Notes from the Creative Edge - October 2018

Friends of ValleyArts,

Last month, I spoke about change and changing mindset. How do you change a mindset? And the next question could be, ‘is it worth the effort?’ There you have it, ‘worth’, that’s value.

Value: everything has one, tangible or intangible.

Value pertains to so much ValleyArts work on its mission:
- The intangible value of having a cafe as a creative meeting place.
- The intangible value of relationships and collaborations.
- The tangible value of a fundraiser.
- The tangible value of a piece of art.

The list goes on. We apply, knowingly or unknowingly, value to so much in our lives.

There is no golden rule to valuation, especially when it comes to the art and nonprofit worlds. Creativity in these areas is highly undervalued.

Too often artists/creatives in the nonprofit world are ask to do projects for little or no compensation. Would you get a plumber to fix your pipes for little or no money? Would you get an electrician to repair your wiring for little or no money? The answer would be no in both cases because you are paying for a skill that has value. Yet, when it comes to an artist, musician or other such creatives the lack of value for their skill set is astounding.

Not long ago, I witnessed two instances of artists being asked to work for little or nothing. In both cases the hiring organizations said there wasn’t enough money to pay more. In both cases, the hiring organization made the assumption that the artist would be willing to work at an extremely reduced rate or for free. 

Undervalued and misguided.

Miguel ITOBudgeting is tough, especially in the nonprofit sector. But without proper budgeting, creatives will never be fairly compensated. If a nonprofit organization’s Board of Directors doesn’t understand the cost of hiring creatives, and if the institutions giving grants don’t understand the cost of hiring creatives, then they -- artists, musicians, writers, performers -- won’t ever be properly compensated for their work.

Alas, I have no magic formula to fix this continuing undervaluation of artists and creatives in the nonprofit sector. But here at ValleyArts, we are slowly trying to change the narrative by attaching a monetary value to everything we do and always making sure we compensate creatives who provide services to us -- raising the awareness of value.

Monetizing does not have to be an negative word.

Whenever we work with creative people - artists, musicians, poets, food creatives, etc. - we always make sure to compensate them for their time and talents. Sometimes funds are tight and we can’t pay as much as we’d like, but we always pay something.

ValleyArts recently launched its ‘Recycled Canvas Project’ where we take used canvas, gesso them and make them available to artists. We were planning to make them free, but realized we would be undervaluing our efforts to make these canvases available to artists in need of them. Surprisingly, free is not always the best option and charity can be a difficult topic.

So ValleyArts came up with a $1 charge per canvas, irrespective of size; a value was placed on the time and effort it takes to collect and prepare these canvases. By charging just $1, ValleyArts is still making these canvases very accessible; with value. (You can donate used canvases anytime at ValleyArts, 400 S. Jefferson St, Orange NJ 07050, and watch our website and Facebook feed for purchase availability.)

Moving forward ValleyArts will continue to be mindful of values for artists, creatives and entrepreneurs who we work with. We hope you will give this some thought too.
Creatively Yours,
Jeremy Moss

Notes from the Creative Edge - September 2018

Friends of ValleyArts,
As we move ValleyArts into its next decade, the world will bring change – like it or not – and these changes could be positive or negative. While we always strive to focus on the positive change, we do not shy away from combating negativity, especially if it effects positivity in the future. We try to steer clear of change that has nothing but negative outcomes, though in the current political climate this has proved to be a challenge in itself.

Change is easy for some and not so for others. This is often evident when changing cultures, behaviours, and thinking. ValleyArts often finds itself being a vanguard of change, both on small and larger scales.
Looking inward, we wanted to change the culture of how we achieve our mission. In the last year we changed our mission statement to ‘Community Through Creativity’, changed into an organization that partners with numerous municipalities, organizations, and individuals, and implemented youth programming such as ‘Cirque Oranj’ a circus summer camp. All positive change.

One of our biggest changes was turning some of our office space into a cafe and artist boutique. What a difference this bold decision made!

The artfullbean cafe and boutique has become a community meeting and gathering space for creative thinking. Not a day goes by without someone stopping by with a great idea, a creative proposal, a potential collaboration – the list goes on. A perfect example of creating a positive change.

However, not every partnership or collaboration has been positive in its outcome. What does ValleyArts do when this happens? We learn from the experience, looking at how to take positive facets and moments from something that did not work out as expected. 

