Category Archives: Arts

Mending Communities: Fabric Artist Clara Wainwright


“Mending Baghdad” by Clara Wainwright. Photo copyright Richard Howard.

“Mending Baghdad” by Clara Wainwright. Photo copyright Richard Howard.

Please enjoy listening to our interview.

When communities have stories to be told or wounds to be healed—and all of them do—art offers a powerful answer, a way to preserve history, a means for expressing cultural priorities, or even a sort of talisman to help people through difficult times. One might look at the AIDS Quilt as an embodiment of all three.

Fabric artist Clara Wainwright has used her art in other charitable ways, but this idea of using it to build, unite, and heal communities is a hallmark of her body of work. Witness “Mending Baghdad” (above), which Wainwright created in response to a photo of a war-battered Baghdad she saw on the cover of a newspaper during the first Gulf War. She left the quilt unfinished, gluing down pieces instead of sewing them, so that she could then use the work as a centerpiece of discussion or a catalyst for emotional release as other people finished the quilt. At various workshops around the U.S. and the U.K., participants “mended” the city of Baghdad, a potent metaphor for their sympathy and sorrow for the innocent lives lost or disrupted in the war, and a starting point for exploring their understanding of the war and its consequences.

A prominent New England textile artist, Wainwright has pieces in the permanent collections of the Boston Museum of Fine Art and others. And not long ago, Art Corps named her as one of their two 2012 Creative Activists. We hope you enjoy hearing her talk about her art and how it fits like a puzzle piece into the world around her.

“Surrounded By Water” by Clara Wainwright. Photo copyright Richard Howard.

“Surrounded By Water” by Clara Wainwright. Photo copyright Richard Howard.

Published November 7, 2012

Creativity is a Human Right: Community Art Center


“Creativity… is a human right,” says Eryn Johnson, Executive Director of the Community Arts Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Neighborhood families first founded the center in 1932. To this day the center has remained loyal to its initial mission “to cultivate an engaged community of youth whose artistic voices transform their lives, their neighborhoods and their worlds”.

Yet the pursuit of self-expression is often hindered by want of other needs. Johnson admits that maintaining the arts program in a community where many residents do not have their basic needs met is a huge challenge. In addition to art classes the center provides meals, transportation and counseling free of charge. “We have to make sure they are getting what they need, in order for them to be able to participate as fully as they really are able to.”

Watch the interview with Eryn Johnson to hear for yourself how arts education transforms far more than the life of just one child.

Listen to the podcast below:

Published July 11, 2013

A musician’s dream: Malcolm Cross and The Possibility Project


“Rehearsal for The Possibility Project’s “Stop Requested”. Photo: Agnes May Photography.

Rehearsal for The Possibility Project’s “Stop Requested”. Photo: Agnes May Photography.

Listen to the interview:

Malcolm Cross moved to Los Angeles from London for a record contract he signed with his band. Thanks to the charm of the city, the opportunities, and a lovely American woman who eventually became his wife, Malcolm never ended up leaving. Since moving to L.A, Malcolm has achieved the musician’s dream. He makes a living scoring music for films, documentaries, commercials, and playing shows with his band. He’s toured across South America, Asia, Europe and the States. Still, something seemed to be missing. Malcolm explains that, “as a professional musician it can feel like it’s all about me… it can be very egocentric. Teaching is one way to give back, especially working with something like the Possibility Project.”

The Possibility Project uses performing arts education to empower youth to give back to their communities. Although the program originally started in Washington D.C. it has since spread to cities across the U.S. as well as to cape town South Africa and Tel Aviv, Israel. The goal of the program is to create engaged community leaders. Youths join the program for a one-year period during which they write and perform their own musical theater production about their lives.

Malcolm joined the organization’s L.A. chapter as the program’s musical director. He describes his role as primarily an editor. Rather than writing or composing music for the show, he helps the teens turn their own musical ideas into a reality. Malcolm noticed that the teamwork and the intensity of the creative process required to create a show allows the participants to process many of the issues they are writing about. “As much as the content of the show, I think its this feeling of, ‘we just created this company this team of people that can rely on each other, that know each other well and who have got each other’s backs,’” says Malcolm.

