March 8, 2017

The Palette is available to all interested with an e-Subscription

In this issue:

VP Pence’s wife aims to raise awareness about art therapy
Vessels of art, change
Rome students' Erie Canal project combines art, history
The street artist who paints wheat silos
Rhode Island School of Design 'Art Prof' opens her classroom to you
Met Director Fears Elimination Of NEA Marks ‘New Assault’ On Art
Trump anxiety hits arts groups, leaders


VP Pence’s wife aims to raise awareness about art therapy

WASHINGTON, DC: Karen Pence wants people to know that art therapy isn’t exactly arts and crafts.

The wife of Vice President Mike Pence has been a passionate advocate of art therapy for many years, including during her service as first lady of Indiana. Now, she hopes to use her new and loftier public profile to raise awareness of the mental health profession and help change the public’s perceptions about what art therapists actually do.

“They can do things that help the patient have a little more control,” Mrs. Pence told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview.

Art therapists use art, the creative process and the artwork patients create to help them explore feelings, resolve emotional conflicts, manage behavior and addictions, reduce anxiety and boost self-esteem, among other benefits, according to the American Art Therapy Association. A main goal is to improve or restore a patient’s functioning and sense of personal well-being.

Mrs. Pence, an artist whose specialty is painting watercolors of homes and historical buildings, plans to observe European art therapy programs when she accompanies her husband to Germany and Belgium on Friday, his first overseas trip since taking office on Jan. 20. She is scheduled to speak with art therapists in Munich and visit an art therapy program in Brussels.

As Indiana’s first lady from January 2013 until last month, Mrs. Pence visited art therapy programs across the state, as well as in Israel, Canada, Japan and Germany.

The field is growing, but is not well understood, she said. The American Art Therapy Association says it represents more than 5,000 professional art therapists and others related to the profession.

“One thing I can bring to this as second lady is making people aware of what art therapy is and how it works,” Mrs. Pence said. “It’s not arts and crafts.”

Donna Betts, the art therapy association’s president, said the organization values “any interest in increasing public awareness about the art therapy.”

Mrs. Pence, a former elementary school teacher, said she was first exposed to art therapy during a visit to a Washington hospital more than a decade ago. Her husband represented Indiana in Congress, and the Pences lived in Washington during his six terms in the House before he was elected his governor.

She has a master’s degree in art education, but learned that art therapy “wasn’t even something that I would be qualified to do.”

Mrs. Pence said art therapy usually is not paid for by insurers, but she doesn’t think it’s her place to use her new platform to try to encourage them to provide coverage.

“I don’t really see my role as policy maker or policy changer,” she said. “I just want to make people aware of what art therapy is.”

She has served on the board of Tracy’s Kids, an art therapy program for youth cancer patients, since 2011. The organization recently honored her with its Courage Award.

As for the return to Washington, Mrs. Pence said it’s been a “pretty smooth transition since we lived in Washington for 12 years.”

“We have friends, we have places we like to frequent and we know the neighborhood” around the vice president’s official residence on the grounds of the Naval Observatory in Northwest Washington. “We’re familiar with Washington. It kind of just feels like we’re coming back.” PBS


Vessels of art, change
Pottery serves as water filters overseas

GROVE CITY, PA: Richard “Dick” Wukich’s love of art started in high school, and it has since turned into a movement to support those in need locally and globally.

“It’s art to make positive social change,” Wukich, of Scott Township, Lawrence County, said of his work.

A retired Slippery Rock University art professor and founder of Potters Water Action Group, Wukich has shared some of his work with the Hoyt Center for the Arts in New Castle, where visitors can check out the “Art as Activism” exhibit through March 24.

He does mostly ceramic pottery, and the exhibit features a sample of his early works and newer pieces, some of which represent his nonprofit projects. Proceeds from the sale of his art benefit local charities that help with hunger and other issues, and providing clean water for third world countries.

At the heart of his work is the water filter project run by the Potters Water Action Group, which has chapters all over the world. Wukich is also the group’s international coordinator, and an SRU chapter is in the works.

“We have a simple solution that is doable,” Wukich said from his studio at Ithen Global, Grove City, where he’s been working on goblets for a Wine to Water fundraiser.

The group travels to small villages in countries including Nigeria, Haiti, Nepal, Sudan, Honduras and the Dominican Republic. They help the residents set up water filter factories and show them how to make ceramic pottery that serves as water filter receptacles.

Waterborne diseases kill about 5,000 people a day across the globe, and the group gives people the education and tools needed to maintain a supply of safe drinking water, Wukich said, adding that some of the people are already familiar with making pottery.

