Still Running in Washington DC

This post is a little late, but its about time I share and reflect on my time in Washington DC about two weeks ago.

When Luca and I started Still Running in April, we frantically began the search for funding.  Being completely new to the world of grants, stipends and sponsorships (among other things), I turned to google to show me the answers.  After having a hard time discerning reliable (and realistic) funding options online, a good friend told me to check out do something.org.

If you arent already familiar with it, DoSomething is a website/organization that promotes activism and community service projects involving young people around the world.  You can create a project profile for your project, and they even give out a certain number of $500 seed grants every week for new ideas.  DoSomething also keeps an up to date grants database, which lists grant and funding opportunities available through other reliable organizations for new service projects.   By chance, I found a listing pretty relevant to Still Running from Youth Service America and decided to give it a shot.  As you know by now, we got the grant and have since traveled to Washington DC to undergo leadership training (on them! Free trips are the best trips!).

Youth Service America didnt just provide us with a grant though, they have actually been much more generous than that!  I (Taylor) was selected to serve as the Youth Service America National Child Awareness Month Ambassador to Massachusetts for the coming year, and I will be collaborating with the other 50 YSA NCAM 2013-2014 Ambassadors around the nation (1 per state and DC) to lead state wide community service events for Global Youth Service Day this April.  Not only has YSA provided us with funding, but their national endorsement has elevated the visibility of the project significantly, and the new connections I made with the other Ambassadors and guest speakers in Washington will allow us to grow the project in ways I would have never imagined before.  (I also made it through airport security and flew all by myself, so overall I feel very accomplished.)

On my first day in DC we got right down to business.  We got started with a few icebreakers, but jumped right into a finding your strengths activity we were asked to prepare before our arrival.  For the activity, we were asked to reflect on two separate times in life when we felt we were at our best, and identify the qualities that contributed to the success of the given venture.  Even though it sounds cheesy, it actually helped a lot.  If you are able to identify what you do well, you can be aware of what your strengths are.  And if you know what you do well, you also know where you dont do well, and can be more aware of traits that arent as strong as others.  This is a good thing to keep in mind when looking for a business partner- just a little insight!

After that, they had us concentrate on nailing our elevator pitches down so we would be prepared for our meetings at Capitol Hill.  If you havent heard the term before, an elevator pitch is like a quick summary of your business or organization that you give to a potential sponsor, reporter, investor, future partner, etc- a quick taste of what youre doing to get them interested.  This was extremely helpful to me.  If weve ever talked in person before then you know how easily it is for me to get distracted, even in the middle of a sentence.

So, first we practiced on each other.  Over and over and over. And over.  Not surprisingly, at first it was hard, but after the 5th or 6th attempt it got easier, until it was almost like I didnt have to think about it at all.  Just as soon as we were all feeling confident, the folks at YSA brought in real media correspondents, and CEOs for us to pitch to.  It was scary, but it was good to get some honest feedback and make connections with people successful in the field prior to my pitch at Massachusetts State Senator Elizabeth Warrens Office.

Day 2: Meeting with Senator Warrens Office on Capitol Hill

The visit was fast paced.  The very next day, we got up, we had our pictures taken in front of The Capitol Building, and we headed over to the Hart Senate Building for our meetings. At the time of my meeting, Senator Warren herself was unable to make it because she was working on an early education bill, so I met with her Legislative Correspondent instead.  And it worked out, we had a very productive meeting!

Since the success of Still Running depends so much on public participation and awareness of what we are doing, I asked her office if they would be able to help connect me to local media.  I asked for a quote from Senator Warren about Still Running (to use in press releases), I asked if it would be possible to set up another meeting with her (even if it has to happen over the phone), and I sent her office a complete list of all of our upcoming events to see if she will be able to attend any of them. Of course,  all of these requests involve collaboration between different members of her office, but I have been in touch with them and Im happy to say we are working on it!

Upon our return to leadership training headquarters, which was Hotel Palomar in Dupont Circle, we went straight into a series of lectures from guest speakers, including representatives from Mobilizer.org, the CEO of Youth Service America, representatives from the Festival of Children Foundation, and a social media training seminar.

