Tuesday, October 27, 2015

'Tis the Season: VSA Texas Holiday Benefit Hosted by Ten Thousand Villages

I know, I know… it is not even Halloween yet, but I just scheduled our VSA Texas Christmas Benefit at Ten Thousand Villages (TTV). Can you believe I got the last spot? For those of you who don’t know or haven’t heard about TTV, let me tell you a little bit about them and VSA Texas’ relationship with them. I have been a volunteer with TTV for 11 years since they first had their store on South Congress next to the Continental Club. Through growing pains, parking and rent doubling, TTV relocated to Burnet Road and has a whole new neighborhood and clientele that have been gracious and have started to become regulars at the new store. TTV is a fair trade, non-profit retail store that provides a marketplace for artisans from over 38 developing countries. TTV has spent more than 60 years cultivating trading relationships in which artisans receive a fair price for their work, and consumers have access to distinctive handcrafted items.

Every year, VSA Texas is offered a benefit night during the holidays, which enables us to receive 10-15% of all items purchased in the store between 5:00-10:00 pm on a specific night in December. Everybody gets to shop for all their holiday goodies, have some refreshments, and enjoy a little entertainment. It’s an evening of good fellowship, and also in turn, supporting a fellow non-profit store. One of the things that our organizations have in common is that some of the items are made by people who are deaf or who have cognitive disabilities. We are fortunate that TTV shares our values of supporting the creative process in an all-inclusive environment.

A couple poses with handmade
candle holders from Silence
TTV has purchased products from Silence since 1983. Silence is a self-help project for artisans in India who are deaf or have physical disabilities. In a country where unemployment is high, people with disabilities rarely find work. The situation is even more difficult for women with disabilities. Silence works to help their artisans become self-sufficient and earn their living, training team members in different skills.

An artisan from Uganda Crafts
holds a spring reeds basket
Another group is Uganda Crafts, an organization managed by the disadvantaged to help the disadvantaged. Many of their artisans also have physical disabilities. They create artful baskets using their traditional method of weaving.

An artisan from Rehab Craft Cambodia
poses with a handmade purse

A third group supported by TTV is Rehab Craft Cambodia (RCC), which recognizes the obstacles these Cambodian artisans with disabilities face and gives them skills to create successful and meaningful businesses. Since people with disabilities have historically had few opportunities for training or employment, RCC does not hire people on the basis of their education or job experience. Instead, the organization is dedicated to providing training and opportunities for advancement to people within the company.
All these items and many more can be found during the Christmas Holiday Benefit for VSA Texas on December 14th, 2015, from 5:00-10:00 pm. It’s a wonderful tradition that we continue to share each year with Ten Thousand Villages. We support their artisans with disabilities, and they financially support our artisans who need our support and services. They are located at 4803 Burnet Road in Austin and can be contacted through email at austin@tenthousandvillages.com.
‘Tis the Season!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Blog-yssey

Hello folks. The last 6 weeks have been full of travel for me, so I thought I would share some of my adventures through photos. I started off in Corpus Christi at our annual Distinguished Artist Veterans' exhibit. The exceptional drawing of a cowboy is by Sharen Craddock. After the reception, we enjoyed dinner and drinks with another artist, Denise Knebel. We were out over the water, rocking on our dock!

The following weekend found me dancing with April Sullivan at the Houston Arts Partners conference. Can you tell who is who?

I returned to Houston the following weekend to teach the art of audio description to folks at The Hobby Center. Sorry folks, no photos here. We were working! “Seven women and one man sit around a long, rectangular wooden table, staring at a small television monitor to observe the set of The Gin Game.” But I did return to Austin in time to enjoy a performance by The Old Hats at our Lion and Pirate Open Mic!

Then, it was on to Miami, Florida to teach the teaching artists and docents at Perez Art Museum Miami the art of audio description. Miami has some crazy drivers! Sorry, no photos. I value my life too much. But my hotel suite was spacious and the spa was magnificent!

After a wonderful day and a half at the museum, I did what every disability arts professional does on their day off. I crashed the South Florida Inclusive Arts Silver Summit in celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the ADA. Of course, you say. Why not? We had a visit from The Beam – way cool – and a little more dancing by participants of VSA Florida residencies with Karen Peterson and Dancers!

After Florida, it was back to Austin for, you guessed it, more dancing. This time, ECHO, a Body Shift site specific performance led by Silva Laukkanen. We christened the new courtyard at Creative Action and Sustainable Foods. Let’s hope this brings many years of joyful art-making to this wonderful spot in East Austin!

Finally, after a quick breather to keep the staff in line (smile) and keep up with those pesky grants and grant reporting, April and I were off to Albuquerque for the annual Southwest Conference on Disability. Balloons every morning over the highways. This year, we just watched from afar, so more balloon photos next year. We met the crew from “When Pigs Fly,” so maybe we will host a touch tour next year! Stay tuned for more on that.

But, prior to our three days of describing all the movies at the Film Festival as well as the Keynotes –are you noticing an audio description theme to my travels? – we spent a day exploring west New Mexico. Lava fields in El Malpais, natural stone arches, sandstone cliffs. Then off to Tinkertown where we had our fortunes told and learned about our true professions.

Following the conference we dropped in on our friends VSA New Mexico at their North 4th Art Center before heading out to our last NM meal for another year.

Finally, a last stop at the grower’s market in downtown ABQ for a visit with a wizard and his goose, and wonderful fresh veggies.

I hope you enjoyed my adventures almost as much as I did!

Until next time…