Thursday, December 4, 2008

The JUSTICE ornament


If you read the Twice the Gift invitation I posted on this blog a few weeks ago, you might have wondered, "hmmm...what does an art center that isn't quite up and running yet produce to sell at a holiday store?" Well, I'm glad you asked. We made what we affectionately call
"The JUSTICE ornament".

The letters of the JUSTICE ornament were designed by five teenagers serving in the Hennepin County Home School. The design was created for the 2008 SPEAK Project, where it was part of a large metal sculpture installation in North Minneapolis Cottage Park. The SPEAK Project is a program sponsored by the Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center that engages urban youth in a constructive dialogue with their communities, providing an opportunity for self-expression through the creation of public art.

The letters stand for seven words they chose to signify their struggle to reintegrate into their communities.

Just United Struggle Transition Integrity Collaborate Escalate

I've been teaching the metal sculpture element of the SPEAK Project for three years now. I've worked with a lot of amazing young people in that time. Some of them young enough to take in the welding lab with wide curious eyes without so much as a thought or care about what anyone would think if they whooped and hollered when it was their turn to make some sparks. Most of them, however were deeply enmeshed in the guarded teenage microcosm that can scar and twist the creative individuality right out of a kid. I remember it. It was so tough. These kids were dealing with that multiplied by I can't imagine how much more. Fortunately, my fiery medium has a way of drawing kids out. Exciting them to speak...in their own words...in their own way.

These were their words. This was their process. I learned a lot from them.

jus⋅tice

[juhs-tis] –noun

1. the quality of being just; righteousness, equitableness, or moral rightness

We were thrilled by the opportunity to participate in Twice the Gift as the proceeds from the sale of the items created by the non-profit participants go back to the non-profits. CAFAC decided to share the proceeds with the youth participants who inspired it by creating a scholarship for them at Hennepin County Home School.

Thank Gawd the supermodel Lucky Scheff-Knoke a.k.a. "The Luckstresse" was available to model it for us.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

It's good to Google yourself

You never know when someone out there has written something quite nice about you, such as this post from Michael Fallon on The Rake's blog, The Thousandth Word. The title of his post, "Art from the Ashes," is particularly appropriate for us, seeing as we're all about fire, and we appreciate being seen as a glimmer of hope in otherwise dreary times (not to mention a crap-sandwich alternative).

But Mr. Fallon's post did remind me that our little website is pretty meager, and woefully out-of-date, which is why we're trying to blog until such time as a fantastic new website comes our way. I've written previously about when we plan to open our doors, but our fundraising goals have grown (surprise) as we've moved into this next phase of our development. Currently, we're working on raising $80,000 for equipment and other start-up costs, and another $35,000 for operating costs in 2009. We've got a few irons in the fire (ha! there's really no end to fire-related metaphors), including our participation in the Twice the Gift store this holiday season and a plan for a fundraising event late this year. But as always, if you would like to help us ignite the flame (there's another!), do check our website for info on our donations program.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

So, when are we going to open?

We've gotten a few questions to this effect lately and realize that people might start to wonder, now that the building has been vacant for a couple of months... But while the timeframe's going to be a bit farther out than we originally hoped (I guess it always is), the good news is that everything is falling into place and we are on track for opening in Summer 2009. Last week, our future landlord (Artspace Projects) received approval from the City Council's Community Development Committee to receive funding through its bank-qualified loan program. Whew! With the current state of affairs in the financial markets we were more than a bit concerned, so to have the financing in place is very good news.

So, we're now looking at Artspace acquiring the building by the end of the year, and renovations beginning as soon as possible thereafter. We're planning on six months for renovations, making July our grand opening. There are still many more hurdles to jump before the doors open and lots of work to do... but the dream's becoming a reality.

Oak Street Marquee

Victoria got a random call one morning from someone she knows at the City of Minneapolis. Evidently, the OAK STREET THEATER IS COMING DOWN! There is a new development happening over there. I don't know about all of you, but that's very sad. I went to school in this town and that place is prior context. For years it was one of my favorites and it'll soon be gone. So we ache for a bit... and then they ask her if CAFAC wants the marquee!!! In the words of our board president, Maren, "Ummmm...yes please! When can we pick it up?" We're meeting on Friday to talk about exactly what that will entail. There are original architects drawings of the Marquee (that's enough fun in and of itself) and I imagine, if we can work out a way to get it over here and up, it's ours. A piece of history, not just of the old building, but our own past. We're thrilled to give it a new home, now we just need to figure out how to manage it...