“Rehearsal for The Possibility Project’s “Stop Requested”. Photo: Agnes May Photography.

Rehearsal for The Possibility Project’s “Stop Requested”. Photo: Agnes May Photography.

This past L.A. Possibility Project performance was put on by an all-foster-care cast. It was through this production that Malcolm met participant Adreanna “AJ” Patterson, co-writing the song “Shine,” which Adreanna performs in a magnificent solo. Enjoy this interview with Malcolm and AJ, and keep your eye out for the next possibility project performance near you.

Published October 3, 2013

Unique Voices, Shared Visions: Meena Nanji and GlobalGirl Media


“GlobalGirls (L-R) Ariana Seymore, Andrea Reyes, Wendy Garcia, Yasmeen Abdullah, Imani Crenshaw

GlobalGirls (L-R) Ariana Seymore, Andrea Reyes, Wendy Garcia, Yasmeen Abdullah, Imani Crenshaw

The idea that we cannot trust the images that saturate our everyday lives is cliché. We suspect the delectable vanilla ice cream in that commercial is really mashed potatoes; we know the actress making eyes at us from the cover of that magazine in the checkout lane is radiant with the grace of Photoshop. Bitter footage delivered to our screens by the news media seems to be a welcome antidote to the cloying wine of those other, clearly misleading, images. At times we still forget that the camera lens ceases to be neutral the moment someone decides where to point it, even as we rely countlessly on such decisions to give us a faithful picture of the most significant issues and events in our communities and beyond.

In the U.S., that “someone,” the average journalist, is white and male. Women and minorities continue to be vastly underrepresented in the media, especially in managerial positions, and there has been little progress toward greater diversity since the 1990s; indeed, there has even been a decline in some categories over the past few years. This incongruity hardly guarantees a panoramic view of the world. Enter GlobalGirl Media.

GlobalGirl Media is a non-profit organization working to put cameras, along with other tools of the journalistic trade, into the hands of young women from underserved communities in the U.S. and around the globe. While still in high school, program participants receive training in new media journalism, learning to speak out about the issues that affect them and their communities, and preparing to be leaders in a world that is changing rapidly with the proliferation of digital technology and social media.

One of the founders of GlobalGirl Media, award-winning filmmaker Meena Nanji, spoke to The Lamp Project about the organization, as well as her work as an artist with a commitment to finding common ground wherever she goes. Nanji has directed a number of short films, including Voices of the Morning, an experimental telling of a young woman’s coming-of-age under Islamic law, and the award-winning full-length documentary View from a Grain of Sand, which follows three Afghani women who fled the violence in their homeland to live as refugees in Pakistan. These personal stories are presented as part of the larger narrative of the violence and injustices suffered by Afghani women over the past several decades and even to this day. The Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) gradually becomes a fourth character in the documentary.

“Afghani girls in a Pakistan refugee camp in 2001

Afghani girls in a Pakistan refugee camp in 2001

“Still from View from a Grain of Sand

Still from View from a Grain of Sand

According to Nanji, the best part of traveling and engaging with people of different backgrounds is “finding shared visions in places or people where you least expect them.” In her most recent film, Here and Away, Nanji draws inspiration from different, and diverse, sources. She made the film “on a whim” while in India, after reading “Children on a Country Road,” a short story by Franz Kafka. “I was inspired by that story to transpose it into an Indian setting, and make a short film, that is shot in documentary style, though it is fiction,” Nanji explained. “I feel it captures a certain mood of a village in India, the pace of life perhaps… the many sounds that make up an environment.” However, despite the variety of projects that she pursues, Nanji’s work is unified by her ethical and intellectual commitments, her artistic vision. “I think my works are pieces of a larger, coherent ethical project, even though they may not appear that way,” Nanji said. “For the last little while I have been more open to doing projects that were not originally conceived by me, or doing work-for-hire, but I have found that if I don’t agree with their basic concept or ethics, or values, I just cannot do them. I do sometimes pursue ventures that might be sudden leads, but these always fit into my larger conceptual/ethical framework.”

