A long overdue THANK YOU and Update

Brenda Ann Kenneally Uncategorized Leave a Comment

Hello friends and loved ones!

Please accept our humble apology for the long block of silence since our February 25th event. A multitude of exciting new developments have taken place here at A Little Creative Class! Before getting into ALCC’s progress, we would first like to give a huge THANK YOU to all of the incredible artists, fashionistas, musicians, and especially parents who travelled all the way from Troy so their youth could model in our Feb. 25th event. We love you all very much and hope you still love us despite the delayed expression of gratitude.

The second part of this post is dedicated to sharing our progress. Hopefully by the end you will understand all we have accomplished in the time since our Summer of 2016 Creative Round Up. It has been amazing, hectic, rewarding, and incredibly hard work, but in one short year many of our plans are becoming a reality. Scroll down the full post for more info on each of our exciting developments and opportunities to get involved!

The names of all of the artists whose work was in our basement art show were written on the dry wall in the shop. The wall has since been covered up with finished plywood, but the names will live on under the surface just as the beautiful night lives on in our minds and hearts through memories and images.

….BUT FIRST

Recap of our February 25th Fashion Show and Basement Art Gallery:

On February 25th models, young creatives, artists, photographers, and a core group of A Little Creative Class mentors and board members came together to produce the first of what we hope will be many benefit art events in our commercial space. Though it was still under deep renovation, just for one night the 236 Malcolm X Blvd. location became a magical space where our dearest friends, family, and members of the community gathered to show love to our budding non profit. The fashion show, “Rags of Light”, was a labor of love for visionary artists and our amazing new Vice President Don Shearer, who worked for months pro bono to create a collection of wearable art pieces that were inspired by A Little Creative Class’ commitment to see beauty in all things. Through the transformation of ordinary and discarded objects, Shearer created over 150 wearable art-a-facts that were walked down the runway to benefit A Little Creative Class.

The models were a mix of young people from Troy, industry professionals, and people for whom modeling has always been a dream. All of these folks were assembled and coordinated by Omer Soylemez, a student from The New School’s New Media and Design program who worked tirelessly to assist Shearer in staffing the show. Music was provided by world-renowned Bed-Stuy legends Rasheem and Friends.

Left: Rasheem and Friends. Center: The store two days before the fashion show. Right: Ellie Wells on the runway.

The combination of a generous donation from The Compass Realty Team – who worked with Kenneally to secure the Malcolm X Blvd. space – the sale of bargain basement art works, along with Shearer’s pieces helped raise a little over $2500. The money, of course, was not the point for this celebration of art and community — the real capital that we took in came from strengthening and expanding the love and support for the individuals and values of our program. The benefit also included a $50 bargain basement art sale which was made possible through a donation of prints from a community of supportive photographers.


Special thanks to The Compass Team, which included Helen Chee, Rezwan Shariff, Damon Bodine.


The models and the photographers who gave their time and talents to the event were invaluable:


Photographers
Sina Basilla
Amanda Berg
Nina Bernam
Samantha Box
Alan Chin
Maisie Crow
Meredith Davenport
Jill Freedman
Phyllis Galembo
Glenna Gordon
Gregory Halpern
Dave Hammond
Todd Heisler
Krisanne Johnson
Ed Kashi
Jasper Kerbs
Brenda Ann Kenneally
Abdul Kircher
Gillian Laub
Geddes Levenson
Andrew Lichtenstein
Andrea Morales
Meryl Meisler
Ruben Natal-San Miguel
Willie Osterman
Lisette Poole
Jessica Eve Rattner
Don Shearer
Emily Shiffer
Michelle Sui
Clarisse Tranchard
Micaela Walker
Walter Wlodarczyk
Steven Zeswitz


Models
Robert Bennett
Grace Bozza
Simon Gonzales
Shirley Henriquez
Ashley Hobbs
Muhammad Mujaddad Javed
K.A.E.
Adrienne Kanter
Jasper Kerbs
Tatiana Portugal
Nolan Reese
Adrian Saich
Gabriella Scerbo
Sabrina Scerbo
Mosi Secret
Omer Soylemez

 

CC FASHION SHOW VIDEO

If you missed the show, what remains of the items from the collection are now available here in The Shop for A Little Creative Class at 236 Malcolm X Blvd., Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn.