His love of pottery goes back to his art class at North Braddock High School taught by Charles Wilt, who inspired Wukich to pursue a career in teaching art.

Wukich’s parents, who didn’t finish high school, weren’t so sure that was the right career path for their son.

“The idea for me to be an art teacher was pretty radical,” he said.

Wukich recalls one day when the “brilliant” Wilt set up a kiln with some clay, and though he questioned it at first, he soon came to enjoy the challenge of mastering pottery.

He went on to graduate from Edinboro University with a bachelor of science in art education. The school didn’t have a “sophisticated” art program, but that didn’t stop him from practicing his craft and pushing himself to do his best.

Wukich learned many years ago that pottery is very physical and some struggle is necessary. To this day he has to remind himself to essentially work on autopilot, rather than interrupting the process to stop and think about what he’s doing.

Wukich, who also has a master of fine arts degree from the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred, taught high school for a year before settling in at SRU, where he worked for 43 years, retiring in 2011. He started its ceramics program, and currently serves on the SRU board of trustees.

In 1999, Wukich took some of his students to Nicaragua to help communities rebuild after Hurricane Mitch.

It was then that Wukich became acquainted with Potters for Peace, a nonprofit that got its start with water filter work in Nicaragua.

“I was convinced that this was a thing of the future,” he said.

Ron Rivera of Potters for Peace visited Wukich in Slippery Rock several times, and Wukich eventually started his own group.

Rivera died from a lethal form of malaria he contracted in Nigeria, and both groups continue to work together to spread awareness of the need for safe drinking water.

“We picked up right where Ron left off,” Wukich said, adding that he’s also a member of Potters for Peace.

The Potters Water Action Group goes beyond simply teaching people how to make water filters. They explain how to market the product, ensure quality control, and practice good sanitary habits to help prevent the spread of waterborne illnesses.

According to the group’s website, the filter consists of a ceramic vessel made from a blend of local clay and a friable material like sawdust or rice husks.

The friable material is burned out and leaves micro-pores that filter out any particulate matter in the water.

Silver nanoparticles are then added to the filter, acting as antimicrobial agents. The filter is set is a 5-gallon bucket or large pot fitted with a spigot, and they have an active life of at least 24 months, depending on water quality.

Extensive testing has shown that the filters are 98 to 99.9 percent effective at eliminating waterborne bacteria.

The group partners with a variety of organizations to monitor the water filter projects.

Many people don’t realize that the water in their toilet is likely cleaner than the water used in third world countries, Wukich said. U.S. households waste a lot of water, and Wukich thinks twice before buying bottled water, especially since he has limestone springs and wells on his farm.

“My mother would be incredulous,” he said of imagining her reaction to bottled water.

About 70 percent of the earth is covered in water; 97 percent of that is saltwater and 3 percent is freshwater. Out of that 3 percent, roughly 1 percent is freshwater that can be consumed, though only .089 percent can be drunk without fear of getting sick, Wukich said.

“That’s not a lot of water,” he said.

He realizes he is lucky when it comes to having safe drinking water, and he’s glad that his group has the means to help those in need.

Villagers in Nigeria call him “Father Dick,” and he’s shared his food with starving children in South Darfur, Sudan. Helping folks in that area was one of the best experiences of his life.

Few roads were paved, and there was no lighting, but Wukich remembers watching the stars in the night sky and being surrounded by children who were excited to help with the pottery.

“It was exhilarating,” he said.

Back at home, Wukich and his wife of 45 years, Barbara, raise beef cattle and thoroughbred race horses. They have three children and three grandchildren.

He continues to help with Empty Bowls events; they’re held at area schools and feature soup bowls made by students, with the proceeds going to local food banks.

Wukich is planning the second annual International Water Filter Conference for SRU in 2018; he spearheaded the first in 2016.

He’s also working with former pottery students to develop the Slippery Rock Clayworks Collaborative. It will feature a commercial pot shop, water filter training center and open community studio.

The studio will offer classes and gallery space while raising awareness of and support for local issues.

“We have a thriving art community in this area,” he said.

Several of his students have started their own water filter projects, which makes him think back to his art class with Wilt. Wukich regrets that Wilt didn’t get to see what he started, though they did have a chance to catch up while Wukich taught at SRU, and a scholarship has been established in his name.

“I’d like a chance to say ‘thanks,’” Wukich said.

