You can still hear our youth poets perform every First Friday on Instagram @afaphoenix
May 5, 2020 is a new international day for supporting nonprofits affected by the COVID-19 crisis— #GivingTuesdayNOW
Set a timer for three minutes and write without thinking or editing until the time is up! Here’s a prompt to help you get started…
Read a wonderful poem written in only three minutes by Hayle, a 16-year-old creative genius at Endeavor Academy in Arapahoe County…
100 Colorado Creatives are chosen by journalist and artist Susan Froyd for the Westword honor and published on their site (below). You can read the Executive Director of AfA’s thoughtful and often irreverant ideas on the state of the arts in Colorado and her personal motivations and inspiration for her work. Susan’s Facebook post is also linked below.
High heels and high spirits, open hearts and open bar tabs, tears and twerking, performance and passion. At the intersection of activism and celebration, where vulnerable expression and raunchy comedy are served up in spades, where dedicated warriors pour out their souls as they pour another cocktail—THIS is Running of the Gays.
The 9th Annual Running of the Gays once again put on this faux marathon in heels to highlight the brilliance of our youth. A silly event with the serious purpose of supporting empowerment workshops for queer youth.
Our 2018 event was both a familiar family reunion, and a leap forward for our organization. Our incredible youth poets captivated the audience with open, raw, and frequently hilarious expressions of their struggles and their victories. Other performers threw down sultry musical performances as the crowd cheered and tipped and begged for more. However they chose to express themselves, the showcase of talent from our youth performers was a powerful, tangible display of their hearts—and AfA’s work to facilitate their transformation.
Running of the Gays continues to gain visibility with local media, community, and supporters. Many new faces joined the team and gave their all to make this event happen. Running of the Gays was even featured on the FOX31 network! Our incredible network of staff, volunteers, and donors is stronger than ever. Planning for next year’s Running of the Gays is already underway! This is all made possible by your support for Art from Ashes. Thank you. We’ll see you at the 10th Annual Running of the Gays next year!
Thank you to our 2018 sponsors!
For some hilarious photos and videos of the event, check out our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/RunningOfTheGays/
by Anna Ingraham
Anna: How did you first get involved with AfA?
Desmond: Well, that’s a funny, mysterious story. My friend and I were riding the H-train to 16th street downtown, when we noticed an RTD guy walking up the isle scanning train passes. We didn’t pay for passes! So we hurried and exited at the next stop, which happened to be 10th and Osage. I walked around for a little and was drawn in by the Art from Ashes poster. Then, I found out about the weekly art workshops, and have been popping up there ever since. I like to think the universe guided me there that day.
Anna: So it sounds like you’ve mostly been to the drop-in workshops. What has been your experience with those?
Desmond: Well, it’s really nice having a community of people to come spend time with. All of my family is back in Texas, so having a group of people to create with really helps me to not feel lonely. I love all of the different things we create! I have magnets and banners and paintings throughout my house now that all remind me of AfA. I try to go to both (the poetry and art workshops) as often as possible.
Anna: I’m glad it’s been such a good experience for you! Were you an artist and writer before AfA?
Desmond: I was an artist and writer before AfA. I was writing stories in English class and looking up words in the thesaurus to find words that better fit the picture I was trying to paint. This translated into my music skills later. Around my freshman year, a friend asked me to freestyle with him, and I found I was actually pretty good! So I went from story writing to eventually poetry and rapping and singing over beats I found on Soundcloud and Youtube. Being in choir and percussion taught me rhythm and helped me to find my distinct sound.
Anna: How has being a guest poet for AfA been for you?
Desmond: I really like the experience of being impactful to high school kids, because I remember when I was in high school, and I just know how influential a message can be. It’s very rare that people can be influential these days, and I know that I can be a positive impact. I want youth to know that they don’t have to give in to the social norm. It’s okay to love yourself! You can just be yourself, and everything’s going to be okay. You don’t have to fit in just to get more followers. When you don’t have a lot of followers because you’re being yourself, those who are following you are doing so because they genuinely like you and care about your work.
Anna: That is such an important message! Do you think that you’re going to continue being a guest poet?
Desmond: I definitely think that I will as long as I’m in Colorado. I really like the AfA community, and anything that I can do to be a part of it, I’m more than willing.
