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posted by Alexandra Frazier May 13,2015 @ 08:59AM

i carry your heart

"Keep going." A pause. "Keep going."

            My mother, sighing, "Surely this is enough?"

"Don't stop until I say so. Turn it white."

We may be standing in my mother's kitchen, but sauce is Bigi's domain. As he keenly watches over her shoulder, my mama shakes more garlic powder into a Dutch oven gurgling with tomatoes, onions and spice. Good sauce never truly simmers—it galurps and bursts and plops unevenly as sunglow-colored grease bubbles cluster along its edges—and today's pot is no different from the countless others two of my favorite people in the whole wide world have prepared together.

Bigi looks behind her, winks at me, and then nods his satisfaction when the garlic snowcaps are finally to his liking. He hip bumps her to the side of the gas range, gives the sauce a stir, then slurps the slender wooden spoon against his lips. His gnarled hands cupped under the bowl-back so as not to cause a spill, he holds what's left out to my mother. She swallows, smiles, and rolls her eyes.

"Bean, you want a taste?"

He wiggles an eyebrow at me, and I practically skip to the stove. He was right about the garlic powder—he always is.

This was my grandfather. Always right. Stubborn to a fault. Never a minute late. Fiercely independent. And yet, exacting as he may have been, ingredients were never measured nor recipes written down. Food was my grandfather's means of creative expression, and in his world, all spoons were communal. Dinners were leisurely. And love abundant.   

My stubborn, willful, utterly perfect grandfather passed away last year. After a week in the hospital—the result of a bad fall and broken pelvis—his kidneys failed and his too-big heart just plain broke. He died the morning of October 22nd, the day before Riggs Partners' CreateAthon XVII. It was to be my first CreateAthon, an event I'd been looking forward to ever since I joined the agency that January. But, after my world had been tipped on its axis, I wasn't sure I would have the mental capacity to string sentences together, never mind good sentences on behalf of The Arts Empowerment Project, a nonprofit that connects at-risk children with transformative, life-changing arts experiences. I briefly thought about not coming.

But my grandfather, the man who wouldn't miss Christmas with family come hell or double hip replacement, the WWII veteran whose photo must be printed alongside Webster's definition of pluck, would have pushed me forward. He had always taught me to honor my commitments, and he did so until the day he died. Tempted to stay home, I could still hear him:  Keep going. Don't stop until I say so.  

When I arrived to the WECO that cloudy October morning, a few people—those who knew—said kind things I didn't really hear. I stammered a thank you or two, and then I got to work. Selfishly, I craved the distraction of a challenge apart from that inconvenient thing called grieving. 

That said, distractions are temporary by design, and they never completely divert our attention from the tasks we hope to escape. As the hours ticked past and night blanketed the WECO, the memories came unbidden:

My grandfather's slight form hunched over the stove as he taught me to whisk together polenta. The great delight with which he accepted my applesauce Bundt cakes, even when over or under baked. Quote, depending on circumstance, "I like a crispy outside," or "It will stay moist longer this way."
Books, newspapers, and large-print copies of Reader's Digest arranged in neat piles throughout my grandparent's house, all of which I was welcome to read whenever I visited.
His strong voice gliding over the crests and valleys of a hymn (for much of his life, he sang in both a barbershop quartet and the church choir), and a stronger shoulder to lean against when I inevitably got sleepy at midnight mass.
Countless car rides to ballet lessons across town, after which he'd help tame my unruly locks into a sleek bun, twisting and pinning according to my 7-year-old self's most authoritative instructions.

How lucky I was to have shared with him so many of my creative interests. How empty life would have been without hisguidance, encouragement, and example thesepast 23 years. And in that, a kernel of understanding.

Perhaps because my heart was bruised, my grandfather gone and my headspace in vulnerable territory, I finally grasped what the gift of arts exposure could do for a child achingly familiar with life's harsh realities. For a productive spell between the hours of midnight and 7 a.m., I too was just a little girl in need of the therapeutic power of words, art and writing to heal her broken places.

I had been told CreateAthon was an experience like no other. I was prepared for so many things—client tears, impossible deadlines, the sad truth that my hair would look like it had been combed with a porkchop—but I wasn't expecting the bear hug to the soul that came with working for a nonprofit whose very purpose helped put in perspective not what I had lost, but how much I had to be thankful for.

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He was my granddaddy, but he was everyone's Bigi, and I'd like to think he watched over all of us intrepid creative spirits that night. As Riggs and co. begin to accept the next batch of CreateAthon applications, I can only hope he'll be there too, helping us push through the night with grace, grit, and a little extra determination.         
         
                                                                                                                                                                       In loving memory of Elio Joseph "Bigi" Bigiarelli                                                                       

Riggs Partners 2015 CreateAthon applications are now available. Apply here.

 

                                                                     

posted by Will Weatherly Oct 22,2014 @ 12:46PM

FAAAC: A closer look at African American art

An affiliate of the Columbia Museum of Art, The Friends of African American Art & Culture provides supplemental member benefits focused around a deep dive into African American arts. Offering artist home tours, specialty exhibits, group trips and more, the organization bridges ethnicity and age while fostering appreciation for the cultural contributions of African American artists.

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For CreateAthon this year, we'll be working to help by developing marketing strategies, re-crafting web messaging, and designing support collateral.

posted by Kelly Davis Oct 21,2014 @ 11:44AM

WXRY-FM: Amplifying the Voices of Our Community

I’ll never forget the day that WXRY (FM 99.3) came on the air. They had been promoting the station for a few weeks in print ads that billed this new listening option as “The Independent Alternative.” They caught my attention with the assertion that this was the music that my generation listened to in college (i.e. early to mid 1990s).