For more information about the Potters Water Action Group, visit

The Hoyt Center for the Arts is located at 124 E. Leasure Ave., New Castle. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Info: Call 724-652-2882 or visit Allied News


Rome students' Erie Canal project combines art, history

ROME, NY: Rome high school students are learning a lot about the Erie Canal this year, but it's not through history class — it's through art.

After reading a story in the Observer-Dispatch about the Erie Canal's upcoming 200th anniversary, Rome Free Academy art teacher Amy Van Meter chose the canal as a theme for a student art show. The traveling show opens March 2 at the Willett Center at Fort Stanwix, and will later stop at City Hall and the Community Bank.

Van Meter, who serves as the art coordinator for the Rome city schools, found inspiration in the Erie Canal's natural beauty and its history. She shared that inspiration with the students, who had the chance to create paintings of the Erie Canal and learn its history.

"Locally and in Rome we take a lot of pride in the Erie Canal, it's a rich part of our history," Van Meter said. "And from an artistic perspective the natural beauty of the canal provides a lens through which the students can get inspired to create art."

Students worked from photographs of the canal to create paintings. A visit to Van Meter's classroom revealed students deeply absorbed in their work as music from the 1960s and '70s played in the background. The mood indicated a high level of enjoyment and engagement. Van Meter walked among the students, talking, listening and offering encouragement. She pointed out student renderings of the Erie Canal on the classroom walls.

Freshman Derek Monahan enjoyed describing the work that went into his creation.

"I like the concentration art requires," Monahan said. "I focused on the details; in my painting, I paid great attention to the foreground details."

Junior Jessica Smith, on the other hand, focused on the importance of the canal in local history: "I thought it was cool because it's here in Rome and it's something we can be proud of," she said.

And many students, including junior Marion Draper, whose painting was chosen as the cover for the show's advertisement, expressed interest in both topics after working on the multidisciplinary projects.

"I was really honored (to be on the cover) because the Erie Canal is part of our town ...," Draper said. "Art is my favorite subject and I plan to study it in college." Observer-Dispatch


The street artist who paints wheat silos

A steady stream of onlookers has gathered since the first brushstroke touched the towering grain silos.

The paint is barely dry on the portrait of the schoolgirl gazing down from the top of the 30m (100ft) structure and already it is the talk of the town.

The artist is Guido van Helten who has made a name for himself making large-scale public artworks in cities across Europe and the US.

He has now become the centre of attention in Coonalpyn, a farming town in South Australia with a population of about 200 and a giant sense of community.

"It's just a very small town on the highway between Adelaide and Melbourne," Mr van Helten told the BBC. "People probably drive through here all the time without even knowing its name."

A cafe looking out onto the work in progress is one of the first businesses to open in the town for years. A retired lorry driver, who spends days taking photos of the artist painting from a cherry-picker, has even become a something of a local celebrity himself.

It's a long way from the famous graffiti-covered laneways of Melbourne and, in a way, that's the point. Locals commissioned the project after a similar artwork by Mr van was Helten was credited with boosting visitors to Brim, a dwindling farming town in Victoria.

"It was probably one of my most uplifting projects because I could directly see that what I had done has made some sort of difference and I didn't expect that at all," Mr van Helten told the BBC.

The Brisbane-based artist says his work is primarily about places and spaces. He typically arrives in the cities where he works with no preconceived ideas and embeds himself in local communities as part of his process.

"There's a bit of a global movement that recognises the value of mural art as tool for regeneration," he said.
He has plans to travel next to Raukkan an Aboriginal community in South Australia, followed by Dubai and Nashville.

"I'm not getting invites from New York," he said.

"The offers comes from the forgotten about places or the places that want to try new things or use their infrastructure in a creative way." BBC

Rhode Island School of Design 'Art Prof' opens her classroom to you

Back in 2013, visual artist Clara Lieu started writing an advice column for visual artists called “Ask the Art Professor." She thought maybe it would last for a few months and take on a handful of questions from college students studying visual art.

But "the questions kept coming," said Lieu, an adjunct professor at the renowned Rhode Island School of Design.

"I had people who were 12, in middle school, I had people who had just recently retired," she recalled. "It was incredible how many different kinds of people contacted me and I just realized there's this need for this."

To meet this demand and increase access to visual arts education, Lieu is launching a new site called Art Prof. She and a team of teaching artists provide video tutorials on drawing, printmaking and sculpture, critiques of artist submissions, professional development tools and even an encyclopedia of arts supplies.

"A lot of artists tell me, ‘Well, I go to the art store and I have no idea what to get, because there’s 18 versions of charcoal, and which one’s better, and why?’ " said Lieu. "So there's a lot of information that I think is not accessible."