Nanji’s work with Global Girl Media is an extension of the filmmaker’s ethical project; indeed, Nanji came to co-found the organization in part as a response to her experiences while making View from a Grain of Sand. “Amie Williams, who originally conceived of this idea, had actually just been in Kenya during the 2007 elections and had witnessed some horrifying violence and a girl she had been sponsoring for years was a victim to this violence,” Nanji recounted. “And so she came back wanting very much to empower girls somehow to tell their own stories. I too, after Afghanistan, felt that instead of taking people’s stories away, why not give them the tools to tell their own stories. So these ideas coincided and GGM was formed, with the idea to train girls in digital media and other low cost methods of storytelling, of so that they could have a direct voice to digital global platforms. We decided on girls as they are the most marginalized in terms of creating digital content, or even having their perspectives listened to in any way, so we thought it was a great place to start.”

At the moment, GGM has branches in Los Angeles, Chicago, South Africa, and Morocco, but the organization hopes to expand to Kenya, Mozambique, and Brazil, as well as other countries in Latin America and the Middle East. On the GGM website, one finds young women sharing their experiences and reporting on a variety of topics, including women’s rights, sexual violence, street drugs, and living with HIV. One also sees how excited they are to discover their voices and be part of the global conversations on these and other issues.

In the few short years since its founding, GGM has built an impressive record of achievements. A series on reproductive health created by the GGM participants in LA last year was distributed by PBS online. This year, GGM held its first world summit in Chicago. A number of the young women who have been a part of GGM have won prestigious awards, gone on to study film and journalism in college, and have been hired by NGOs to continue pursuing their passion. Over the summer, the LA participants worked on a series of webisodes tackling the issue of food justice, which aired in September. Meanwhile, the Moroccan branch of GGM recently produced a documentary on sexual harassment, which premiered on November 25th. These videos and many others created by GGM participants are available on the organization’s YouTube channel.

“GGM LA 2011 training: Nanji with GlobalGirls Denise Peralta and Imani Crenshaw

GGM LA 2011 training: Nanji with GlobalGirls Denise Peralta and Imani Crenshaw1

​Without diverse and unique voices, we cannot get the whole story. At the same time, we cannot understand the whole story without an appreciation for how interconnected all the parts of it really are. This makes a program like GGM indispensable, not only for the participants, but for all of us, as we try to learn the truth and make sense of this world we share.

Published January 23, 2014

On Camera with Painter Calvin Grimm


Calvin Grimm’s paintings allow viewers a window into the enduring beauty of the natural world. His work is abstract and biomorphic, striking in its use of color and line. His canvases draw their power from Grimm’s longstanding relationship with the environment. In the 1970’s, Grimm became involved in the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) as a sea-kayaking and mountaineering expedition leader in Wyoming and Alaska. His experience allowed him to facilitate young people’s understanding and appreciation of the outdoors.

Grimm believes that humans’ firsthand experience with nature is the best defense system against environmental degradation. The premise is simple: people won’t destroy what they know and care about. His work also inspires a deep regret for natural disasters that have already occurred; one painting in particular focuses on the fate of the sea creatures living in Prince William Sound in the wake of the 1989 Exxon-Valdez oil spill, a canvas that Grimm revisited 20 years later after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Grimm’s work and his experience stand as testament to the fulfillment offered by a connection with our natural world. He notes that such a connection seems conspicuously absent in many aspects of our modern life. Hopefully, Grimm’s paintings will not only inspire us to understand and appreciate nature, but also to work towards its protection – ensuring our own flourishing in the process.

Published September 19, 2013

Artist exhibit: Malcolm Cross and AJ Patterson perform “Shine”


Rehearsal for The Possibility Project's "Stop Requested". Photo: Agnes May Photography.

Rehearsal for The Possibility Project’s “Stop Requested”. Photo: Agnes May Photography.

Listen to a special performance of “Shine” just for The Lamp Project:

Adreanna Patterson’s song, “Shine,” was created under no ordinary circumstances.  The song was composed for an original musical written and performed by a cast of foster care youth.  The teens write their own stories, yet they perform each others’ instead of just sticking to their own. These shows are put on by The Possibility Project, a national non-profit dedicated to empowering youth to improve their lives and communities though preforming arts and community action.