Special thank you to our documentary volunteers:Brian Chu, Steven Zeswitz, Walter Wlodarczyk, and Jacob Gervich.

Maspeth, NY: The new home of ALCC Residency!

We had not begun to recover from the “Rags of Light” show, when in March we formally moved into the ALCC residency space. This 8,000 sq. ft. property in Maspeth, NY will provide living space for young creatives from Upstate NY during our program months and be rented as studio space on a rotating basis in the off months to help with the residency operating costs. The space includes a 1200 sq. ft. studio space and 5000 sq. ft. outdoor space. We welcome any revenue producing ideas that will support the space during our residency down time.

The residency house in Maspeth, Queens, taken during the opening party on June 24th.

June 24th:

On Saturday, June 24th A Llittle Creative Class held a board meeting where board members, some of our Troy parents and students, and new friends got together at our Maspeth residence to discuss our collective mission. We then had a BBQ and were treated to live music by some local band Yairms, and some of their friends.

THANK YOU YAIRMS AND TRANS AM FOR ALL YOUR LOVE AND SUPPORT!

Photos from the board meeting at the residency house in Maspeth, on Saturday, June 24. 

 

Photos from the residency house in Maspeth, on Saturday, June 24. 

Board member Dana Wells and her kids visit the new Kosciuszko Bridge – just a hop away  from our new home in Maspeth.

June 25th:

We opened the shop for A Little Creative Class located at 236 Malcolm X Blvd., Bed Stuy. Sales from the shop will support the residency, in addition to the space being a platform of cultural exchange for our young residents from upstate New York. Shop hours are Thursday and Friday 3:00 pm-10:00 pm, Saturday and Sunday 10:00 am – 10:00 pm, or by appointment. Please email info@alittlecreativeclass.org.

Young people who will take part in the residency as well as those who walked in the runway show in February, came to support A Little Creative Class, including designer and ALCC Vice President Don Shearer. Shearer’s “Rags of Light” collection made especially for us, is available in the shop.

Left to right: Ellie, Shy-Shy, Brianna, Azayah, Loralei, Dasaun, Don, Adrianne, and Alexis.

Opening reception for the Shop for A Little Creative Class, that took place on Sunday, June 25.

Special thanks to the Ralphies, Big and Little, who worked very hard all spring to help with construction cleanup, and the setup of both spaces for our opening in June.

Shop Before and After:

Left: Shop then, in December 2016. Right: Shop now in June 2017

Renovations for the shop began in December 2016, then were completed in February 2017.

Throughout the long renovations, some of our friends from upstate in Troy came and helped us get ready. Seen here: Kayla and James.

More news:

In addition to our new Vice President Don Shearer (YAAAYYY!), we would like to announce new board members, Brenda Carr, an artist, registered nurse, and graduate of Mt. Holyoke and Meredith Davenport, National Geographic photographer and Professor of Photography at Rochester Institute of Technology.

Photo of Don at the Shop for A Little Creative Class, mid-renovation.

July 23-August 6th:

Board members and mentors will help us welcome the first A Little Creative Class cohort of four young people from Troy, NY, and one from Staten Island, NY. This will be our prototype class as we continue to develop our New York State community partnership plan.

In the spring of 2017, Gregory Halpern, and Willie Osterman, professors at RIT brought their art students all the way from Rochester, to be the first to visit the Maspeth residency house. Their visit dispels the myth that Maspeth is “too far to visit.”

We will be tracking our journey on Facebook and Instagram, so stay tuned!