Anna: Do you feel like creating art, writing, and music has helped you embrace yourself more fully?
Desmond: I feel like creation is a way for us to see what our minds look like, and to hear what our thoughts sound like. You don’t have to try, everyone just exists in a different way. Creating is a very good way to find yourself as an individual.
Anna: What do you see yourself doing in the future?
Desmond: Eventually, I want to go to school to become a counselor of some sort. I think that I’m very good at talking to people and observing their problems objectively. I feel like I would be good at helpingkids to see what’s causing their problems. A lot of methods these days, instead of finding the root of the problem, kind of just suppress it. I want them to be aware that everything they experience has a reason behind it.
Anna: It sounds like you’re really passionate about this work. Do you think that the arts will continue to be a part of your life as you move towards a counseling career?
Desmond: I feel as if when I do help people with counseling, I’ll probably sing to them and help them to bring out their inner voice. I believe that everyone can sing, you just have to find out where your range is. I’ll help people to draw, because it’s not about if it looks cool, it’s about learning about yourself. I think I’ll be that kind of counselor and I really feel like I’ll effect peoples daily lives.
Anna: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me! We are lucky to have you involved with us at AfA!
Recently I bought a synthesizer(basically a piano) and a looper pedal, and I’ve been practicing adding layers on eachother. Eventually I want to get to a point where I perform live with it. I hope you enjoy this recording I did on my phone of a song I’m in the works of orchestrating. Never forget to shine your light☀️
🕯 sʜɪɴᴇ ʏᴏᴜʀ ʟɪɢʜᴛ 🕯
Poem written by Desmond in three minutes:
A SPIRIT OF ONE
In this time day and age of a government suppression
many minds are confused, many people conjure questions
and though they tell you the answer’s simple, small, flat, and green
i’m here to share with you it’s not as simple as it seems
shoving products in your face to keep you always wanting more
keep you always wanting money, keep you knocking at their door
no it’s not a fucking want, its a motherfuckin’ NEED
their method of control is individuality and greed
and you think im fuckin’ crazy, don’t think i know just how i sound?
but if you look a little closer, then these words will be profound
there’s no need for feeling empty and no need for feeling down
everything possesses beauty if you take a look around
for the primary function of the universe is love
from the atoms made within us to the galaxies above
all the legs, fins, wings, plants, underneath the sun
all are infinite in unity, all a spirit of one
Hopefully you can join us for the holiday party on the 4th (invitation below)!
Meanwhile, here’s what we have to share during this wonderful season of light:
(read the pdf of our 2018-Annual Request Letter or read text below)
My name is Kumi, and I am 18 years old. This holiday season, I’d like to share my story of transformation with you.
Before Art from Ashes, I was just an empty shell named Kumi, and I had a degree in making bad decisions. Now I’m getting a different kind of degree at CCD, thanks in large part to Art from Ashes!
I was full of creativity, hidden behind a door barred shut by my enemy Bipolar Disorder. I was frustrated, depressed, ecstatic, and powerless. Imagine trying to defeat a monster with only a bottle of pills, the wrong kind of friends, and bad love relationships. Doesn’t make much sense, right?
But then Art from Ashes came to our Creative Writing class at Endeavor Academy. I was so excited about how easy it was to let out my creativity in the form of poetry. I didn’t really ever do much poetry before, so it was new and interesting…and soon it became my favorite thing to do.
I finally had something new to fight my monster with and you better believe I felt empowered! I felt strong with my new weapon and confident in my new skills. I learned the power of my voice as I read my poetry to the people willing to listen, and I learned how to conquer my fears. And with Art from Ashes, I learned to help empower others, as well.
Art from Ashes was able to come to Endeavor Academy because of generous donations from community members just like you. I’d like to thank you for your support and ask that you please consider financially supporting Art from Ashes this holiday season so that more youth can experience empowerment and transformation through art and poetry.
—Kumi Avila, Youth Representative to the Art from Ashes Board of Directors
Here’s what your generous donation provides:
- At Art from Ashes, we believe in paying artists! Your donation of $50 provides an honorarium for a guest poet or artist to inspire and motivate the young people in our workshops.
- We spend more than $1000 a year providing an honorarium to youth who perform their poetry for the community! Any amount you designate can support that goal!
