Friday, August 29, 2008

Fund Raising Work on Display

My Meditation of War multiple drawing work is on display through November 16th at the Summit Gallery in Durham, NC. Individual pieces are for sale with all proceeds going to buy art supplies for this project.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Awaiting Funding Opportunity

Cathy and I are currently waiting to hear from the North Carolina Arts Council on a funding opportunity for this project. We will know by May 2008. We are also looking for additional funding opportunities that will allow us to bring artists into the community and fund materials for the children. Please send any suggestions to

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Current Draft of Proposal

Here is our proposal for the My Armor Project. Please take a moment to read and offer your input on any area of the project. Comments from those in the military, past or present, are greatly appreciated. Artists, art therapists, mental health professionals, and others are also welcome to comment.


“ It (the Project) helps me express everything I have inside instead of keeping it in me. Art is a very interesting way of being.”

- Student comment from project led by Cathy McLaurin

Overview:Professional artists Todd Drake and Cathy McLaurin, both extensively experienced in working with youth and community-engaged art projects with youth and adults, will collaborate with children of military personnel stationed out of Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Works of art reflecting the children’s personal experiences of living in military families during war time will be created. Youth, ages 12-17, will be referred to the project by various agencies, family counselors, Tolson Youth Center Staff, domestic violence organizations, and school staff. The ideal group size will include twelve to sixteen youth.Project Description:Each youth will create a complex work of art, possibly starting with their choice of an article of military-issued clothing, such as a jacket, pants, or a helmet. The items can be brought in from a family member or purchased from a military surplus store. Onto this “canvas” student artists will alter, embellish and otherwise transform the garment/helmet, inside and out, using a variety of methods and materials, including, but not limited to: collage, stitching, painting, and printing. Youth will be encouraged to express their individual experiences and ideas, without censorship from project collaborators. Project co-leaders, Drake and McLaurin, will facilitate discussions and positive critique among the group, and individually, in order to assist youth’s intentions. Through the process of making the work and expressing the experiences, a conversation will take place among the youth. They will be encouraged to draw on their collective shared experience, thereby generating a sense of community among participants.

“Art (especially contemporary art) the best tool for achieving communication and establishing interaction between disconnected territories in society."-Mauricio Dias and Walter Riedweg

In the end, each youth will produce a work of art that provides emotional “armor” for themselves, honors their experience, feelings, and thoughts, while sharing the personal experiences of the student artist with a wider audience. Written essays will accompany the finished work. All works of art will be displayed locally with an opening for the student artists, friends, and family.

Goals, Objectives and Impact

Primary: Facilitate creative expression through a positive and supported process, for youth experiencing the challenges of military life during war time, and share those expressions with a broader community.By introducing to the youth artistic techniques such as collaging, stitching, painting, and printing, as well as writing, the project gives the youth an alternate means for self-expression.By exhibiting the resulting work the youth become the subject, artist, and audience. By presenting this installation to the public, a dialogue will take place between the youth and those who view the installation.Draw attention to the increasing needs of these young people with the goal of generating additional actions of help and support.

Secondary:Lay groundwork for project expansion, working with youth on other military bases.Documenting this project through a book and website, in order to share the work with a broader audience.

Implementation Plan Logistics and Timetable: This project will take place in Summer 2008. Project co-leaders will work hands-on with youth artists from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for the period of one week, Monday-Friday. Project co-leaders will arrive on Sunday prior to the start of the project in order to set up and prepare. On the Saturday following the project, youth will work together with project co-leaders to install the exhibition in and host an opening reception. The exhibition will be installed for a minimum of one month, following the opening.

Preparation:During the summer of 2006, Todd Drake and Cathy McLaurin visited the Tolson Youth Activities Center at Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Following this visit the had a conversation via telephone and email with the Tolson Center’s Instructional Specialist, Paul Driessen, who confirmed the need for and expressed interest by the youth in an art project. At that time, there was no art being offered as part of the Center’s summer camp programming. Driessen stated that the Center had been trying to get artists involved from outside of the base, with no success. Since the initial visit Drake and McLaurin have been discussing the feasibility of this project, making additional contacts with agencies serving youth at risk in the Fayetteville, Fort Bragg Community, and shaping the concept with input from art therapists. Currently, Drake and McLaurin are researching and applying for funding for this project.