Opportunities to get involved with ALCC:

-We are always looking for mentors — particularly over the summer to help with the residency.
-Anybody who might need a place of solitude for artist residency in the off season.
-We are looking for a full time outreach person who will work with the president to contact and build relationships with community stakeholders and youth organizations throughout Upstate NY. A monthly stipend will be provided based on experience.

-Photographers, writers, and editors to facilitate our traveling scrapbook workshop.

-We are looking for individuals to help man The Shop For A Little Creative Class on Malcolm X Blvd. and help organize pop-up sidewalk events.

Stay tuned for news of our possible sister retail and creative workshop in Troy, NY!

Other ways to help:

Direct donations can be made through our Paypal.

In addition, we are always looking for scrapbook materials, cameras, recording equipment, printers, paper, pens, wood, metal…anything that we can make art out of!

Post Election Thoughts and Actions

Brenda Ann Kenneally Uncategorized Leave a Comment

Dear Friends,

It feels like another lifetime when the Brooklyn back yard was filled with so much love and possibility and the discussion of all that A Little Creative Class could be. That was June 18, during our first creative roundup held at my now former home. At the end of a robust round table exchange, we pledged to reconvene in the Fall to begin concrete plans for ways to be ready to welcome the first group of young residents in the summer of 2017. Certainly there were logistics and specifics and finances to figure out, but we left with spirits high and in agreement that there is a definite need to partner with so many of the youths throughout New York State who feel far away from the hope of futures that offer much beyond the little that generation before them had.

The momentum built over the summer, though all the while in the background the ominous sound of election doom droned on. It was terrifying and distracting and I had so much work to do to get A Little CC up and running, and still the enormity of what was happening brought up life long internal conflicts about my professional self…and where I was supposed to be in it all.  Though in my heart, I have outgrown the role of journalist, my mind is still hardwired to respond through bearing witness. This election season felt like the post 9-11 media call to duty, when I reconciled my fractured loyalties by rooting more deeply in the personal stories and issues that I care about.

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Reflection of Troy’s Uncle Sam Parade Slide Show installed in the window of North Troy People’s History Museum

November 08, 2016

Election night came and I had decided that I needed only to be in a place that held the greatest importance for me. Like preparing to be locked in during a snowstorm or hurricane, I considered what moral ground I wanted to be hunkered down on when the results came in. Deciding not to run with the election press pack was easy compared to discerning the true social imperative of who I needed to physically stand in solidarity with on this earth-changing day.

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Little John’s Room Election Night 2016

 

It was dusk when I knew that what for two years had been called “unthinkable” would become unavoidable. I was in Troy going back and forth from my friends’  The Stocklas’ house to photograph a site-specific installation next door in the abandoned childhood home of Executive Board member Dana Wells. The installation, titled The North Central Troy People’s History Museum, traces the roots of social inequity that extend from Dutch Patroonships in 17th Century New Netherlands, up through the coming of age stories of all the kids who live on this block today.

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As the results in The States were called, I clicked the shutter in front of a glass case full of prison letters exchanged between an incarcerated 16 year- old father to be, and his 18 year -old girlfriend on the day after her church arranged for their first child to be adopted by a couple from the congregation. The circumstances that landed the boy in a man’s prison were as much about being poor and black as any accumulation of events that had piled up on his record. This turning point in the young mother’s life would have been different if she weren’t poor, white and according to her minister and the faithful around her, unable to raise her child in a two parent Christian household. Next to the letters were pages from the scrapbook of a young black woman who insisted on her right to wear a suit and tie instead of a dress to the prom held inside the juvenile placement facility where she was mandated to live for most of her teen years. On the wall near the scrapbook are pictures of the daily lives of two fourteen year of girls who became childhood sweethearts in 2002, and by 2004 had committed to co-parenting when one of the girls became pregnant by the cousin of the other. Then there is the newly minted certificate of completion issued by The Regional Transit Authority to a 50 year-old mother of eight when she began her job as a City Bus Driver. Also preserved in the museum are name tags from spells of employment at Wal- Mart and Family Dollar and housekeeping departments of various major hospitality chains, locks of shorn hair sent home from the shock unit in a State Prison Facility for minors, and contracts for goods leased at hyper-inflated prices from rent-to-own establishments that are a staple among those trying to stretch a weekly wage.