All together, these talks highlighted the how each of these organizations got started and the importance of collaborating and making good partnerships to allow our organizations to grow.  Mobilizer.org is an organization which specializes in facilitating growth in smaller organizations, and is focused on providing people with the resources they need to mobilize the right groups of people to get things done.  Their website has lots of free resources and documents on this subject, and you can apply to their intensive program to receive even more extensive management training.

All of the talks emphasized the importance of documentation and high visibility of the positive change you are making, which seems obvious but in reality is much easier said than done.  Be that as it may, it is still very important.  Specifically, its good to keep your pitch to reporters and media short, sweet, and interesting, and that you should be persistent in contacting the media as it is more likely they will cover you.

However, in addition to media coverage, I learned the importance of generating my own unique and interesting content for Still Running on social media outlets, because thats how  you can gain a following of your own- independent of media coverage.  It also helps to stay connected to your audience and keep people interested.  If youve noticed that weve stepped up the Facebook and instagram posting, this is why.  (By the way, follow us on instargam! @stillrunningart)

Going back to the subject of connections I made in DC, I met a group of amazing young people all dedicated to making a positive difference in the community.  We network fairly regularly in a facebook group and through monthly YSA webinars, and I think that this connectivity will make it easy for us to stay current with what everyone is doing and actively contribute ideas to help each other.  I have some ideas for collaboration with the other Ambassadors, and Ill announce them soon.  But while the details are still being worked out, Ill stay vague and leave you with a thought about the importance of a having a community.

Having a communitywhat does that mean? Im talking about finding and being part of a group of motivated, passionate people interested in the same things as you.  Look at the grunge movement out of Seattle in the 90s, look at abstract expressionism in New York in the 40s- all those artists knew each other and networked together (to varying extents).  If you can find this network, youve found support.  Whether its just moral support, develops into logistical support, or a even grows into collaborative effort, you at least have a place to get feedback and grow your ideas- which is the most important thing.  In business and life (and with Still Running), staying active and innovative with your ideas and how you put them to action are the most important elements to survival.  Think of it like evolution, adapt to thrive and survive.  Annnd, thats my queue to stop writing.

Best thing about DC and most important thing in business/nonprofit/creative endeavors: networking and collaboration.  Find a network and collaborate.

I am so grateful to Youth Service America and The Festival of Children Foundation for helping me find a network, for the support, and for this incredible opportunity.  I cant wait to see what we can do together!

Best,

Taylor

Public Works of Art In Boston

Above: Statue of George Washington in The Boston Public Garden

Above: Statue of George Washington in The Boston Public Garden

Mayor Menino and the Boston Art Commission recently made available online resources for a public art walk of the city of Boston.  Their website, www.publicartboston.com, compiles a wealth of information on public works of art throughout the city, including an interactive map of Boston and a phone number to call for an audio guide of the walk (which is 617-321-4053).  The map even has options to view works of art by neighborhood, and overall does a great job of making all the public art the city has to offer more accessible and easy to find.  It is also a great resource for locating exactly what type of art you might be looking for- whether it be iconic local monuments or temporary pieces, the interactive map has all the information you need to find exactly what you want to see.

After reviewing the map, I embarked on an art walk of my own to see some of the highlights close to my current neighborhood (Kenmore Square).  My stops included The Commonwealth Mall, The Public Garden, The Cool Globes exhibit at Copley Square and   Boston Common, and The Boston Sculptors Convergence at the Christian Science Center.  Overall, it was interesting to look at some of Bostons more iconic, historical  landmarks in contrast to a few more contemporary, public-awareness inspired public art exhibitions- which really goes to show the wide variety of forms public works of art can take on.

I began my walk by taking a route through The Commonwealth Mall, a long monument park stretching the length of Comm Ave between Kenmore Square and The Boston Public Garden.  Tucked away in the Back Bay neighborhood just behind Newbury Street, this beautiful monument park is easily missed.  Segmented by intersecting streets every block, The Commonwealth Mall offers a new historic monument every few hundred feet.  Its an interesting and engaging way to learn about historic Boston figures and organizations that are a lesser known in the citys rich history.