Adreanna, who goes by AJ, first heard about The Possibility Project from her friend Jazzy, a graduate of the program. She was initially skeptical. “At first I didn’t want to do it,” she says, “because you have to do all these weird things, like act like a chicken and dance, and I was so shy back then.” Finally Adrienne joined the program, where she met the musical’s director, professional composer and musician Malcolm Cross, and her talent as a musician began to blossom.

AJ and Malcolm wrote “Shine” for her character, Sunny, a young woman who finally breaks free of an abusive relationship. Although Adreanna has never been in an abusive relationship herself, her character’s emotions are not unfamiliar to her. “I can relate to learning how to get the courage to leave a situation,” she says. “For me, being in foster care, I have been in homes that were just horrible, and I had to learn to get the courage to say, this isn’t right, I have to move out.”  The connection AJ feels to her song is apparent in the natural beauty and power her voice commands over the melody and lyrics.

Next year, Adreanna will graduate from high school with plans to attend college. She has her heart set on the Berklee School of Music for her final two years of college.  Nine out of ten foster care youth who enroll in The Possibility Project go on to graduate high school and later enroll in college. This statistic, however, is not representative of their peer group: on average, only fifty percent of youths raised in foster care nationally graduate high school. Only six percent go on to graduate from a two-year college or higher.

Rehearsal for The Possibility Project's "Stop Requested". Photo: Agnes May Photography.

Composer Malcolm Cross and cast members in rehearsal for The Possibility Project’s “Stop Requested”. Photo: Agnes May Photography.

Malcolm says he was delighted to be able to work with Adreanna. He praises her naturally beautiful voice and raw talent, which he helped mold over time into the sophisticated and powerful voice you hear in the “Shine” recording. “I’d never had anyone there to support me,” AJ says of Malcolm. “I’d never had voice lessons or taken any classes.”

Thanks to the generosity of a great artist and a wonderful organization—and of course, the perseverance and courage of a strong young lady—that’s all changed.

* * * * * * * * * *


Jeremy Simoneaux | production mixer
Frank Galvan | production sound supervisor
Jeremy Scott Olsen | voice over
Jeremy Scott Olsen | sound editor / re-recording mixer

Paula Minardi | associate producer
Kimrey Nicholson | producer

Erick Iniguez | co-coordinating producer
Ryan Metcalf | co-coordinating producer
Casey Fowler | supervising producer
Jeremy Scott Olsen | executive producer

thanks to…
Rosanne Ziering | for use of her music room
Toru Fujisaki | Malcolm’s hair (Taka Salon)

Written and performed by
Adreanna Patterson (vocals) and Malcolm Cross (piano)
Copyright 2012 by The Possibility Project

“Lamp Project Theme 2011″
Written and produced by
Nathan Schafer
copyright 2011 by Nathan Schafer

With great appreciation for our all-volunteer crew for their talent, dedication, professionalism and time

Copyright 2013 by The Lamp Project
All rights reserved

Painter Calvin Grimm: an exhibit


Abstract expressionist painter Calvin Grimm pours everything into his paintings—his emotions, his life experiences, and particularly his love and respect for nature. Though there are few recognizable forms in his paintings, it is not just abstract ideas he represents in oils. It can be something so specific as the image of oil-soaked wildlife trying to flee the aftermath of the Exxon Valdez and BP oil spills.

Here’s a short tour of three of his works.

Supporting Calvin means supporting an artist who is giving the world more than just wonderful painting. He spent decades of his life working to raise awareness and concern for our natural environment and the damage which we humans do to it. Don’t miss Samantha Pack’s article about Calvin, where he talks about his art and his beliefs about conservation. Or go enjoy the on-camera interview.

Calvin Grimm’s site
the Clearwater
the Woodstock Land Conservancy


Jeremy Scott Olsen sound editor / re-recording mixer
Ingersoll Avelino editor

Paula Minardi producer

Erick Iniguez coordinating producer
Ryan Metcalf supervising producer
Jeremy Scott Olsen executive producer

Shannah White consultant to Calvin Grimm

Calvin Grimm art and photographs used with permission and gratitude

“Twenty One Years: Exxon Valdez to BP Gulf Oil Spills”
oil on canvas

“Clearing Out the Stories”
oil on canvas

“Seeker/Sought: Deep Ocean / Deep Space Series”
oil on canvas

Calvin Grimm supports

National Outdoor Leadership School – The Leader in Wilderness Education

Hudson River Sloop Clearwater

Woodstock Land Conservancy

“I’ve Always Known”
written and produced by Nathan Schafer
copyright 2013 by Nathan Schafer

