MARÍA ELENA ÁLVAREZ
Over the last few months I’ve been working as a volunteer registrar alongside the incredible staff of Groundswell, a Brooklyn-based, female-directed non-profit whose work aims to bring together artists, youth, and community organizations while using art as a tool for social change.
My involvement with this organization began when two of my classmates from New York University’s Visual Arts Administration program found themselves working at the Groundswell studio. When my friends told me about the organization’s need I welcomed the opportunity to support the public art initiative. I was also excited to gain more hands-on experience working with an organization that would repay my efforts with a sense of agency along the way.
Throughout my experience with the staff I found myself feeling very fulfilled by such a well-defined role within the team. Wearing many hats is typical for creative work, so I was glad to have the unique opportunity to focus on one project, their annual benefit and the intake of artworks. I was able to dedicate a significant amount of time toward its success alongside the permanent staff, seeing the project through many stages of progress.
During this time, I have been impressed with Groundswell’s artistic merits as well as its dedication to socially impactful projects. Groundswell’s program includes public art (in the form of murals,) youth programs (under the headings of Leadership, Empowerment, and Development,) and other special initiatives within the community – including working with youth at all stages of involvement within the criminal justice continuum.
The people at Groundswell have provided me with renewed hope for the achievement of that zen-like balance required in community organizing between aesthetics and the notion of communal responsibility. Because of my positive experience working directly with their Development and Communications Director, Sharon Polli, I plan to investigate their organization further as an academic example of successful community arts organizational leadership.
As I have spent my time at the Groundswell headquarters, I felt welcomed by the entire range of staff and volunteers in a way that has moved me. Whether I was brainstorming with one of their youth interns at the studio or checking in with their director, Amy Sananman, there was a truly communal sense of shared responsibility, shared success; as well as creative and intellectual equality. I believe that this sense of dignity flows from the hearts of each supporter of the organization, from the board and committee members to the donating artists and volunteer art handlers.
I contemplated delaying the publication of this article, in order to report on concrete successes of the forthcoming benefit. However, I decided that it would be more fun to invite you readers to view a small curated selection of my favorite works donated for Groundswell’s 17th Annual Art Auction while they are still available for bidding!
Beginning with the above work by Maria Elena Alvarez, below are just a few more that I enjoy.
*To attend the benefit auction at Christie’s in New York City, this Monday October 7th
find full details here: www.groundswellmural.org/benefit
Un verano en Nueva York, 2013
Tape #3, 2009
Beautifying Riverbank, 2013
What on Earth (Do you Mean?), 2010
You Can Take Our Homes But You Can’t Take Our Hearts, 2013
Honoree Artist, Swoon, has offered a studio visit experience…
Experience: Studio Tour and Lunch , 2013