My name is Vanessa German and I’m an artist.
I live in Pittsburgh, Pa. in a little neighborhood called, Homewood. Last year the Rachel Maddow Show tagged Homewood, “One of America’s Most Violent Neighborhoods.” Yes, there is violence. I could break your heart with stories of my friends whose sons have been shot and killed, shot and wounded, or shot and in prison. I could break your heart with stories of grief and wailing and street corner memorials. But I love Homewood. I’ve never loved a place before. To me, Homewood is one of the most inspiring places in the world; from the houses to the sound of the buses running up the street. I’ve seen acts of love and bravery here that would leave you slack-jawed and damp-eyed with awe.
I like to work out on my porch, when I can, out in the open and a part of the sounds, the stories, the community. When I’m making art on my porch, kids in the neighborhood, and people standing at the corner waiting on the bus ply me with questions. “Whatcha doin’?” quickly became “Can we do it, too?” So we, my partner and I, invited them to make art with us, on the front porch. The porch filled up. Every day, more and more kids come, craving art. And this is how I know art makes a difference, because these same kids who used to play “gang” in the alleyways behind our houses, pulling hair, ripping clothes, and tumbling into the street with their “fake” fights, they now show up at our door, expectant, hopeful—“Ms. Vanessa, are we doing art today? I want to paint the night sky with stars.”
Folks walk by, drive by, stop, and stand at the fence and watch kids paint, and laugh and make up songs, and they ask, “is this a day care center”, and we say no, this is just our porch, our home, our yard. This is Love Front Porch.
My partner and I pulled out the dregs of our art studios- half bottles of paint, left over paint brushes, any and all pieces of wood, cardboard and slate for folks to paint on. We scrounged up T-shirts, recycled plastic containers and old Chinese food lids for paint pallets, and everyone in the neighborhood loved it.. It is wonderful, it is magical to see kids hungry for art, to watch the neighborhood open up with color and appreciation - it even makes some of the drug dealers and prostitutes smile. For. Real.
What happens on our porch is special, but it’s not sustainable—we need help getting supplies, space, materials so that we don’t have to turn kids away when it is too crowded or there’s not enough to go around. We need help sponsoring activities and snacks. My porch needs some TLC (it’s not falling down or anything, but when seven girls, ages 5-12 jump up and down on the wood slats, making up dance moves to a song that has one line, repeated like a mantra-“I love your polka dots”-you know that porch needs help).
We’ve been given access to a vacant house across the street to use for five months. This space will give the kids a place to go after the summer months, it’ll give them a place to wash their hands, use the bathroom, to claim as their own. They will transform this empty dilapidated house into a gallery where they can exhibit their work to the public.
When you support Love Front Porch you will be supporting 5 months of art supplies, materials, teaching artists, toilet paper, hand soap, paper towels, cleaning supplies, chairs, a couple of tables, digital cameras, 2 lap tops, (I refuse to loan out my laptop to wonderful, well meaning kids anymore) a sewing machine, a printer, office supplies, and the future of Art and Life in one of the most inspiring places in the world. Come see for yourself!
STOP SHOOTING, WE LOVE YOU
One day when, taking a break on the porch from my sculptures, I heard a round of 21 gunshots. I waited. I grieved. I worried for my neighbors, my students, the victims, the shooters, their families. I noticed the signs for political candidates in the yards around me and I thought maybe I could do something. Out on the porch, I began printing yard signs that encouraged peace and nonviolence with messages like “Stop Shooting: We Love You” and “No Guns: Keep Summer Fun.” I began distributing them around the neighborhood to friends and community members who, like me, saw this as an opportunity to say “STOP!”, not with judgment, but with love.
Since my first batch of 200, I’ve made 800 more. People flock to these signs, they place them all around Homewood and beyond (because when there is a shooting in Homewood, it affects Pittsburgh, it affects the nation, it affects the world. The ripples of violence can be felt everywhere) to come together as a community, as citizens in a global hood to say: Love.
I know that art makes a difference, that it can heal, inspire, change anger into love. Art is love. Love is power. Love Front Porch is a platform for kids to learn how to create and how to love in a wonderful place that needs these signs— a wonderful place that embraces these signs.
When you support Love Front Porch- you do not leave empty handed or empty-hearted! Oh No- you get Love and Art of course. We have some perks that could take to the walls of MOMA right NOW- For Truth…
From the slick and fly silicone Love Front Porch bracelet- to Hand-Painted Wearable art- to your very own Power Figure- the Power of which- is your choice. We want you to want to support us- to help us fill the street from curb to curb with art- but if you are not able to donate right now- then Share The Word- The National Endowment For The Arts should become the Department of Defense- one front porch at a time.
What if instead of going to War- we danced, we gathered up the disputing nations, countries and territories and people and had them face off in a battle of choreographers, sound-scapes and set design- then war would look like west side story- a battle of color, leaps and lyrics- your artists against ours- only there will be no winners or losers, only soul-shaking, soul-stirring, exhausting performances, and people will only be killed in battle on stage-and at the end of the show everyone who fell down and died would just rise up and we would scream and shout and say OH when they killed you, I just couldn’t take it anymore- and then the ARTS would get more funding in the schools and in the city streets- because The National Endowment for the Arts would become —the Department of Defense. It makes so much sense when you think about it- So Rise- As In The Sun.