“Lamp Project Theme 2011″
written and produced by Nathan Schafer
copyright 2011 by Nathan Schafer

with great appreciation for our all-volunteer crew for their talent, dedication, professionalism and time

copyright 2013 by The Lamp Project
all rights reserved

Giving Form to Invisible Connections: visual artist Lisa Carroll


Investigating the intricate relationship between human beings and their surroundings has been a lifelong passion for artist and designer Lisa Carroll. Carroll brings this passion to bear on her artistic practice, incorporating a variety of media to create abstract pieces that evoke the organic world, probing the boundaries between the manmade and the natural, the individual and the world at large. Her work discloses just how imperfect and provisional such categories are: our sense of opposition or belonging to a broader context can shift dramatically when we are placed in situations—or before works of art—that preclude or, conversely, encourage our contemplation and participation.

"Western Sector" by Lisa Carroll. Mixed media installation.

“Western Sector” by Lisa Carroll. Mixed media installation.

Carroll grew up on the coast of Massachusetts, in a place that she describes as “full of cranberry bogs, marshes, pine forests.”

“For my brother, sister and I these were our playgrounds,” Carroll said. “We would run and explore for miles and lose all sense of time until someone would hear someone’s mother calling to come in for dinner.”

Eventually, Carroll relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area, where she has been living for 22 years. An avid runner and camper, she spends much of her time in the remote places of California.

“My understanding of the West is that of both place and spirit,” she explained. “It is my ideal vacation to get myself to a remote lake in the mountains, hike to a hot spring, set myself down on a mesa in the desert, tuck away into a pocket in a canyon and feel myself in the middle of everywhere out there in the middle of nowhere. There is a perfect spot at 8,000 feet in the White Mountains (Eastern CA) where you can look across Owen’s Valley toward the Eastern slope of the Sierras; it is a pleasure to sit there for hours watching the light change and shape that endless space. That is the West in an external sense. There is also the West in an internal sense, the mode of quest, engaging one’s curiosity.”

It is the landscape of California that has had the most decisive influence on Carroll’s artistic sensibility, suggesting materials and motifs for her gorgeous paintings, sculptures, and installations. One of the recurring forms in Carroll’s work is lichen, which she became interested in over time, through her repeated encounters with it in her athletic practice.

“For years I had been running the trails in Redwood Regional Park finding my eye drawn to the lichen encrusting the Bay Laurels,” Carroll said, “And then it just built to a point where the only possible next thing to do was to make that connection and create artwork that expressed my sensorial ritual experience of taking in that lichen for all those years.”

This motif was featured prominently in Western Sector, an installation Carroll created as part of a group exhibition at Inhabit Gallery in Oakland. Walking into the room, viewers found themselves surrounded by clusters of large, delicate lichen-like shapes framing the room’s functional elements and spilling onto the floor, their organic exuberance not so much at odds with the simple geometry of right angles as complementing it, transforming the gallery space so that it might be experienced with the body as well as with the eye. Inviting the viewer to explore and inhabit a temporary space, the work functioned as a reminder of the continuity between nature and human activity, and the simultaneous ephemerality and repetitiveness of their processes.

“It is an acknowledgement that our impact on our environment is a pattern,” Carroll explained. “The action of making each individual part is a repetitive act, a meditation, an act of devotion, embracing the merging of the divine with the mundane. The action of installing and de-installing continues the process. We are nature.”

Carroll has also carried her sense of belonging to a broader context beyond her creative engagement with the mountains, forests, and coastlines of the West. Among other things, she has channeled her love of running into an effort to aid some of the most vulnerable members of the global community. In 2010, Carroll joined her longtime running partner Deidre (Dee) Williams on a 40-mile run to benefit Run For Congo Women.

The situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been a humanitarian crisis for years, and women have paid the heaviest toll for the unending war. Many have lost homes, friends, and family members—including children, many of whom perish before the age of five from inadequate nutrition and medical care. Moreover, the bodies of women have long been treated as part of the battlefield. Horror stories of torture and gang rape abound, and survivors have to live with the physical and psychological trauma, as well as the stigma that rape inevitably carries, usually subsisting below the poverty line and without access to resources that might help them start over.