Above: The Boston Women's Memorial located between Fairfield and Gloucester Streets on The Commonwealth Mall

Above: The Boston Womens Memorial located between Fairfield and Gloucester Streets on The Commonwealth Mall

The Commonwealth Mall lead me right to the Boston Public Garden, famous for its swan boats and iconic statue of George Washington.  As always, The Public Garden was well landscaped and maintained, amplifying the awe-inspiring effect of the monument to George Washington and highlighting the picturesque quality of this destination.  A must see if you are new to the city and a great place to relax!

Above: Statue of George Washington in The Boston Public Garden

Above: Statue of George Washington in The Boston Public Garden

Next I visited Boston Common, adjacent to the Public Garden.  Again, a must see for tourists and a lovely place to relax on a nice day.

The Frog pond in Boston Common

The Frog pond in Boston Common

The "Make Way for Ducklings" statues in The Common. ^This is exactly what public art is for.

The Make Way for Ducklings statues in The Common. ^This is exactly what public art is for.

Along the edge of The Common between Boylston and Park Street stations I had the pleasure of seeing the Cool Globes exhibit.  Aimed at raising public awareness for green living and climate change, this exhibit features a series of giant globes decorated by artists and sponsoring organizations.  While I was there, the globes attracted lots of attention and interest from the public and it was easy to see

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

why.  Many of them were bright, fun, and engaging and some even invited the public to partake in the exhibit by actively drawing on the globes themselves.  I think interesting, unexpected things like this in high traffic areas are a great and friendly way of garnering not only public interest in the arts, but also in larger issues that affect the entire community.

"Cool Globes" along Boston Common

Cool Globes along Boston Common

 

 

 

 

 

On my way back, I stopped at Copley Square to check out even more Cool Globes there.  In addition to the globes, admiring the architecture of the surrounding buildings like The Boston Public Library, The Prudential Center, The Hancock Building,  and The Trinity Church is always worth the time.

The Trinity Church at Copley Square, and some of The Hancock Building

The Trinity Church at Copley Square, and some of The Hancock Building

To wrap up my art walk, I stopped by The Boston Sculptors convergence at The Christian Science Center on the way home.  It was worth it.  The show features works of all shapes, sizes, and media integrated into the already stunning plaza at The Christian Science Center (also a must-see for tourists).  The most interesting thing for me was looking for the sculptures.  Some were very large and very obvious, but there were many smaller works hidden away in the architectural complexes of the intricate outdoor plaza.  Below are some highlights, but they are even more interesting and impressive in person.

"Poised by The Myth Makers" by Donna Dodson and Andy Moerlein at Boston Sculptor's Convergence

Poised by The Myth Makers by Donna Dodson and Andy Moerlein at Boston Sculptors Convergence

"Nave" by Rosalyn Driscoll at Boston Sculptor's Convergence

Nave by Rosalyn Driscoll at Boston Sculptors Convergence

"Bagged Lunch" by Laura Evans at Boston Sculptor's Convergence

Bagged Lunch by Laura Evans at Boston Sculptors Convergence

Overall,  this walk forced me to think about what public art means.  Looking at traditional historic monuments and contemporary exhibitions both through this scope helped me see more clearly that not only is public art used to celebrate culture and important milestones in history (like the commission of a monument), it also transforms communal space; posing questions.

This is thought provoking.  Whether the idea at hand be fairly obvious, like sustainability with the Cool Globes, or more abstract like some of the works from the Boston Sculptors Convergence, or even if you just come across a bronze statue of some historical dude that youve never heard of, public art engages with the community by posing questions and peaking public curiosity.  Why is this here? Why would someone want to make this? How was this made? The list goes on.  Overall, my art walk and revelations about it make me glad the city of Boston has made its public art so accessible.  Taking an art walk of your own would be a great way to get inspired.  I will never have nothing to do again!