You may already know that The Art of Saving Humanity is a one-woman-run grassroots organization that collects used art supplies from the community and redistributes them to locally resettled refugees, but did you know that’s only a small part of what goes on?
In between art supply solicitations, collections and distributions, between art therapy workshops, classes and exhibitions, between social media promotions and articles, I am busy meeting in-person with refugee artists to pursue event venue opportunities, design websites and business cards, assist with filling out artist residency applications, and help with grant proposal writing.
This is not a one-sided operation, however. There isn’t an artist participating in this program who accepts help without giving back in some big way. Despite my eager willingness to give my all, I rarely get far without being inundated with goodwill, friendly gestures and gifts of meals and handmade crafts. In return for knitting supplies, I’ve received a bushel of freshly harvested beans; for weaving supplies, a brightly woven basket; for websites, the payment seems to always be hot, home-cooked, amazing meals. Despite my insistence that the artists should receive 100% of any sales proceeds, the topic always comes up that they would rather I take a commission for my troubles. I haven’t budged on that last point, but I can see I’ll need to soon, as I don’t ever want to make anyone feel like a charity case. These are brilliant, talented, motivated creative thinkers, survivors, and entrepreneurial spirits, and I admire them all so greatly.
We are equals, navigating this path of second chances and artistic self-sustainability together - and in one of the costliest, most competitive art scenes around. Our progress is slow, but relentless and filled with hope. We’ve become family and confidantes, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I went into this project hoping to give of myself, in a selfish way, so that I could feel I was contributing to humanity in some small sense. So that I could feel good about myself, really. It has evolved into something so much richer and more meaningful. I’ve gained a global community of incredibly diverse like-minded souls - artists, donors, partners, and volunteers alike.
In short, I set out like Don Quixote on a misguided mission to save humanity. To my surprise, humanity has been saving me, in a time when I never would have imagined that was possible.