Through these collaborations we have met some wonderful, creative people doing interesting things who we cannot wait to work with again. These experiences also led us to the doors of two outstanding individuals: Avril Bogle and Gregory Burrus. Avril teaches art at Forest Street school in the Orange School District and lives in the Valley Arts District. When we invited her to be our coordinator of PACarts, the youth programming arm of ValleyArts, she accepted without hesitation. Gregory Burrus is ‘Mr. Music’ – he programs music events all over Essex County. We invited him to come aboard as our music programmer. His debut at ValleyArts is the music program at our upcoming ‘Celebrate Creativity’ fundraiser. (More information and ticket link on our website.)

Affecting this change has brought us rewards and challenges, but in order to survive in the world of nonprofits, it was something that had to happen. Change is inevitable.

Moving forward, we will continue to seek new challenges and positive outcomes in all of ValleyArts programs, events, collaborations, and partnerships. By being agents of change, we will continually strive for outcomes that improve all facets of a creative life.

Please join us, as agents of change, at our first annual fundraiser, ’Celebrate Creativity’, on Friday 14th September 2018. This event will be a celebration of creativity that includes great food, music, art and fun.
Creatively Yours,
Jeremy Moss

Notes from the Creative Edge - June 2018

Friends of ValleyArts,
May was Open Orange month at ValleyArts. Open Orange is our largest, most viewed - and only juried - art show of the year. This year we had more artists apply than ever before and it was very well received. We are always proud of this show, and grateful to all the artists who apply and participate as well as the collectors who purchase art. Let me give you a little history of this show.

Open Orange was born during a discussion about attracting artists to exhibit and become involved in the Valley Arts District. As an artist who was doing the northeast seaboard juried art show circuit at the time, my thoughts were “Why not do one in Orange?” ValleyArts board member, Nigel Freeman, who is employed at Swann Galleries in NYC, had the knowledge and the contacts in the art world to approach jurors of a high calibre. So in February 2014, the call was put out for artists to apply for the newly minted Open Orange.

We waited nervously, would artists be interested? Would they come from New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, to join local artists in applying? Two weeks to application deadline, 22 artists had applied. One week to deadline, 37 artists applied -- this thing was gaining some traction. At the application deadline, we had 90 artists applied!

We were very happy that so many artists had applied and it was exciting that we were putting ValleyArts and the Valley Arts District on the map.

A great success right?

It is very easy to get wrapped up in excitement and success, forgetting that other people might be looking through a different lens.

In order to explain what happened next, let’s rewind and review how a juried art show typically works. Juried art shows require artists to apply, usually paying a fee, for a panel of judges to view their work. These judges score the applications and the higher scores get into the show. 

We were not prepared for the backlash.

That backlash came in the form of a couple of local artists who were very vocal about their belief that artists should never have to pay for a show application. They went about canvassing as many artists as they could about free vs. paying for a show application. It may be a valid question to ask, but, unfortunately, the message they ended up sending was that ValleyArts was taking money from artists instead of supporting them. As a result, another question arose: why should artists fund an arts organization via application fees?

At this point we realized we had not clearly explained the purpose for Open Orange monies collected. All the money collected goes to show production and youth programming.

ValleyArts is a nonprofit organization committed to providing local children with creative opportunity. Youth programming is a huge part of our mission: we run after school enrichment classes, produce the Cirque Oranj circus arts summer camp, organize a gallery show for Orange High School art students, partner in Filmboot24, a 24hr film and production camp for local high school students, partner in the ‘bardbeatz’ poetry programme for Orange and West Orange students. In the pipeline is a mural programme that has high school seniors entering a mural design competition, with the winner facilitating the production of the mural with younger children in the school district. We do a lot. 

Show production for Open Orange is also no small matter. We host an opening reception that is routinely attended by 150-200 people and a closing reception with artists talk. It is our most promoted exhibit of the year, both before and throughout the month. The winner of Best In Show receives a cash prize.

Simply put, artists pay an application fee to enter Open Orange for these three reasons:
1. Promotion. This is the largest show of its type in Essex County. It is ValleyArts largest show. Open Orange artists sell their work.
2. Visibility. Artists have their work seen by judges who are experts in their chosen creative fields.
3. Supporting the arts in the community. All profits from Open Orange are used to provide youth programming and youth opportunity.
Now in its fifth year, Open Orange has continued to blossom. It still gets the yearly cry of, ‘you shouldn’t have to pay to be in a show’, but as we tell the story of how, where and why we spend the Open Orange money, more people understand where we are coming from. We are very proud of this show and all it does for artists and the community. If you missed it this year, we hope you will make it next year.
Creatively Yours,
Jeremy Moss

