If you read our blog or follow us on social media, you have likely seen various references to artistic endeavors we have, or are currently, pursuing. The tea box design contest, Kintsugi, sewing, refurbishing furniture, embroidery and the art-covered walls of The House are all examples of how we include exposure to and support of art in our daily tasks. But why? How does support for the arts help My Cup of Tea achieve its mission?
Here are 5 reasons we are intentional about incorporating art into strategy to improve the lives of Orange Mound women:
Arts are critical for community revitalization
As we told you in a blog post in June of 2021, there is broad agreement in the community development arena that art is essential to revitalizing a community. As a Princeton University working paper put it,
“The arts revitalize neighborhoods and promote economic prosperity. Participation in the arts improves physical and psychological well-being. The arts provide a catalyst for the creation of social capital and the attainment of important community goals.”
Bill Strickland, an activist and founder of the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild in inner-city Pittsburg argued in an NPR TED Radio Talk that exposure to beauty is critical to community change. He says whether music, painting, sculpting or dance, engaging with beauty on a consistent basis changes vocabularies, behaviors, and raises expectations for what is possible for the community to a new level.
Doing our part to help revitalize the once thriving Orange Mound neighborhood has always been a part of our mission, and therefore so is supporting the arts.
Creativity is important to health and healing
Referencing the trauma My Cup of Tea women have experienced is something we do often. We want you to better understand how remarkable it is they have survived and are making progress toward thriving. Overcoming that trauma is a process that can take many years. We pray together, recommend professional help, and incorporate art in our activities, like our ongoing Kintsugi classes we wrote about recently.
"Creativity in and of itself is important for remaining healthy, remaining connected to yourself and connected to the world." Christianne Strang, a professor of neuroscience at the University of Alabama Birmingham and the former president of the American Art Therapy Association told NPR in a 2020 interview.
The benefits are not limited to a single type of art, but extend to drawing, painting, knitting, cake decorating and a nearly unlimited list of possibilities. Participating in art can be healing for those coping with trauma but can also enhance well-being of those generally mentally and emotionally healthy.
Black artists are historically underrepresented
In 2019, a study was conducted by a group of mathematicians, statisticians, and art historians at Williams College together with Kevin M. Murphy, senior curator of American and European Art at Williams College Museum of Art, and Steven Nelson, professor of African and African American Art at UCLA, as reported by the digital news source, Hyperallergic. The study found that in 18 of the nation’s major museums, 85% of the artists represented are white and 87% are men.
We didn’t know about this study when we launched the tea box design contest last year, but anecdotally, we knew that there were Black artists doing amazing work who are virtually unknown. It is also true that Orange Mound is arguably the oldest African American neighborhood in the United States. We believed then, and now, that a Black artist was best positioned to represent the story of Orange Mound in the art for the tea box.
After a successful 2021 contest where we chose Andre’ Miller to create the art for our new tea box, we have relaunched the contest for 2022. The rules and rewards are the same, and the deadline is September 1st for artists to submit a portfolio. If you know of someone who might be interested, please direct them to the entry portal: www.shopmycupoftea/proposals
Art helps imagine a more hopeful future
Overcoming trauma and poverty requires hard work and perseverance, but it also necessary to believe that a better future is possible. This is true of any of us facing a daunting task or a discouraging season in life. Art is one of the ways we can manage those feelings of despair and doubt and look to better days.
Dr. Girija Kaimal at Drexel University is an art therapy researcher who works with patients suffering with PTSD. Dr. Kaimal told NPR that she believes the brain is a predictive “machine” that uses information to decide what we will do next and what we need to do to survive and thrive in the future.
"This act of imagination is actually an act of survival," she says. "It is preparing us to imagine possibilities and hopefully survive those possibilities."
Art is a gift from God
How many photos on social media do we see from all over the world of magnificent sunsets, sunrises, or rainbows? How often have the world’s most renowned artists depicted the stars, planets, and the moon? Creation alone is the ultimate artwork by the ultimate Artist.
Throughout the Bible, the harp, lyre, flute, tambourine, singers – the art of music- are called for worshipping God.
In I Kings 6, King Solomon builds the temple according to God’s commands. It included intricate artwork such as carvings “with gourds and open flowers,” entire areas overlaid with pure gold, a pair of cherubim approximately 15 feet tall each made from olive wood and overlaid with gold, and carvings of palm trees and cherubim in the doors to the temple. These are a few of the detailed works that were included in the temple design.
Clearly, we have been blessed with the gift of art, so we desire to incorporate it in our daily lives.
As we said last year, “beyond this single project, we envision future opportunities to empower and promote Black artists annually. Emphasizing the beauty and talent that exists in this historic community is essential to support its rebirth,” and the rebirth of the women we serve.
Retiring Shelby County Commissioner Reginald Milton, commenting in the Commercial Appeal on the opening of the Orange Mound Gallery may have said it best.
“Art is a way to express our fears, our passions, our concerns, our anger. Art is unique, it is a gift from God to humans.”
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