 

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I continued to document the exhibition while election discussions poured out of the radio. I considered the narrative and felt compelled to determine which of the people represented in the room would be the most vulnerable during a Trump presidency. Though I was able to make a compelling case for each…I had never heard this debate among any of the people that I would be making it for.

The idea that everybody who lives here takes on an equal share of the same bad, has held this neighborhood together through generations of trauma. While, the democracy of poverty carries a moral mandate for all who live under it to spread resources and kinship as thinly as needed, the same safety net can result in fear, social discomfort and even shame for residents who might travel too far from a community that does not judge their pain.

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When I hear the refrain “Make America Great Again” again and again on this night, while I’m in this place, I can see this means different powerful people will find new ways to distract the same powerless people from finding the courage to change courses from those that decades ago stopped leading their parents and grandparents to wider possibilities.  When I hear talk of a noble American factory worker being at odds with the liberal intellectual, I hear a futile divisiveness that reinforces a stereotypical one dimensional view of both physical and mental work. This vilification of education is out of step with an entrepreneurial and interconnected world that requires both fortitude and a healthy sense of entitlement to the vast knowledge that we have at our disposal. The same ideology that drove social and technological progress, and in many ways sealed the fate of the factory workers whose faces I see in the Museum’s 1920’s Image of Collar Stitchers at Cluett and Peabody, has already cemented generations of young people into a landscape of unskilled labor.

I am deeply saddened, though not at all surprised by the election results. The social and spiritual division that we are now experiencing as a country, I had been straddling for decades before this election. My belief that education in the purest sense is no longer a luxury, but an elemental resource in the battle to preserve civilization, was reinforced on the night of November 08, 2016. Within hours I made the decision to respond by rededicating myself to being a bridge, whenever possible, between cultures forged by inequity and to hold myself to standards of loving all who I do not agree with. I aim to become a life- long student of understanding what brings meaning to the lives of others and to offer what I learn as we come together to build A Little Creative Class.

The mission of Little Creative Class is to best addresses the challenges unique to marginalized youth as they become orientated to a wider array of cultural and social possibilities. I had not thought of Our Mission when I chose where I would plant my feet on Election Night 2016, I just knew being in Troy with the people who inspired and informed our program felt right. It has been my experience that when I am where I am supposed to be, life comes full circle in ways that I could have never planned. So on election night I finished photographing a sea of faces and institutions from Troy’s Victorian Era up through a mug shot on a jail ID some one gave me last month. As I packed up my camera gear, it became real that the election had been won on the promise of “making America great again” and I walked back to the firm ground of Our Mission and the home where this night began.

I had started the evening by going with Kayla Stocklas and her mom Deb to the local middle school, where each woman voted for the first time. Debs youngest daughter Christy, who is one of Little Creative Class’s Youth Ambassador’s had been working for weeks on the first – ever in any generation on either side of her family  –  application to a four year college. On this election night we finished the financial aid form, spell checked her essay for the 20th time and tied up all the other loose ends that dangled, and I snapped a cell phone pic as Christy pressed send.

In that moment I was so grateful for where I stood.

 

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Christy pressing send on her college application.

PLEASE BE ON THE LOOK OUT FOR/ SAVE THE DATE FOR:
A LITTLE CREATIVE CLASS ART FASHION BENEFIT EVENT

EARLY THIS SPRING in OUR TEMPORARY HOME at

236 Malcom X Blvd.

Brooklyn, NY 11221

Details and call to participate to follow in a blog post early next week… until then…

Love and Bridges,

Brenda K.

