As Inese and I are getting deeper into the work mode planning our next fundraiser, I want to reflect on the absolutely amazing 2015 and all the great events that took place over the past year.
The Art Makes You community grew so much! We had the kindest, brightest and most wonderful people helping us along the way (and we appreciate EVERY SINGLE SOUL who contributed to our cause and made our dream come true!!!) It feels like we are on the right track in terms of finding our mission. And I must admit it feels really good!
Art is a powerful tool, especially when combined with noble mission. The AMY project was originally put together to serve the kids through art. “Through Art To Hearts”. Oh, what a global pain it was to try to find “the right way” among the countless options! It took us some time and personal experience to shape up our idea into something that eventually became one of the most rewarding experiences! The idea of having art classes for underprivileged children was born over yet another cup of coffee during a very expressive argument and it just clicked as if it was meant to be all along. Inese kept generating ideas and I kept trashing them one-by-one until she said two words- ART CAMP! I think we both got incredibly excited to get a sense of being on to something. And so it begun…
Slowly, but surely we built up a circle of supporters who helped us during our first two fundraisers. Looking back at our very first event, we just can’t not to take a moment and relive that awesome feeling of appreciation for all of the kindness, love and devotion that our family and close friends showed us by staying by our side making the Art Makes You dream possible.
In September of 2015 we had our third fundraiser. This time the number of attendees had almost doubled and we managed to raise more money then initially expected.
The plan was to raise enough funds to sponsor three art camps for the children in need in USA, Latvia and Ukraine. With the help of our fantastic supporters, we were able to successfully have all three camps providing much needed relief and bringing unforgettable experience into the lives of over 60 children! Of course I have to mention all the adults who got involved in our project along the way, which I’ll gladly do a little later.
Our pilot camp took place in Riga, Latvia in November, 2015. Inese was restlessly working with her friends from Latvia organizing this amazing event; spooling up local celebrities to teach inspirational master-classes for the kids from the local orphanage and underprivileged families. Inese and her friend managed to get a local landmark, a grand city Library to host our two-day camp! I wish I was there, too! Here how Inese described both days of master-classes:
“ Hello friends - we are happy to announce that our first Art Makes You Art Camp was a resounding success! We had thirty children ranging from 12-16 years old join us in the two-day experience. The children heard about photography, acting, culinary arts, music, dance, fashion design, and much more. We were also privileged to have ten professional artists attend - sharing their backgrounds, what they did on a daily basis, and their vision for the arts. From the photos and quotes below, it was a terrific experience, one we believe inspired the children to invest in their creative talent and shoot for their dreams.”
...To inspire kids to shoot for their dreams! That is pricelessly what AMY is about. To give the kids the chance to dream, create, realize their dreams and …dream some more!
Back to the art camps.
The camp number two took place here, in Bellevue, WA. Since both of us, Inese and I, are coming from a completely different cultural upbringing, we were a little nervous preparing to work with the local kids. Our mission was clear and we were eager to meet with the children from the local organization, Atlantic Street Center, and have some great time teaching art, yet we had thousands little “what ifs” that added some adrenaline to our prep time. No matter how confident we were about our knowledge, intentions and our supporting team, we had no idea what kind of feedback we are about to get... And what we were about to get was beyond any words!
Our “students’ were so sincerely happy, curious and involved! Despite the fact that we all just met, by the end of the weekend we felt like we’ve been friends forever. We did some finger painting, danced, played, acted, laughed, we talked about nothing and everything! We thought we were teaching them while in reality the children were teaching us…to find joy in the new experiences, to be brave, to go for it and be proud of the results! As adults, we tend to “overthink”, we judge and put stamps. Watching these kids interact was a powerful reminder of how the world was MEANT to function: work in a team, help each other, love, respect and enjoy every moment of it! It was wonderful in many ways and we are truly blessed to get the chance to be a part of such experience.
Of course non of it would be possible without our amazing volunteers. The teaching crew has exceeded all of our expectations!
Over the course of the weekend, children have created an actual painting! Using fingers instead of a brush and the real oil paints, guided by the outstanding artist, Kimberly Temper, our young artists completed their first team masterpiece-- “The Colorful Forest”! Watching Kimberly work with the kids on their masterpiece was fascinating! Her talent and ability to engage everyone in the process were so contagious that we all left our “fingerprint” on the group painting.
We definitely will repeat it, and it definitely will be with the one and only Kimberly Temper!
Not only we got to paint together with the students, we also got to participate in a fun photography class!
The photographer, who had previously taken all of our beautiful event pictures and whose talent is as big as her heart, Mallory McDonald, came to teach her class fully loaded with all kinds of fancy equipment, stands, props and other professional bells and whistles! Kids literally got to spend time behind and in front of the camera! (We are talking about a real professional camera with the lens bigger then some of the students)! Everybody got a great insight into a profession of a photographer and a model! Just check out our photo report.
We hope Mallory will keep documenting our events capturing all the beautiful faces and the important moments!
Oh, the power of dance!
We could not believe our luck when Natalya Zrazhevskaya and Umario Diallo, the nationally and internationally known ballroom dancers confirmed that they are coming to give an intro lesson to our students! Unfortunately, my vocabulary is quite limited when I try to describe what this couple does on stage. They take your breath away! And this is exactly what they did to all of us during their master-class. Non of the kids ever had any experience with the ballroom dancing before. So when this gorgeous couple started to move inviting the rest of us to follow, everybody just freeze unable to take our eyes of these two. Anyway, it did not take long for the kids to relax and join the action.) What fun time we all had with Natalya and Umario! The lesson ended with our newly trained hip-hop dancers performing (!!!) a piece that they have just learned with their skilled teachers. We were very impressed and certainly very proud!
Our April fundraiser will definitely be a major upgrade in many ways. There will be lots and lots of fun perks to look forward to. Perhaps we all will get to experience a little Tango?
One of the most positive members of the AMY team volunteers - Olga Rublinetska.
I could go on and on describing the incredible variety of virtues and talents that this lady possesses! Olga is one of those people who are born to leave a mark and make a difference. She has a degree in Psychology, she is a dancer, a director, a writer, an actress, a social worker and so much more… She is beyond altruistic, very charming and has an outstanding sense of humor. As you may imagine, having a person like Olga committing herself to volunteer our camp was very thrilling news. Olga took on the most difficult part of our program - she incorporated elements of psychology into her drama classes! It was almost like watching a fascinating scientific experiment. Thanks to her teaching/directing/acting experience, she knew immediately how to find a right approach to every student. There was a lot of imagination, silliness and laughterinvolved. Just as we planned ( and hoped), by the end of our last day of the camp everyone were happy, exhausted, excited, sad to part and ready to meet again.
We would like to give our love and appreciation to our wonderful friends— Lana Kao and Lana Neyolova, for assisting with the camp! Many thanks to the Birch Tree Academy, Bellevue, and for providing us with the amazing space!