Run for Congo Women is a grassroots effort to raise awareness and funds for women affected by the continuing violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo through running and walking events. According to Carroll, her running partner had been inspired by Lisa Shannon, the organization’s founder. When Williams first discussed the idea with her, Carroll recalled in a phone interview, “It brought tears to my eyes… I had no idea that there was something like this out there and that I could be involved.”

They called their run the 40-40-40 Project, dedicating each mile to a specific Congolese woman. Carroll worked out the logistics and designed their route. On the day of the run, they took part in a drumming ritual, establishing a connection with the women to whom the run was dedicated. The grueling nature of a forty-mile run deepened this connection.

“[When you run for long distances], you tap into interesting places in your mind,” said Carroll. “By mile eighteen I was in pain, but the thought of stopping was not possible because these women were on our minds… We have a refrain: ‘Pain is just a sensation.’”

To date, Run for Congo Women has raised over $1 million for Women for Women International, an organization which enrolls women in war-torn regions of the world in yearlong programs that offer counseling, education, and job training. The goal of the program is to provide women with skills and confidence they can put to use in starting businesses and building better lives for themselves and their children.

So far, over 58,000 women have benefitted from the organization’s work in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Almost all of the participants in the region have first-hand knowledge of the miseries and deprivations of war, whether through seeing their homes destroyed, surviving rape or the loss of loved ones, or being unable to receive necessary healthcare. Graduates of the program report an increase in confidence, and most are able to find jobs or even start businesses of their own, contributing to the growth of their economy and the healing of their nation. The Women for Women International website reports that “[o]n average, graduates nearly double their income over the course of the yearlong program.” Additionally, 98% of the women who finish the program report knowing their rights, compared to 5% of those who are just entering the program. These are encouraging statistics. Amidst the wreckage of war, the strong, courageous women who can support themselves, their children, and one another may be the surest sign of hope for the future.

Calvin Grimm: Nature’s Power, Captured on Canvas

When you look at Calvin Grimm’s paintings, what do you see? Biomorphic forms and vivid colors? Abstract expressionism – with an organic twist? The melding of line and shape that both haunts us and gives us hope? There’s no right answer; the work of this Woodstock-based artist and environmentalist embodies all of the above. Each of Calvin Grimm’s paintings is a rich and personal expression of our human relationship with the natural world. He articulates that his goal in painting is “to inspire people spiritually through art in a conversation about the beauty of nature and about the sustainability of nature. I feel gifted that I can do that through my art.” There’s another important element to Grimm’s work: optimism. “Very often my paintings are optimistic because nature is constantly fulfilling and revitalizing,” he says. Grimm’s gift with a paintbrush allows him to share the beauty of nature with others, and to engender hope that humans can interact meaningfully with, and protect, our natural world. He calls painting “the unique language that I have to help people feel optimism, so we can sustain the fight, and sustain the involvement [in environmental activism].” Grimm shares this unique language and skill with a number of organizations whose missions center around environmental protection.

Calvin Grimm: "Seeker/Sought: Deep Ocean/Deep Space Series". 2013. Oil on canvas.

Calvin Grimm: “Seeker/Sought: Deep Ocean/Deep Space Series”. 2013. Oil on canvas.

Grimm believes firmly in the importance of experiencing nature’s beauty and power firsthand. This, he says, is our best environmental defense system: if people interact with the natural world, they will come to see its importance, and then will be inspired and motivated to protect it. Beginning in the early 1970’s, Grimm became involved in the National Outdoor Leadership School, or NOLS, leading five-week-long mountaineering and sea kayaking expeditions in Wyoming and Alaska. (He also transported supplies to the adventurers by horseback). He says that the work allowed him, and the young people on the trip, to “absorb the nuances of the natural world,” and to “experience the wilderness, and the dynamic of forces and people and the changing environment, and all the while, to build a sensitivity in how we relate to that environment.” The genuine interaction between people and the natural world makes up the basis for human respect for nature – and the foundation for working together to protect it.