A Little Creative Class now has a Blog!!!

Brenda Ann Kenneally Uncategorized 1 Comment

We will post the latest news and events for this budding non-profit.

For bios on the new mentors, please check out our mentors page here.

Also don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow A Little Creative Class on Instagram!

On Saturday June 18, 2016 A Little Creative Class Inc. held the first in a series of Creative Round Ups for prospective mentors to meet and share ideas both concrete and conceptual, as we prepare to receive the inaugural group of young people in the summer of 2017.

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*The Round up was directly followed by A Little Creative Class Inc’s. First Executive Board meeting.

Throughout the round up I was deeply grateful to learn that almost all of the amazing mentors, who attended, have had extensive experience in engaging with young people through non-profit arts organizations. Many of the mentors also, either presently or have in the past been board members of these organizations.

The ideas the mentors shared during the meeting will be invaluable as we carry out Our Mission.

Here are a few:

“It’s important to stay away from deficit based language to describe the nature of the project and to consider “wrap around learning” and nurturing to determine what each person’s individual needs, “We should aim to acknowledge the strengths that upstate kids have and honor those as a source of empowerment for them to build on.”

“The lasting relationships that these young people will build with their mentors will sustain them when the youth return to their communities. These relationships (more than a thing that they might produce) are the “deliverables.”

* The definition of deliverable in the corporate sector, which includes non-profits – and is often as way for funders to gage the success of a non-profit organization…

“A thing able to be provided, especially as a product of a development process.”
This idea of having to justify one’s place is counter intuitive to the mission and Vision of A Little Creative Class Inc. and in our opinion it further stifles the freedom necessary to a healthy atmosphere of creative entitlement… so the above mentor quote was particularly poignant and so well put.

“We need to be aware of what not having these conversations about class, race, social issues do to young people and need to boost that awareness to start the discussion.”

“The residency is meant to offer possibility …Poverty really is the lack of possibility”

“We need to look at ways that we can partner with programs that serve the young people who would be candidates for our residency”

“We need to figure out ways for people who live in isolated communities to take advantage of arts and creative programs and not feel a class difference or that these programs are not for them.”

“In life you have to make this choice: Will I not offend anybody and not put anybody at risk and nothing changes, or will I take the risk at speaking out and defending my beliefs to actually make changes.”

“Just being in New York City and navigating it is life changing. ” There can be a great sense of accomplishment and agency in mastering it.”

PERHAPS THE MOST EFFECTIVE MESSAGE OF THE DAY CAME FROM THE HEART…

Three of our Executive Board members have come to us through their relationship to The Upstate Girls: Unraveling Collar City Documentary. Two of them, Dana and Elliott Wells attended the board meeting and during the mentor’s round up, Dana read a beautiful piece that she wrote on her cell phone in that back seat of my car during the previous night’s drive to from Troy to The Brooklyn for the meeting. Dana, who is now 28 years old and a mother of four, has been sharing her life through the Upstate Girls Documentary Project since she was 16. Dana’s writing powerfully reflected what she had learned since her own coming of age in Troy. In this “cell phone soliloquy” Dana writes her concerns about how best guide her own children through some of the pitfalls that she had to navigate as a young girl. The Following is what Dana read during the meeting and below that are links to the scrapbooks that Dana Elliott made and recorded as part of the documentary project that lead to the idea for A Little Creative Class Inc. Listening to their recorded stories after reading Dana’s writing is the most powerful way to understand the strength and insight of the young people that will build A Little Creative Class Community.