The free platform caters to all ages – from parents looking for advice for kids, high schoolers who don’t have access to arts classes at school and graduates and working artists looking for insight about how to market their work.

Lieu and her design partner, Thomas Lerra, have already been providing some of this insight through a blog and crowdsourced funding last fall to launch a full site.

One of the features is an Art Dare, where artists take on an assignment. This month's challenge is to do rapid fire drawings for a series of word prompts. Artists can post their artwork on Twitter and Instagram using #Artprofdare and selected winners receive prizes.

And there's an element of outreach towards primary and secondary school arts educators: Middle and high school art teachers can post class submissions for a chance to receive class video critiques. 89.3KPCC

Met Director Fears Elimination Of NEA Marks ‘New Assault’ On Art
We can all learn from Thomas P. Campbell’s impassioned defense of public art.

In an impassioned (but not quite scorched-earth) op-ed for The New York Times, Metropolitan Museum of Art director Thomas P. Campbell issued a swift and effective defense of public art in the United States.

“Arts and cultural programming challenges, provokes and entertains; it enhances our lives,” he wrote. “Eliminating the NEA would in essence eliminate investment by the American government in the curiosity and intelligence of its citizens.”

His defense ― a paean to the National Endowment of the Arts, in particular ― comes after rumors-turned-reports alleged that President Donald Trump’s administration plans to slash arts funding in an attempt to cut down on domestic spending. “Eliminating arts funding programs will save Donald Trump just 0.0625% of budget,” outlets have claimed. Nonetheless, it appears as though his office is ready to eliminate nine programs, including the NEA.

Campbell anticipates that regions around the country, not just those within walking distance of the Met, will feel the loss of such an institution. NEA grants are awarded to schools, jazz festivals, dance troupes, literary organizations, museum exhibitions, “arts programs for war veterans,” and so much more across every U.S. congressional district, Campbell claims. In fact, you can get an idea of the NEA’s scope of influence here, courtesy of a website created by artist Tega Brain. Grants are small ― they average $26,000, Campbell says, and require groups to secure matching funds ― but they can be powerful.

“Thousands are distributed in all 50 states, reaching every congressional district, urban and rural, rich and poor,” Campbell added, countering the Heritage Foundation’s characterization of the NEA as “welfare for cultural elitists.” “These grants sustain the arts in areas where people don’t have access to major institutions like the Met.”

Contained within Campbell’s poetic defense is also an admission of concern: “I fear that this current call to abolish the NEA is the beginning of a new assault on artistic activity,” he proclaimed, harkening back to the last time publicly-funded art was under threat. In the 1990s, a congressional “decency test” turned lawmakers into wayward art critics capable of vetoing grants to expecting artists who didn’t meet Congress’ moral standards. Think artists like the NEA Four. Or, in the late 1980s, Robert Mapplethorpe, Dread Scott and Andres Serrano.

Campbell continued:

Eliminating the NEA would in essence eliminate investment by the American government in the curiosity and intelligence of its citizens. As the planet becomes at once smaller and more complex, the public needs a vital arts scene, one that will inspire us to understand who we are and how we got here — and one that will help us to see other countries, like China, not as enemies in a mercenary trade war but as partners in a complicated world.
Campbell is hardly the only person to bridle at the prospect of decreased national arts funding. Authors, actors and artists, in particular, have been vocal about the need to protect the NEA and similar institutions. PEN America launched a petition to support the NEA; a White House petition with similar aims erupted.

As writer Celeste Pewter noted in a comprehensive Twitter thread, any proposed cuts to the NEA or similar programs would depend on Congressional budgets and appropriation. Similarly, in a thorough examination for The Huffington Post, reporter Claire Fallon outlined six things NEA supporters can do to protect national arts funding before an official decision to defund is made.

In the meantime, it will be important for figures like Campbell to continue to step forward and effectively communicate the impact and reach of the NEA. To tell the stories that accurately reflect how arts funding touches not only the coasts, but heartland organizations. To eloquently explain the ways in which art can transform opinions and illuminate the other.

In the face of a president who seems willing to cut budgetary corners he might not fully understand, it’s worth remembering the words of a former president, Barack Obama, who said, “Equal to the impact [artists] have on each of us every day as individuals is the impact [they] have on us as a society. And we are told we’re divided as a people, and then suddenly the arts have this power to bring us together and speak to our common condition.” The Huffington Post


Trump anxiety hits arts groups, leaders

It’s the kind of talk that keeps a Minnesota museum director up at night.