In addition to his work with NOLS, Grimm has been involved with the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, a 106-foot long replica vessel of the sloops that sailed the Hudson River in the 18th and 19th centuries, conceptualized by activist and American folk legend Pete Seeger. Since its construction in 1969, the Clearwater has served as the flagship of the environmental movement, its purpose to educate youth about what they can do to protect and preserve the Hudson River.

Don’t miss The Lamp Project’s video exhibit of Calvin Grimm’s work, plus the on-camera interview about his life, art, and causes.

Grimm was a boatswain on the Clearwater throughout the 1970’s, charged with the boat’s maintenance, as well as an educator for students who came aboard. He describes Seeger’s vision and the mission of the Clearwater: “If you get people to fall in love with the river, they can actually appreciate that there are living creatures in it, and that it has a life of its own. Then, it became a love, which became a political force – Seeger wanted to create a groundswell of political activism – taking people’s sense of love and a sense of the crime that was being done and transforming that emotion into action.” Grimm also mentions how powerful it was for children to see that it took serious teamwork to raise the boat’s huge sail, an idea of collective intention that would fuel their efforts as champions of the environment long after they disembarked the Clearwater.

Depicting the devastation – both physical and emotional – of nature’s destruction by humans is also an important element in Grimm’s work. He describes the time he spent in Prince William Sound, Alaska, and the particular memory of how the tide receded to reveal sea urchins and sea anemones clinging, vulnerable, to the rocks. He developed “a deep and personal relationship with those creatures.” When he heard news of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989 in Prince William Sound, Grimm was overcome with emotion. What he’d begun in his studio as a hopeful painting about these sea animals became “visceral, slimy, oily, and devastating. The creatures attempted to pull themselves out of the mess, unsuccessfully, and black crows were flying around, but it was all in an abstract representation…It was a real expression of my disappointment, my hurt, and my anger.” Grimm channeled his emotions into his work, and the result was a remarkable canvas that chronicles a disastrous natural and historical event. When he heard news of the BP oil spill in 2010, Grimm knew that he had to revisit the painting. The final canvas, titled Exxon Valdez to BP Gulf Oil Spills (1989-2010), both awes us in its beauty and frightens us in its reality.

In speaking about his work with youth, Grimm also touches on our modern disconnect with nature. He mentions Nature Deficit Disorder, a condition defined by a lack of connection with natural elements that can result in attention and mood disorders, depression, and obesity. He says that children in particular have lost their interest in and respect for nature, and have not “developed their intuition, sensitivity and feeling for it. They can’t have a spiritual experience with it if they can’t actually feel it.” In terms of protecting our environment, the worry is that “these people are not going to be qualified to steward [nature], not being in touch with it, and not knowing what it means to lose it.” Grimm speaks with a palpable sadness, and we can see the potent memory of his experience working with youth on the Clearwater and during NOLS expeditions.

But, ever the optimist, Grimm continues to show us through his work how central and vital our connection with nature can be. And, Grimm maintains his connection to various environmental protection organizations, such as The Woodstock Land Conservancy, by painting pieces to be used as auction centerpieces that attract critical fundraising. Grimm’s home, too, stands as a testament to his passion for protecting our environment. Built out of recycled and repurposed materials and designed to complement the wooded mountainside it rests on, Grimm’s house functions as both an art gallery to display his work, and a work of art to be admired all on its own.

To be sure, it will take more than appreciating works of art imbued with the majesty of our natural world to alter attitudes and environmental policy. And paintings may never be enough to recapture what we have already lost. However, the impact of Calvin Grimm’s art is undeniable: he allows us to understand what, precisely, we are fighting for.

If you are interested in learning more about Calvin Grimm and his art, please visit his website, You can also learn more about the organizations that Calvin Grimm is involved in, including the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, and the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), by visiting their websites for more information.

“Mollie Stone: Solidarity Through Song”


Mollie Stone directing CCC

The power of music goes beyond what you hear — it has the ability to comfort, to educate, to empower and to connect individuals even if they are on the other side of the world. Music has the power to bring revolutionary change in a peaceful manner during challenging times. Mollie Stone, a conductor of the Chicago Children’s Choir, has been able to experience the unifying power of music throughout her career in South Africa and the U.S.