Youth Selection: Careful consideration will be given to selecting students that are best suited to benefit from this project. Recommendations from consultations with art therapists stress selecting youth that are in a sound enough mental health position to allow them to revisit experiences and process their feelings in order to share through their art making. Co-leaders will consult with various agencies serving youth in crisis, school educators, and youth center directors to identify and screen potential participants.

Currently, an art therapist is being considered as an addition to leadership team on this project. This person would help lead discussions and direct youth to further support if needed.Location:This project will take place in Fayetteville, North Carolina at a to-be-determined location. An area art center with studio space would be an ideal location and the artists are looking into this option.

Staffing needs: 2 lead teacher/artists: Todd Drake and Cathy McLaurin1 art therapist/artist: To be decided2 adult aged volunteers; either parents or college studio art or art education majors.Special considerations:A trained art therapist will be a part of the leadership team and will be present during art making activities. This therapist and the other leaders will use their discretion to consult with and/or refer any situation for further counseling and intervention.Scope of project will be explained to all parents and students. Issues of privacy will be addressed at the outset.Written Permission will be required from all parents and guardians, for participation and public display of works of art.All requests for use of alias names or omission from exhibition and publication will be respected. However works of art will not be censured or selectively altered by anyone other than the student artist who created it.Ownership and copyrights will remain with the youth artists.Todd Drake, Cathy McLaurin and other project leaders will NOT use their own personal views of the war to influence the youth artists in the creation of their works of art. Expressed opinions of the youth, both pro and con, will be respected and allowed within the context of the project.

Sponsoring Agencies:To be arranged

Collaborative Mental Health agencies and contacts:To be arranged

Background on Lead Artists:

Cathy McLaurin is an artist, art instructor, and youth development worker in Massachusetts. She was born and raised in the heartland of North Carolina. Her recent project, Buscando la verdad: Seeking truth (as delivered by teen parents), began in November 2006, in a residency in San Antonio, TX, where she collaborated with homeless pregnant teens to give voice to their true experiences, through photography, image-making and journaling. This project was awarded a Pufin Foundation Grant in 2007. McLaurin has been working with at-risk youth in Lawrence, MA for over ten years, at Essex Art Center, a non-profit community art center, where she created and leads, SPROUTS, a youth art project, involving urban high school students who are diagnosed with an emotional and / or learning disability, who work together to create community-engaged multi-media art works. She has led youth art projects for the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; Lawrence Academy, Groton, MA: and Phillips Academy, Andover, MA, among others. In 2005, she was lead artist for “What’s the Point?”, a community art project at UMass, Boston, involving students, residents, and workers on Columbia Point in Dorchester, MA, resulting in a permanent installation on the UMass campus. McLaurin creates paintings and participatory art works that have been included in exhibitions in MA, NC,CT,TX, and Toronto. She is an adjunct faculty member at New Hampshire Institute of Art.

Todd Drake is an artist, art instructor and native of North Carolina. A graduate of UNC Chapel Hill with a MFA in painting (1990, UNCG.) Drake has developed a personal style of art making that involves unique communities of people in its shaping of its content. A painter and photographer, Drake was 2004-2005 Rockefeller fellow at UNC-Chapel Hill where he worked extensively with the undocumented Mexican immigrant community within North Carolina along with their family members in Mexico. This effort resulted in several unique books. Going to Carolina del Norte, Narrating Mexican Migrant Experiences was co-created with Dr. Hannah Gill and is published by the Center for Global Initiatives at UNC-Chapel Hill. Drake has also produced a picture book titled Give Me Eyes-Crossing borders to the heart. In 12 paintings and simple narrative this bilingual picture book illustrates the tragic struggle of a couple crossing the US/Mexican border in pursuit of their dreams. Both books are being used in educational settings and are available on-line.Drake has also taught studio art and art history at New Garden Friends School, High Point University, UNC-Chapel Hill, and Guilford College. Beginning in January 2008, Drake will lead the Visual arts program at Rockingham Community College. He has conducted numerous workshops and visiting artist appearances for Center for Global Initiatives at UNC-Chapel, the Guilford County School System, the Waterworks Arts Center in Salisbury, NC, and the Sawtooth Arts Center in Winston-Salem, NC. His community involving installations have appeared at the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art and the Greenhill Center.See attached media coverage and resume. More on his art is available online at