I’m part of the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers’ External Relations team and work with a number of different fundraising and communications initiatives. As someone who spends hours writing and researching every week, there’s times I find myself stuck on an idea or even suffering from acute WBS (Writer’s Block Syndrome). An artist or writer can spend many solitary hours refining their craft, but I’ve found that getting together with a group of like-minded people can jump-start the creative process or even save it from flatlining. July being “creative get-togethers month,” I want to share a few of my favorite people who have leveraged their talents to combine teamwork with ingenuity. So while it’s hard to imagine the way you love to paint or the quirky way you think could change the world, the truth is that it might.

Jim Henson: People around the world can recognize Jim Henson’s creations as stars from The Muppet Show, Sesame Street and numerous movies and television shows, but not many people know his original characters got their start selling familiar products like potato chips and even coffee grains. When Sesame Street co-founder and producer Joan Ganz Cooney asked him to lend an artistic hand in creating Muppet characters for Sesame Street, the winning combination of artists, educators, writers and producers created one of the most successful children’s shows of all time. But each creation involves an entire team of people to bring to life, from concept artist to animator or puppeteer. While many Muppets are left handed (as in the case of a “rod Muppet,” a puppeteer might use a rod to manipulate the arm with his left hand and operate the head with his right), some Muppets even require more than one person to manipulate! Since Henson’s death in 1990, the company continues to produce original creatures, designs, television shows, specials and films.

Photo: Anti_Dog. (Source: http://www.aliciaframis.com)


Alicia Framis:
When living in Berlin, Spanish-born artist Alicia Framis was warned to avoid certain neighborhoods where her darker complexion might make her a target to gangs of skinheads and their aggressive dogs. In response, Framis designed a fashion line made entirely out of Twaron, a bullet-resistant and stab-proof material. The anti_dog dresses have been displayed at several museums and galleries around the world and, with the help of several participants, appeared in their own fashion shows-turned anti-violence protests. “When I think about anti-violence, it is the place where creativity starts,” Alicia has said. “The brand of products called anti_dog is a mix of creativity and protection.”

Photo: Maya Nussbaum, Tina Gao, Michelle Obama (Source: Girls Write Now)

Maya Nussbaum: Maya Nussbaum won a Scholastic Award for Drawing in high school, but has always had a belief in the power of words. In 1998, she founded the nonprofit organization Girls Write Now. By pairing professional writers with teenage girls in New York City Public Schools, the organization encourages students to develop their creative voices and provides them with guidance. Every year, mentees from Girls Write Now submit their work to The Scholastic Writing Awards. “It is not an understatement to say that winning these awards changes lives, Maya says. It changes the girls’ attitudes about themselves and changes the trajectory of their academic and writing careers. I remember thinking, ‘My work matters? It must.’ ”


~Ariel, Manager, External Relations

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