Amid signs the White House may soon propose eliminating federal funding for the arts, anxiety is rising among arts leaders across the state. Minnesota has a lot to lose: It ranks sixth nationally in the National Endowment for the Arts’ latest round of grants.

“It’s absolutely terrifying all of us,” said Kaywin Feldman, director of the Minneapolis Institute of Art. She views the NEA and the National Endowment for the Humanities as critical to museums’ research and exhibitions, such as the recent “Martin Luther” blockbuster show that drew more than 100,000 people. Over the past decade, the museum received $1.2 million from the NEH and $258,000 from the NEA, among other federal funds.

Funding for the arts and humanities — which makes up less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the federal budget — is about much more than money, Feldman said, echoing arts leaders across the state. “The threat of cutting the funding sends the message that the arts are expendable.”

Yet some conservatives argue that federal funding, however small, unnecessarily politicizes the arts.

Where funds flow

NEA money flows into Minnesota in several ways. The state has consistently received more in grant funding than other states with similar populations. Those grants, which totaled $5.3 million to Minnesota in 2016, have backed huge exhibitions in the Twin Cities and tiny projects in small towns. About $2.7 million of the 2016 total went to Minneapolis-based Arts Midwest, which then redistributed some of that money to other states in the region.

The Children’s Theatre Company received $90,000 for new works, such as the world premiere of a musical based on Dr. Seuss’ “The Sneetches.” The Hmong Cultural Center in St. Paul won $10,000 to teach students to play the qeej, a traditional instrument. The Franconia Sculpture Park, an hour northeast of the Twin Cities, got $15,000 for arts mentoring.

The Minnesota State Arts Board received $741,100 from the NEA for fiscal year 2016, helping fund dozens of grants to artists. Of the agency’s $35.1 million budget that year, $26.8 million came from the state Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.

In recent decades, the NEA has worked to reach every Congressional district with its grants. Last year, at least one NEA grant landed in each of Minnesota’s eight districts.

Show of support

Eliminating the NEA would require congressional approval. And despite perennial criticism from conservative groups such as the Heritage Foundation, the endowments have traditionally been backed by both parties. “It’s a quality-of-life issue here in Minnesota,” said U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, a Democrat. Spokespersons for Republican Reps. Tom Emmer and Jason Lewis did not respond last week to interview requests.

Arts leaders are encouraging their trustees to call elected officials and making plans to rally at the State Capitol this week. By Friday, more than 800 people had registered to attend Arts Advocacy Day on Tuesday — double last year’s attendance, said Sheila Smith of Minnesota Citizens for the Arts.

On a recent Sunday in Minneapolis, artists and others stopped by the Soap Factory gallery to express their support for the arts in an artsy way — on hand-printed postcards.

“I need art in my community because …” the postcards said in red ink.

Artist Camille Erickson greeted people as they entered, pausing from screen printing to help them look up their representatives. Using colored pencils, markers and watercolors, people gave their answers.

“Art creates a union between the emotional and intellectual landscapes, the lack of which leaves only a shallow vacuous existence,” printed Stephen Cruze, a Minneapolis writer who works at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Cruze, 47, decided to come after hearing a news report about the NEA.

“It’s one of my resolutions this year — to be more involved in community action,” he said. “I feel I was kind of a lazy liberal during the Obama administration.


But the political threat is not yet clear. While an internal memo obtained by the New York Times showed that the White House included the endowments, as well as the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, on a list of programs for possible elimination, it has made no public proposals.

“There continues to be very strong, bipartisan support in Congress for the agency,” said David Fraher, executive director of Arts Midwest, the regional arts organization which regrants NEA funds.

Based on his conversations in Washington, D.C., Fraher believes senior White House staff members support and respect the NEA’s work. It’s important that arts organizations make their case, showing why arts funding is a good investment, he continued. “But I also don’t want to get into a premature, Chicken Little kind of moment.”

In Congress, Minnesota’s top Democrats are worried that President Donald Trump’s budget will include zero dollars for the arts and humanities, said McCollum, the lead Democrat on the House appropriations subcommittee in charge of funding the NEA and NEH. “It’s very frightening,” she said.

Supporters of the NEA point out that it reaches rural areas where funding — and sometimes art — is hard to find. About 14 percent of the U.S. population live in non-metro areas, according to the NEA, about the same share as NEA-funded projects.

But Romina Boccia, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, argues that “it’s very clear” the NEA is trying to hit every congressional district to get political support. “That is politicizing the arts,” she said by phone. “That doesn’t mean we are necessarily getting the best art we can get.” SC Times