Heather Metcalfe started Artfully Unforgotten as a way to help people in different parts of the world. As a result, she has changed lives by bringing people in need a sense of empowerment.
Love and Water- How did Artfully Unforgotten come about?
Heather Metcalfe- I had the idea for a couple of years abut using art to raise awareness for different communities in need. I went to law school and took the bar and decided it was now or never; I didn’t have any commitments and hadn’t landed a job, so it was the perfect time. So I incorporated, and then temped for a couple of months to raise money to go to Rwanda for the first community. I wanted to learn about orphans so I could come back and advocate for them.
L&W- What has gone on between then and now?
HM- Since I came back I’ve produced four multi-media exhibits that have had video footage I shot there and art made by New York City artists and Parsons Students that served to advocate for them. It was all African or Rwandan inspired artwork. We raised money for the orphanage I visited, we’ve helped put some kids through school, we’ve collected clothes and supplies for them. Then this past June I traveled to Afghanistan to start researching issues affecting women there. I spent three weeks there meeting with women, taking photos and video footage, and I’m now producing a short video and a small coffee table book that we’re going to use to raise awareness about women in Afghanistan. We also want to bring awareness to the united Nations resolutions to end violence against women and to help women in post-conflict countries get involved in developing peace.
L&W- You received a grant from the Puffin fund recently, right?
HM- Yes, we received a grant to develop a theatrical piece about sex trafficking in Eastern Europe.
L&W- What kind of a piece are you creating for that?
HM- A very simple, portable theatrical production. The basis of the show will be interviews with girls who have been trafficked, or of experts in the field who know how trafficking works.
L&W- Where do most of your donations come from and how do you implement them?
HM- Most of our donations have come from individual donors, and we’ve gotten a couple of grants. But the primary source of our funding has been from the events we produce. We sell tickets and raffle items and we use 50% of that directly on the cause we are focusing on and the other 50% gets reinvested in Artfully Unforgotten to visit additional communities. We’ve never had a big budget, and almost everything has been donated.
L&W- Talk about how a small donations make a difference to you.
HM- Any donation makes a difference. It adds up. A lot of people feel that can’t make a difference because they don’t have enough. But really, whatever you have, whoever you are, is enough. It’s a simple as donating $5.00 or, creating a piece of artwork, or just being aware and talking about it with others to spark other people’s interests.
L&W- Talk about the basketball team.
HM- When I went to Afghanistan I made a side trip to a clinic called The Orthopedic Workshop and Physiotherapy Center. They work with people who have amputations because of polio, war, types of fires. They taught Afghans how to make prosthetics, how to size them, and fit people for them. And they started a wheelchair basketball team. I got to watch them practice, and they are very competitive and they want to win! They play against other basketball teams, like in Kabul. And it gives them the attention they deserve, because people come out to watch them. So I asked the clinic director if there was anything I could do, and he said if you could find a basketball coach who would be willing to work with them that would be amazing. So when I got back I researched and I found a guy named Jess Markt who plays for the Rolling Nicks, and he said he was willing to go. So we raised a little over $3,000.00 and he is there currently, working with the team.
L&W- That’s amazing!
HM- Yeah, I just got an email from him today about how well there practice went, and there getting ready to travel for their first game together. It’s amazingly empowering for them because they have a way to feel accepted, rather than pushed aside because they are disabled.
L&W- What else should we know about Artfully Unforgotten?
HM- The main message we’re trying to get across about women in Afghanistan, which is our main focus right now, is that they don’t see themselves as victims. They’ve definitely been through more struggles than many of us have, but they have so much hope and strength and are committed to rebuilding their country. We’re trying to help them become a part of the peace-building process and get their voices heard. So they’re not left out of the dialogue of how to rebuild that country. I think the worst thing we could do is dis-empower them by labeling them as victims.
L&W- Thank you so much for talking today.
HM- Absolutely. Thank you!
Visit Arfully Unforgotten at http://www.artfullyunforgotten.com/
If you would like Heather to do a presentation for your school or organization on how to get involved as an artistic advocate, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
SAVE THE DATE:
DECEMBER 4, 2009
See the film, “Voices of Afghanistan”
Best Buy’s Loft in SOHO
$20.00 when purchased online: http://www.artfullyunforgotten.com/
$25.00 when purchased at the door
$15.00 with Student ID