- We believe in healthy food and LOTS of water for youth. Your donation of $50 will provide enough food and water for one 2-hour workshop for up to 20 young people! How many workshops would you like to support?
- A monthly donation of $100 will provide writing and art materials for four of our weekly drop-in workshops, held every Wednesday (Phoenix Rising) and Thursday (Drawing on Air Creative Time).
- A one-time gift of $2000 will support a year’s worth of weekly workshops for a struggling youth.
- A one-time gift of $5000 will provide the cost of an 8-workshop program for 20 youth ($15/hr. per youth), which would include operating costs as well as program expenses.
- Of course, we would very much appreciate any amount you’re willing to donate!
Does your employer match your donation? Please let us know!
And we hope you’ll come to our Annual Celebration of Light Party on Colorado Gives Day, Dec 4th from 7 to 9 pm at Art from Ashes, 1310 west 10th ave, denver
We hope you enjoyed Kumi’s powerful story of transformation. Stories like Kumi’s, and the stories we’ve heard from countless other young people over the years, remind us why we exist and inspire us to continue this important work. Colorado Gives Day is Tuesday, December 4th—a day that allows our generous donors to contribute towards that beautiful goal. During that 24-hour period your donation counts more than any other time.
Speaking of years…on October 10, Art from Ashes celebrated its 15th anniversary! That’s 15 years of young people discovering their creative genius through our unique and innovative programs. At Art from Ashes, we believe that by discovering their creativity, young people are empowered through art and poetry to find their voice, change their stories, and transform their lives. And as numerous studies and our own surveys have shown, it works.
In 2018, Art from Ashes experienced a few transformations as well:
- AfA won the Mayor’s Award for Excellence in Arts and Culture! This prestigious award is given to organizations that make significant and lasting contributions in the City and County of Denver. What a great way to celebrate our 15th anniversary!
- AfA merged with Violet Hive’s Art As Healing youth program, a nonprofit organization that shares our belief that art facilitates empowerment and healing. Founder of Violet Hive, Amy Leiter, joined the AfA staff; Bridget Hofstadter of Violet Hive is now our volunteer coordinator; and both are trained Phoenix Rising facilitators who have expanded our weekly Creative Time drop-in workshops!
- Our programs and the work we do with youth in the community were highlighted on CBS4 and Fox Network, helping to send our message of hope and transformation to thousands of people.
- AfA hosted and facilitated a workshop for the World Denver Iraqi Youth Delegation.
- AfA has now partnered with more than 180 organizations to serve nearly 13,000 young people!
In addition to our ongoing workshops in the community and weekly on-site workshops, young people have shared their stories and their voices at a number of events in 2018. Some of these events include monthly First Friday performances at AfA, the Mercury Café’s 30th Annual Poetry Rodeo, the Youth Voices in Recovery poetry performance, and AfA’s 9th Annual Running of the Gays. Additionally, two of our youth poets were featured at the 2018 Denver Women’s March, where they performed in front of thousands of people!
Seeing the magic happen in workshops and watching the transformation of both youth and community members during performances and art shows re-ignites our passion for the work we do and leaves us energized for a groundbreaking future:
- Next year Violet Hive artists and AfA staff will expand the Drawing on Air curriculum, which is built on the foundation of our award-winning Phoenix Rising program.
- Of our existing trained facilitators, two are professional dancers interested in expanding and facilitating our Wingspan program, which we hope to launch by the end of 2019.
Our programs are magical, but we can’t soar without you. We hope you will help us meet our goal to serve even more youth in 2019. Please consider making a holiday contribution to provide creative empowerment workshops to the young people in our community.
With gratitude and joy,
The Art from Ashes staff, board, facilitators, contractors and volunteers
Catherine O’Neill Thorn, Celeste Seiler, Bridget Hofstadter, Sarah Lanzarotta, Samantha Albala, Savannah Arterburn, Tiffany Bowden, Amy Leiter, Marie Verrett, Carolyn Klier, Lewis Lease, Jessica Jarrard, Susie Martin, Johnnie Thorn, Kumi Avila, plus 63 interns, volunteers, and guest poets/artists!
PS. For those of you who have been supporting, praying for, and thinking of Catherine as she has journeyed through this difficult past year, you can find her medical update on our website here: www.artfromashes.org/category/news
Art from Ashes has partnered with Colorado Public Television to provide Phoenix Rising wordshops for youth at the Emily Griffith Technical College. Below are some of the 3-minute poems produced and a couple of videos!
