Last week was pretty special around here. I handed out the Frost & Friends Scholarships to the Summer in the Arts Program at Northern Illinois University to six high school students in my community.I am so proud of this!
In the fall of the year 2000, I found myself at home with a two year old and a six week old baby when I decided to open the doors of my home, create and make handmade products for sale, and put on my first holiday gift show. I was a young girl and had just left my art education teaching career. The internet was relatively new and email was a new revolution. (There was no such thing as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram...)
I felt this pull for following my dreams in art that I had so often referenced to my young students. My young daughters, were there in my hands (and riding on my hip) and I couldn't help but want to build and create something that mattered. For them. For us. For others.
As an art teacher, my students passions for creation stayed with me. So many of them have an innate ability to create. I could relate. After all, we studied artists throughout history that many times worked in collaborative situations, took chances, made art, and made history.
My main mission was to take that "big spirit of mine"(as Mom always said) and spread holiday cheer throughout the LAND and paint the most beautiful things with all I had inside of me.
I worked for weeks preparing and planning for this event. I snail-mailed invitations from my own list of family and friends and I created an email list with about 25 names. (Remember email was a new phenomenon?) And as luck would have it, the show was a success...everyone had a great time and I sold everything!
I thought one of two things...either my friends and family just felt obligatory to buy or I was really onto something! I went with the later.
The next year...I tweaked it. I invited an exquisite jewelry maker, Joan Maxwell, to showcase with me to broaden the scope of merchandise to make for a better experience for our shoppers.
The third year...I invited more makers. It was such a crazy success my neighbors wondered what the heck was going on? It was time...we finally had outgrown my little two story house and it was time to move to a larger location.
The move meant more to me that words can say. This was my chance to make a difference from the ground-up. I wanted to do something for all those art students that were sitting in art rooms in high schools. Those students that were at that point where they discovered they loved making art but perhaps didn't have a clue about a direction in how to create a living or build a future from it? I remember it wasn't that long ago sitting in a classroom myself...wishing an opportunity would exsist where I could work in the summer to hone my skills and work alongside like minded students to explore the possibilities. And then, the stars aligned and I was asked to be a teacher at the Summer in the Arts program at Northern Illinois University. It was everything I dreamed of for young people. That is exactly where I wanted to direct my efforts.
Then I began to look for solutions in the world that I already knew from my past life as a professional volunteer and teacher.
An idea hit me: Why not create a holiday experience that helps provide opportunities in the form of scholarships to young art students?
I'm going to build on the show I have already started, call it "Frost & Friends" that features makers and creative businesses, and just ask that each person that attend to pay a nominal fee? All of that can be directed to the scholarships.
It was a simple concept. And it worked. Here we are thirteen years later and the event draws thousands of people each year. I am so proud to note that we have given 82 scholarships, raised over 50k, and nurtured all those young dreams. Beautiful.
Congratulations Kathryn Simpson and Gretchen Stark from Guilford High School, Kaitlin Adotta and Jose Avila from Jefferson High School, and Elaina Weickert and Alexander Hill from Boylan for winning the scholarships this year.
SHINE ON you beautiful artists!