BY KEVIN KLEVJER
June was a great month for Artist Reformation. We took some big leaps forward with some projects, particularly our work with SalaamGarage's "Aging Out Project" and the "Creating REST" event. Here's an update on those two projects.
Aging Out Project:
As a recap, the Aging Out Project is a project led by the nonprofit SalaamGarage. Artist Reformation has partnered with them by providing about half of the volunteers serving with this project. The goal of the project is to share stories of people who have aged out of foster care in order to raise awareness about the dangers of this policy within the foster care system. We also wish to give a voice to these people we are meeting who have suffered. To "age out" refers to when foster kids turn 18 years old and are then kicked out of their foster homes. One in four kids end up homeless and one in five end up incarcerated. Not only this, but many of them have suffered abuse in their foster homes from foster parents who were simply in it for the money, and many of the girls who age out into homelessness enter a life of prostitution.
As a result we have been gathering stories of people who have already aged out to share their troubled stories in hopes of making a difference. After being collected, these stories are then written into blog form with photos and/or video and posted on SalaamGarage's site. So far four stories have been posted and we have four more in the works.
Towards the end of June I was able to meet with Amanda Koster (the founder of SalaamGarage) and Stephanie Hansen to discuss next steps for the project and how Artist Reformation can continue to help. The biggest next steps are making sure our artists are able to wrap up their stories on their due dates, ramping up social media, advertising through traditional media outlets, preparing and executing an art exhibition to display these stories, and eventually to gather more stories and publish a book. Clearly this is a big undertaking, but I am super pumped to be involved. Specifically, I have been tasked with developing a social media plan (with the much needed help of my dear friends Irene Yung and Ruben Perez) to more efficiently blast out our stories.
To recap Creating REST, it's an event we are putting on for the nonprofit known as REST (Real Escape from the Sex Trade). Put simply, we are putting on a massive creative arts event with dance, live music, spoken word poetry, and more. This event is going to be HUGE. We will be telling the story of a girl getting into prostitution, showing the atrocities of that life, and showing what it's like for her to try to get out. The story we will be sharing at this event will be based on a compilation of true stories of women who have had or still are in a relationship with REST.
On June 27th I had the privilege of hosting a REST Story Dinner event at our house. Amanda Hightower (the founder of REST) shared dinner with me and Jeff, as well as all of the artists who will be involved in putting on the Creating REST event. Amanda shared four troubling stories of girls she has interacted with at REST.
All four girls came from a home where they had been sexually abused, which is the case for 95% of girls involved in prostitution. And I say “girls,” because the average age for entry into prostitution in the US is 13. Amanda shared these and other difficult stats (see below), most or all of which applied to the four girls she told us about. These stats aren't just numbers; they are people. Although we are probably a year out from putting on this event, we consider it a privilege and an honor to be a part of the effort of creating rest for these girls. Please continue in prayer with us for the ministry of REST.
Since Artist Reformation is overseeing six ongoing projects, with two additional potential projects, a unique discipleship program, and two massive upcoming events (Creating REST and the Jesus Poetry Slam), it is a lot for Jeff and me to oversee and manage on our own. Thus, I am looking for a few good people who can be trusted to get random tasks done on a schedule. You would report directly to me and would assist me in smaller admin tasks (1 to 10 hours a week) so that I can focus on more high level administration. If you are at all interested or feel led to help or know someone else who might, don’t hesitate to let me know.