Category Archives: Child Welfare

Creativity is a Human Right: Community Art Center

BY ADIA WHITE

“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

BY ADIA WHITE

“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

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

BY ADIA WHITE

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.

* * * * * * * * * *

CREDITS

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)

“Shine”
Written and performed by
Adreanna Patterson (vocals) and Malcolm Cross (piano)
Copyright 2012 by The Possibility Project
www.the-posibility-project.org

“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

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, calvingrimm.com. 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.

Breaking silences: musician Chloe Flower

Classical pianist Chloe Flower has taken Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Prelude in G Minor,” and with the help of producers that include the legendary Babyface (aka Kenny Edmonds), arranged it as a hip-hop instrumental. That’s right, classical crossover into hip-hop. Her new single is called “Revolution,” and Flower certainly hopes she’s on to something big, a musical revolution which could bring classical music closer to the mainstream. But that’s just part of the story.

Don’t miss Chloe Flower giving an exclusive live performance of “Revolution” for The Lamp Project.

Flower is donating 100% of her proceeds to the Somaly Mam Foundation to combat sexual slavery and human trafficking. Millions of people around the world are sold into slavery each year; girls enslaved in brothels can be as young as three. Three years old. Chloe Flower stumbled upon the global sex trade as a happy tourist in Cambodia, lazily choosing to skip her plane flight and stay put in Siem Reap a while longer. When the plane she would have boarded crashed and all aboard died, she decided she was here for a reason. She rented a bike, and in riding around the area she came across what looked like brothels. She began researching the issue and found Somaly Mam, survivor of sexual slavery and already the founder of AFESIP, who would soon launch a U.S.-based organization to broaden awareness of and support for efforts to end these atrocities. That new organization would be The Somaly Mam Foundation, and Flower has been a staunch supporter of it—and a friend of Somaly Mam’s—ever since.

And so, deeply rooted in this awareness of a horrendous global criminal enterprise and her long-time involvement in efforts to eradicate it, Flower’s song, “Revolution,” together with the coming album of which it is a part, tells the story of Somaly Mam’s own personal revolution, overthrowing the torturous events of her youth to become the saviour of so many girls and women trapped on that same dark path. And it speaks of her hope for a larger revolution against the people and forces that enable and perpetuate human trafficking worldwide. Flower acknowledges that it’s a difficult topic to bring up in a conversation at work or with friends, and hopes her music starts those conversations and contributes to awareness.

Please, enjoy this interview with Chloe Flower by filmmaker Dalton Gaudin. You’ll hear more about her and about the Somaly Mam Foundation, and you’ll get to hear some of her fantastic piano playing. Find more in the exclusive live performance Flower gave for The Lamp Project. And if this cause moves you, remember that you have the power to help. Please follow the links below to visit the SMF, donate, or volunteer. Share our interview, or share what you learn about human trafficking. Or buy Flower’s music, and your money will benefit a tremendous cause while supporting an artist who has stood by that cause for years.

VISIT
Chloe Flower’s site
BUY
Chloe Flower’s music
VISIT
the Somaly Mam Foundation
DONATE to
the Somaly Mam Foundation
VOLUNTEER with
the Somaly Mam Foundation

CREDITS

Felix Lau music editor
Brandon Proulx sound editor / re-recording mixer
Jeremy Scott Olsen sound supervisor

Jason E. Johnson editor

Dalton Gaudin director / director of photography

Dalton Gaudin interview written and conducted by

Lauren Thorne producer
Ryan Metcalf supervising producer
Jeremy Scott Olsen executive producer

Hayley Welgus and the Somaly Mam Foundation photographs
used with permission and gratitude

“Revolution”
from “Prelude in G minor, op. 23, no. 5″
composed by Sergei Rachmaninoff
performed by Chloe Flower
piano arrangements by Chloe Flower
drum programming by Tim & Bob
additional arrangements by Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds
produced by Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds and Tim & Bob
copyright 2012 by Chloe Flower and Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds

with great appreciation for our entire all-volunteer crew—and their talent, dedication, professionalism and time
© copyright 2012 by The Lamp Project
all rights reserved

Anne Harris performs “Lullaby”

Singer-songwriter-fiddler Anne Harris was kind enough to play a song for us and let us share it with you. Here she is performing “Lullaby” with just her fiddle and her voice.

Supporting Anne means supporting an artist who is giving the world more than just wonderful music. She works with a number of good causes in addressing important social issues. In our interview with her she talks about her involvement with Coat Angels, who are working hard to provide winter coats to disadvantaged school children in Chicago.

VISIT
Anne’s site
BUY
Anne’s music
VISIT
Coat Angels
DONATE to
Coat Angels
VOLUNTEER with
Coat Angels

Watch our interview with Anne Harris.

CREDITS

Jeremy Scott Olsen post audio

Jason E. Johnson editor

Dalton Gaudin director / director of photography

Lauren Thorne producer
Ryan Metcalf supervising producer
Jeremy Scott Olsen executive producer

“Lullaby”
music and lyrics by Anne Harris
performed by Anne Harris
album version performed by Anne Harris (vocals, fiddle), Chris Siebold (guitar), Greg Nergaard (bass), Rich Stitzel (drums)
copyright 2008 by Anne Harris

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

© copyright 2012 by The Lamp Project
all rights reserved

A WARMING EFFECT: MUSICIAN ANNE HARRIS

BY JEREMY OLSEN

In music and in speaking out for a cause, it helps to have a voice backed by passion and conviction. It’s not so much that the voice carries further, but rather that its impact is felt more deeply. Ohio-born, Chicago-based Anne Harris puts this into practice for both music and great causes. And she does it with not one, but two voices: the warm, soulful crooning of her own vocal cords and the exuberant wail of her fiddle.

Don’t miss Anne Harris in an exclusive live performance of “Lullaby” for The Lamp Project.

In 2006, friends of Harris launched Coat Angels, a non-profit organization to provide warm coats for disadvantaged school children in Chicago. In the years since, they’ve helped over a thousand kids thanks in part to Anne’s own involvement, which includes donating her time for benefit concerts.

Please, enjoy this interview with Anne by filmmaker Dalton Gaudin. You’ll hear more about her and about Coat Angels, and you’ll be treated to some of her music. You can hear more of her music in this exclusive live performance for The Lamp Project. And if this cause moves you, please follow the links below to visit the site, donate, or volunteer. Or buy Anne’s music and you will be supporting a musician who is truly putting her powerful voices to good use.

CREDITS

Felix Lau music editor
Jeremy Scott Olsen sound editor / re-recording mixer

Jason E. Johnson editor

Dalton Gaudin director / director of photography

Dalton Gaudin interview written and conducted by

Lauren Thorne producer
Ryan Metcalf supervising producer
Jeremy Scott Olsen executive producer

Aigars Lapsa, Simona Capaldi, Susan Ryan photographs
used with permission and gratitude

“Lullaby”
music and lyrics by Anne Harris
performed by Anne Harris (vocals, fiddle), Chris Siebold (guitar), Greg Nergaard (bass), Rich Stitzel (drums)
copyright 2008 by Anne Harris

“Leaves Turnin’”
music and lyrics by Anne Harris
performed by Anne Harris
copyright 2001 by Anne Harris

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

© copyright 2012 by The Lamp Project
all rights reserved