiful girls played with new Easter bunnies while I listening to their grandparents tell their heart-breaking story. The toddlers’ parents’ rights were terminated by a judge due to their drug addiction. Their CASA volunteer, Robin, played a critical role ensuring the girls’ case was given thorough attention and that they were placed in a loving home. Alexis and Kelsey now live with their grandparents, who tell me “there should be more people like Ms. Robin. She should be a judge in family court.”

Quote in the painting from the girls’ grandparents:

They would have taken from place to place. We probably wouldn’t have ever seen them again.


Portrait by portrait


Now that the “Women of Mass Construction’ exhibit has come down, (and I’ve finally gotten great shoots of each of the portraits) I’m going to feature each woman one-by-one. Consider this your own private, virtual gallery tour. These women certainly deserve the spotlight.

I suppose the best place to start is with my artist’s statement:

“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.” -Rabindranath Tagore

My life long interest in art-making came to a rather dismal place three years ago when it struck me that art for art’s sake wasn’t enough anymore. At the same time I was beginning to really engage myself in the Louisville community through volunteer work. Through a process as natural as breathing, I soon reignited my love for painting with new meaning: illustrating my developing interest in social issues on canvas.

Soon I launched ashleycecil.com (‘the Painting Activist’), a personal online journal of my artwork related to activism. That initiative blossomed into a multitude of full-time opportunities to share my art for service orientated causes. One such result of this new focus was the idea for a series of celebratory portraits of women who had been touched by a charitable organization.

Art highlighting social and political leaders is abundant. However, the work of these social justice pioneers is rarely expressed through art portraying individuals they impacted. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to meet so many amazing people as a “painting activist,” and through this series I’m honored to introduce you to a handful of them.

With the generous help of many colleagues in our nonprofit community, I have been connected with the beautiful women in this series. Each has shared with me an intimate story, all with endings of positive and pivotal change aided by the services they received from their respective charitable organization.

These women have encouraged me, reminded me not to take life for granted, and reinforced that the most sacred aspects of life are the relationships we foster and nourish. I left every interview feeling that no obstacle in life was insurmountable and that my own seemingly unbearable problems were dwindled to petty inconveniences. I’m incredibly grateful to have crossed paths with and be touched by each of them.

Ashley Cecil

This project is made possible in part with funding from the Kentucky Foundation for Women.


A phenomenally successful opening

I decided that since I was going to be on my feet all night at last Friday’s ‘Women of Mass Construction‘ opening, that I wouldn’t go to the gallery until 5pm on the dot. I was about 5 minutes late and expected to be one of the first people there. It turns out I had already missed some gallery guests and was greeted by a full house. It felt like a surprise party. Between 5 and 9pm, I think there was one 10 minute span where fewer than 3 people were in my section of the gallery.

Many of the portrait subjects were there with friends, family and staff members from their respective nonprofit organization. I wish I had had more time to introduce them, but the steady flow of traffic made it pretty difficult. Nonetheless, I feel like the women really appreciated that so many people came to see the artwork about them and their stories. Thanks to those of you who came to support us!

Events like this always draw some of my favorite people, like my high school photography teacher, Mr. (Dave) Runge (who apparently biked to the gallery). I love being surprised by who I see at my art related events. It’s like Christmas with human gifts.

If you missed us on Friday, the show will be up through August at Gallery NuLu. A percentage of portrait sales will be donated to the Women’s Second Chance College Scholarship Fund. Donations to the scholarship fund will also be collected during the exhibit. Bring a friend and check it out.