Notes from the Creative Edge - Apr 2018

Each month, our Executive Director, Jeremy Moss, writes a note to you, our supporters, sharing stories about his view from the creative edge here at ValleyArts. If you have thoughts to share with him, drop him a message at Meanwhile, enjoy this month's...
notes from the creative edge
Friends of ValleyArts,

Recently, I was recently talking with a board member of a local non-profit about our new mission statement “Community Through Creativity” and where that could take ValleyArts. He asked if we were still an arts organization. I replied yes, but creativity is so much larger than that.
“How so?” was his next question.
I replied, “Creativity opens so many more doors.”
Take, for instance, the creative food movement and inventive ways to grow food – on sculptures, in hay bales, attached to walls, in milk crates and all sorts of containers. Creativity is not owned just by those who paint and draw.
Creativity and health: what does that relationship look like? How can we creatively promote health? We all need food to survive, be successful in daily lives, and accomplish our goals. No one can be creative if they aren’t healthy, and staying healthy sometimes requires creative solutions. Busy lives make convenience food attractive because of its ease. Unfortunately, convenience food is often loaded with ingredients that are not body friendly – high fructose corn syrup and trans fatty acids are two that spring to mind.
ValleyArts wants to challenge the notion that eating healthy fresh food is too expensive or time consuming – and challenge ourselves and the community to find creative solutions to eating healthier. Growing your own food might seem intimidating to some, but it doesn’t have to be and it has many positive outcomes - it’s cheaper, fresher, and healthier.
For our first exploration into food as a creative movement, we are hosting an urban farming workshop with two local food creatives, Bushie and Shujaa, on Saturday May 19th from 2pm to 4pm. They will walk through what urban farming can bring to an individual, family and community. Self-sustainability, farming methods in an urban setting, crop selection, and community building will all be discussed. Plus, the first 15 people to RSVP will leave with a pot, soil, and something to grow.
We hope this is the first in a series of community workshops which will combine health and creativity.
So, back to that conversation with my board member colleague:
“But how does that all relate to the arts and ValleyArts?”, he queried.
“It relates to creativity; for if you are healthy, you will be able to be creative, cooking for health takes creativity, growing your own food and finding ways to do it can be creative”.
My inquisitor left with plenty of ‘food’ for thought. I am hoping I got him thinking creatively about our conversation.
Creatively Yours,
Jeremy Moss

Notes from the Creative Edge - Mar 2018

Each month, our Executive Director, Jeremy Moss, writes a note to you, our supporters, sharing stories about his view from the creative edge here at ValleyArts. If you have thoughts to share with him, drop him a message at Meanwhile, enjoy this month's...
notes from the creative edge
Friends of ValleyArts,

artfullbean one ear celebrationAs I sit here pondering the artfullbean cafe's first anniversary celebrations, I began to reflect on ValleyArts, the organization, and the fact it will be celebrating its tenth year in 2018.
In ten years, a lot has happened, each of the previous executive directors brought something unique to the organization, and now it is my turn. In recent months ValleyArts has shifted its focus from being an arts organization to being a creative community organization. We have combined our tagline and mission statement into these three words: "Community Through Creativity".
Steve Jones acoustic guitarWhile art brings together people from different walks of life, creativity has the ability to bring together even greater numbers of people from all walks of life. The epiphany happened when I was attending a careers day at the Orange High School. Speaking to students in an art class, it became apparent that many students did not see their future having anything to do with art. With interest waning, I asked the student closest to People meeting in cafeme, “what are you thinking of as a career?” “A police detective”, he replied. I answered him, “ah, the art of detection”. I went around the whole class asking the same question: to the girl who wanted to be a nurse, “the art of healing”, to the boy who wanted to be an architect, “the art of building.” You get the picture.
After the last student answered, I addressed the class with these words: “You can be creative in whichever career you choose, therefore you will be creatives”. That was the moment when "Community Through Creativity" was born.
At ten years old, ValleyArts feels like an organization approaching adulthood. We have the Community Gallery, a beautiful space hosting all kinds of events and art shows. We rent studio spaces to creative entrepreneurs, have an internet radio station called ValleyD Radio, and have our amazing boutique cafe, the artfullbean. The ‘bean is home to delicious coffees and teas, all sourced from small independent and creative companies, delicious baked goods from a creative local bakery, and bespoke gifts from our creative member artists in our boutique. Our spaces have become a meeting place for creatives to talk, propose and plan the next exciting thing in the Valley Arts District!
Join us at the many events we produce, partner and collaborate with, and add more creativity to your daily life.
Creatively Yours,
Jeremy Moss