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Written by Dana Marie Wells
June 17, 2016

While I believe structure is important in day to day living and raising children I also believe that too much of anything is poison.  We live in a world where the slightest difference is frowned upon.  What happened to creativity and self-expression?  I can remember kindergarten being half days, finger painting and singing in the auditorium.  Now I watch in agony as my five-year-old cries because she doesn’t want to do homework because she’s so drained from her six-hour school day.  Children are reading and writing in Pre-K, which is certainly amazing, but the problem is if your child is not doing these things he or she is considered “behind.”  How can you be behind in life when it hasn’t even started?  Children are being taught from the very beginning that if they aren’t like the rest of the kids then they aren’t good enough or smart enough.  They are being taught that one way is the only way.  If they miss an assignment they are punished by missing recess, which is the only time they get during the day to be themselves. 

My point is that from the very beginning, our children are brainwashed into thinking that being different is bad.  I know for me I grew up within a church.  I lived in constant battle of right and wrong.  There were things I needed to do and learn on my own that I couldn’t because I was so afraid I would be making the wrong choice.  I was so focused on what others would think of me. I think that alone ruined a lot of the things I would have done and places I would have gone.  Although I am content with my life and as happy as ever with my family, I have suffered a great loss just because I felt like I couldn’t really express myself.  For instance, Brenda commented that we should take up a residency here when all is said and done and try to do something here with the kids, and automatically my brain went to “I CAN’T!”  I have to work, I have to do this, I have to do that.  This one will be upset that one will be mad.  It’s like my mind was auto-tuned to find reason why we could never.  The thought of taking a chance and entertaining it was so small that I couldn’t even imagine it in my head.  It’s like the person I was destined to be is nothing more than a small voice in my head.  Not to mention society has almost made it damn near impossible to follow your dreams.  It’s simply unaffordable.

I think this organization could help that one person with a dream, that one person who isn’t already saturated with the belief that they have to do this or they have to do that.  Our youth need to know that it’s ok to believe; it’s ok to have a dream.  Your voice matters.  Your choice matters.  It may or may not be too late for me but it’s not too late for the 15 year- old girl who wants to write a novel but her dad is an alcoholic, mother is absent and younger sister depends on her.  It’s not too late for the 17 year- old boy who wants to backpack through Europe but he thinks he can’t since all his siblings worked immediately upon becoming of age and that he would have to also. 

I am 29 years old and a mother of 4 children.  I am constantly fighting the battle of good structure and wanting my kids to simply be who they are.  It wasn’t until recently when I came to the realization that I have become a product of my own bringing up that I have had to take a step back and analyze the way I am raising my own children.  I think if it wasn’t for my youngest child I wouldn’t have even given it a second thought.  I have been blessed with a child who has been a free spirit from day one.  She is a natural born leader and I find myself struggling to keep her who she is but also teaching her that there are rules that she needs to follow because that’s just the way it is.  Every day with her is different.  There are no repeats with her.  She is the child I once was and I would give my life if it meant she could make it into adulthood without tampering with her personality.  I feel like the world really is full of opportunities but humans have become endangered in a sense.  We all have creativity within us.  We all have dreams.  Happiness isn’t written out for you, you have to find it or better yet let it find you!

Here’s a link to Dana and Her Husband Elliott’s Scrap Book – The two grew up together and in many ways their stories are intertwined.

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Creative mentors Don Shearer and Tishka Tuprera with junior visionary Dasaun Hill of Troy,NY

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Creative mentors Jamie Welford and Tishka Dupera

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Jamie quickly introduced himself to one of Don’s designs

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The day after the meeting Myself, Dana, Elliott, their four children and our friend Billie Jean and her son Dasaun, who had also come form Troy went to Rockaway Beach. It was The Well’s Family’s first time seeing he Ocean… after hours of body surfing in the rough waves I heard Elliott say to Dana “It’s better than I ever imagined it would be”.

 

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Meeting the ocean for the first time…

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From Troy NY to Times Square NY!

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Getting the bus in Chinatown for the long ride back to Troy.

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Look for details of Our Fall Fashion Party and Art Show Fundraiser with the date in December TBA…