Monday, October 20, 2008

Twice The Gift

Twice the Gift offers unique option for holiday gift givers…
Buy a meaningful gift and support The Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center!

Twice the Gift is a unique downtown Minneapolis shop that showcases the products and services provided by more than 50 Twin Cities nonprofit organizations, including the Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center (CAFAC), this holiday season.

At Twice the Gift, shoppers can select a meaningful gift for loved ones and/or business associates that will benefit others in the community. The Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center will sell ornaments based on its 2008 SPEAK Project at the shop.

Other Twin Cities nonprofits from Open Arms Minnesota to Partnership Resources will offer a variety of gifts for all ages. Additionally, “Giftcards” will be available exclusively at Twice the Gift. A Giftcard honors the recipient by supporting specific services or items needed by Twin Cities nonprofits. Giftcards will underwrite everything from artists-in-residence at public schools to providing a week of emergency shelter for a family. CAFAC’s Giftcards will support its youth scholarship fund.

Twice the Gift will be open November 21 through December 31. Hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. The store is located in Gaviidae II – 2nd floor/Skyway Level, 555 Nicollet Mall, Suite 295, Minneapolis.

Twice the Gift is being underwritten for Twin Cities nonprofits by the Pohlad Family Foundation with 100% of the proceeds benefiting participating nonprofit organizations. Please put Twice the Gift at the top of your holiday shopping list this year!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

August update

Dear Friends of Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center,

EXCITING NEWS!
We have some wonderful news to report. Just yesterday, the City of Minneapolis closed on the building at 3749 Chicago Avenue – our future home! This is a major milestone, and brings us one step closer to opening our doors! We would like to extend our sincere thanks to all who worked so hard to make this happen!
The next step is for Artspace, which will eventually be our landlord, to purchase the building from the city of Minneapolis. Artspace is the nation's leading nonprofit developer of spaces for artists and arts organizations. The process of lining up the financing, dotting the i's and crossing the t's will likely take several months, but we'll be using that time to refine our business plan, focus on some of the back-end infrastructure issues, and continue with our favorite pastime – fundraising!
A Gift of Talent from Brown College
One of the other activities that we've been working on this summer is the interior design of the building. We were fortunate enough to be the recipients of volunteer services from Commercial Design students at the Brown College Institute of Design who were looking for a portfolio-building capstone project. Each student developed a complete plan for our gallery, office, and common spaces, with suggestions for layout of the area as well as specific finishes and treatments. Their ideas combined an appreciation of the building's history as a movie theatre and its original design features with our need to create attractive, functional space for a new arts center. We were thrilled with the end results, which allowed us to pick the features that will work best for our intentions and walk away with a finished plan for renovation. Partnering with college students felt like the perfect fit for us as an educational organization, and the students enjoyed working on an exciting new project like CAFAC – definitely a win-win situation for all involved!
SPEAK Project
Even though we don't have a physical home yet, we are continuing with our summer youth program called the SPEAK Project. In 2006, SPEAK's first year, about 30 kids from the four neighborhoods that intersect at 38th Street and Chicago Avenue (where the Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center will be located), participated and designed sculptures based around the theme of "Unity in Diversity." In its second year, the project grew to include about 40 kids and focused on the theme of "Respect", with spoken word and digital photography classes added to the mix.
This year, the theme of the project is "Growth in the Community" and fittingly, the SPEAK project is branching out to include the North Side of Minneapolis. Through a generous grant from the Pohlad Family Foundation, SPEAK will be working with a group of kids to build an "art bench" that will be a wonderful addition to Cottage Park in the Jordan neighborhood.SPEAK will also continue on the South Side this year, with work beginning on a fence for the community garden located at the corner of 33rd and Columbus in the Central Neighborhood.
Please join us for the dedication ceremony of the North Side project which will take place on Saturday, August 23!
And finally….
Once again, we would like to send our sincerest thanks to all the incredible people who have done and continue to do so much of the behind-the-scenes work to bring the Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center to reality. We are humbled by your generosity, inspired by your enthusiasm, and motivated by your commitment to making this dream come true.
Thank you!
Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center Board of Directors

Heather Doyle Victoria Lauing Montana Scheff Ryan Knoke Scott Hofer Maren Christenson