Considering that WXRY launched on St. Patrick’s Day with a 24-hour marathon of only music by Irish rock band U2 (my personal favorite), it seems appropriate that the station is now a client of the 24-hour pro bono marathon that is CreateAthon.

What many people didn’t realize when it first began, and some may still not know, is that WXRY is an independent, nonprofit, public radio station. When you hear “public radio,” you more often think of NPR or a university-owned radio station. In fact, according to WXRY’s President and General Manager Steve Varholy, nonprofit public radio is the fastest growing segment of radio because of the quality and independence of the programming. They have the freedom to play what they want to play when they want to play it.

WXRY is owned by The Independent Media Foundation, a local 501(c)(3) foundation, and it is programmed by a small staff of professionals and volunteers who are longtime residents of the Columbia area. In a landscape that is increasing dominated by corporate-owned media conglomerates, it is refreshing to have a truly local voice in town, especially one that is committed to the community and not to shareholders.

Naomi Sargent of Columbia Opportunity Resource during a taping of The Buzz, one of WXRY's regular segments promoting community activities and involvement. Naomi Sargent of Columbia Opportunity Resource during a taping of The Buzz, one of WXRY's regular segments promoting community activities and involvement.

WXRY’s business model is completely different from any other radio station in town, and intentionally so. Their mission is “great radio that builds and serves your community.” Their goal is to get real community voices on the air and to serve as a catalyst for growth and renewal in the Columbia area by shining a light on all of the great things that are happening in our city.

Our work for WXRY during CreateAthon will focus on the development of materials to help them expand their FM frequencies and service area as well as build additional studio and office space. Meeting these goals will enable the station to continue to increase its engagement not only on the air, but also in person.

During CreateAthon, just as I do every other day, I’ll be streaming www.wxryfm.org at my desk and rocking out to the best alternative tunes of yesterday and today, knowing that by supporting this nonprofit media outlet, I’m also supporting all of the other nonprofits in my community whose voices they amplify.

posted by Teresa Coles Oct 20,2014 @ 08:00AM

Sustaining Our Seniors: Creating scale around senior care

Sustaining Our Seniors is all about matching people with a heart for seniors with opportunities to serve. Sustaining Our Seniors is all about matching people with a heart for seniors with opportunities to serve.

According to the most recent Census data, 1 in 8 Americans (13% of the population) are 65 or older. This is projected to grow to 1 in 5 (19.3%) by 2030, the year all members of the Baby Boomer generation will have turned 65. By 2050, seniors will make up 25% of the population.

Staggering numbers, to be sure, with a significant projected impact on the US economy, healthcare system, housing market, and all manner of other areas that affect quality of life for Americans. Perhaps the more profound consideration is the impact the “silver tsunami” already is having on individuals; older, often fragile adults who increasingly find themselves making difficult choices: food vs. prescriptions; heating bills vs. transportation; dental care vs. pet care.

It’s the type of perfect storm Sustaining Our Seniors of South Carolina is seeking to manage. This new nonprofit will serve as an intermediary designed to connect interested volunteers and financial supporters to qualified senior-serving organizations throughout the state.

“Senior citizens and vulnerable adults need a champion,” said Coretta Bedsole, president of Sustaining Our Seniors board of directors. “We want to be that champion by identifying resources, information, guidance and service options to improve their quality of life.”

Connecting people to organizations in the way of donations, hands-on service, and skills-based volunteerism can help build capacity for the many senior service programs already in existence throughout South Carolina. Leaders from Sustaining Our Seniors are quick to point out the organization is not designed to replicate services, but to help build scale behind those services in a way that will enable them to deliver even more assistance to South Carolina seniors.

The RP CreateAthon team has the privilege of helping this organization develop foundational strategies such as product design, organizational development, and brand marketing. We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to work with an organization from the ground up, and look forward to helping this organization connect people with a heart for seniors to opportunities for service and support.

posted by Katy Miller Oct 20,2014 @ 05:48AM

Camera Ready

It’s not often we get the chance to help a start up, but that’s exactly what we are doing for Film Columbia, the newest initiative of One Columbia For Arts and History.Unknown

As the city’s “unofficial” office of cultural affairs, One Columbia’s mission is to strengthen and unify the arts community with an ultimate goal of attracting more visitors to events and activities. They do this through a number of high profile projects like public art and the Cultural Passport. But, they haven’t stopped here.

The idea behind Film Columbia is to create a video library of art events and activities that groups can use to promote their own endeavors. It works like this: One Columbia hires emerging and established local filmmakers to shoot video of cultural events that take place in the city (most artists cannot afford to do this on their own). The filmmakers edit the footage into shorts videos that can be used to market various events, festivals, gallery openings, performances and lots of other happenings. Attendance goes up, artists are happy and Columbia is better known for its robust arts scene!

With several videos completed, it’s time to take the initiative to the next level. That’s where CreateAthon can help. One Columbia already has a good foundation from which to build—a strong visual identity, a great website and an even better digital newsletter. The challenge is carving out space for Film Columbia within the One Columbia brand and increasing awareness among local artists of the free service. CreateAthon deliverables will include positioning, marketing planning and collateral. With the right tools in place, Film Columbia will be ready for its big premiere!

 

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