Through her extensive work with South African choirs and her project “Vela Vela,” Stone raises awareness about the significance of music for South Africans and its role in political and social issues like the anti-apartheid movement and the current struggle against HIV. She also emphasizes the importance of maintaining authenticity when learning and teaching music from different cultures.

With her mother constantly playing South African music in their home in Chicago, Stone was already familiar with world music as a child. Quite naturally, she became drawn to South African choral music when she learned national songs linked to the anti-apartheid movement as a member of the Chicago Children’s Choir during her teenage years. When the South African apartheid was in the process of ending, learning those songs felt very relevant to Stone. “It was happening half a world away, but it was really interesting since it paralleled our own Civil Rights Movement,” Stone said on the phone.

She gained a newfound love for South African music when the Choir went on tour in the country in 1996. She loved the music for its beautiful sound and the way it united South Africans in helping them form a new national identity after apartheid.

However the complex rhythms, the rich vocal tones, and correct pronunciation in those South African songs were all lost with the simplified versions that Stone learned in the choir when they returned to the U.S. “South African music unfortunately is one of the most butchered by transcriptions,” Stone explained. “When you try to notate South African music, it really just destroys it…It ends up sounding nothing like South African music.”

In recalling her frustration, Stone also explained that the simplification of South African music risks feeding the harmful stereotypes that music from different cultures are inferior to Western classical music, which would be a poor influence on younger generations. “If we teach music from other cultures well, [young people] will grow up to care about the rest of the world and not just think that America is the center of the universe…If we dumb it down, we’re teaching our kids something that’s really wrong and really racist in the long run.”

To address this problem, Stone created “Vela Vela” during graduate school to allow teachers and students in other countries to learn South African music directly from South Africans. With this project, Stone and her friend returned to South Africa to record natives teaching their songs through oral tradition — the way they’re supposed to be taught. Despite the numerous logistic and technical challenges in producing “Vela Vela,” it was all worth it when the teaching DVD was met with success. “It [allowed] Americans to hear what South Africans actually sound like when they sing their music,” Stone said.

“Vela Vela” also highlights the crucial role of music in South Africa’s persisting issues of government corruption, poverty, and HIV, the spread of which has been a dire problem in the country’s society.

“There are many reasons in which one in three people are infected,” Stone said solemnly. Open discussion about HIV is discouraged because of the danger of becoming a target for violence. Many women who don’t have control in their relationships or their sexual safety contract the virus when their partners don’t want to use condoms, which contributes to the large population of children and orphans infected with AIDS. “Only in the past few years have things changed so that people now have access to anti-retrovirals that enable them to live with the virus,” she added.

South Africans continue to fight for change with the limitless power of music. “In South Africa, people always adapt their choral music to use in different struggles, and so singing songs that helped them be successful in the past gives a sense of hope and determination that they’ll survive this current struggle. […] When they sing, they feel they’re a part of a community but they’re individuals,” Stone said.

“To see that as a conductor is really inspiring because in America, we don’t often sing music that is really connected to anything that we’re dealing with, especially politically and socially,” she continued. “To have music be such a part of everyday life sort of comes naturally in South Africa in a way that it doesn’t here or in anywhere else that I’ve ever seen.”

Today, Stone continues to share her passion for South African music by teaching workshops across the U.S. wherein she expands her students’ musical knowledge and lets them see how music from different cultures can connect with the issues in their own lives. “They feel like they’re in solidarity with people in their own communities and in other countries when they sing the South African songs about HIV…If we sing songs about the anti-apartheid struggle, we’ll talk about inequality.”

She also recounts the many times the faces of her advanced students light up with joy when they realize that singing South African choral music helps them better understand compositions from Brahms or Bach. “Everything is so connected, and to break down that wall is so exciting.” Stone believes fervently devoting herself to teaching her workshops as authentically as possible gives her students the chance to become more global citizens by learning music from different cultures without feeling self-conscious.

The enthusiastic reactions of her students motivate Stone to continue growing as a passionate teacher, conductor, and individual. “It’s amazing to have that constant balancing of being open to the world around me and then bringing it back to my students, and then learning from them how to share the things that turn on all the lights in my head, my soul, and my voice.”