Rant, written April 6, 2015
by Walter, 18
From the time I could remember
I’ve wanted to die not because I was sad but because I’m tired of living
The one thing stopping me is the fact people will always need art
And the one reason I’m still here is a faulty round or bad firing pin
Or something told me or compelled me to puke up the pills I took
People make me sick honestly
I know firsthand with my brother raping and killing one of his own cousins
Or a father not calling me until I’m 14 to sell drugs for him
My art is not out of anger
But it is of the good in my life
And the good times
Honestly I’m not ready to die
But I’m sick of living
Without Fear, written May 18, 2015
by Walter, 18
My life would be easier
I’d be able to wake up
And say I’m happy
How about yourself?
If I were given the chance
I’d always wake up fearless
With the ability to love my fellow man
And he would be able to say
I love this planet
And everything on it
It is a nice dream to keep
What I Would Say to You if Only You Would Listen
by Tamara, 20
I’m talking to the cord or am I really talking to myself
I feel empty my heart is out of beats
I fake my last breath of life and say
God forgive me for my sins
I’m not perfect, you know
Maybe it was the pain that made me come in rage
Where were you mom no one can explain
I still respect you and love you
Because in the end I am a product of you
But then again that’s not true
I’m Tamara let me say that again
I don’t drink because of you
All the time I got alcohol abused they wanted me
To follow your footsteps
But I refused to be something
That I could never even like
You hated me but I loved you
I know you were hurt
Has a kid who could ever know
by Lilly, 17
I love and approve of myself.
I accept the difference between us
Between you and me
And not only do I accept you
Most of all I accept me
I am the raging wind carrying the shadows over a raven’s wing
Never stopping to ask, just knowing that it is
I am the blood in your veins working you alive
Working us alive and you never give me a second thought
I know what I do is worth it
I know I matter
Without the sound on your tongue
FOR MORE VIDEOS OF THE YOUTH GO TO OUR YOUTUBE CHANNEL
Join us every First Friday in the ArtsDistrict on Santa Fe for a youth performance at Denver Art Society at 734 Santa Fe Dr. at 7 pm.
Much more than a public performance, youth gather at Art from Ashes at 4.30 for a FREE one-hour Phoenix Rising writing workshop, followed at 5.30 by a FREE one-hour performance workshop.
AfA facilitators and local artists/performers guide the youth through poetry writing prompts and spoken word presentations to prepare them for public performance.
Every Tuesday from 4.30 – 6.30; open to all youth ages 12-24.
We’ll provide the writing materials, art supplies, pizza and snacks! You provide the creative genius!
Email us if you’d like to let us know you’re coming, and if you want to be sure you get some food! 😀
(or just show up — we promise to feed you)
Post-screening, there will be a TalkBack (Panel discussion) in the “TalkBack Cafe” just across the street from the Boulder Theater on the Pearl Street Mall. The TalkBack is open to anyone who wishes to find out more about the film and our work with youth, and will feature Jimmy Santiago Baca, Art from Ashes Executive Director Catherine O’Neill Thorn, and Art from Ashes youth poet Prinjastin Sykes.
Buy tickets here!
Get tattooed for a cause on Feb 7! All proceeds from the All Sacred Foundation fundraiser are donated to 4 amazing organizations: Art from Ashes, Art of War, Phoenix Multisport and Planned Pethood International.
Between the hours of 5 and 11 pm, there will be DJ’s; youth performances and writing/art prompts by Art from Ashes; prints and shirts for sale; and donation based massage! Drop in and hang out with us, have a good time, and learn about All Sacred Foundation and the organizations they support.
Every Wednesday from 4:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
While this wordshop is geared toward middle school age youth, all young people between the age of 12 and 24 are welcome.
We’ll provide the writing materials, art supplies, food and drinks! You provide the creative genius!
Email us using the form below if you’d like to let us know you’re coming or want more information…and if you want to be sure you get some food!
(or just show up — we promise to feed you)
Come out and join Denver’s LGBTQIA community and Allies as we run toward a better future for youth at the 9th annual Running of the Gays!
Get yer heels (and ankles!) ready to roll… or strut, or hop, or stumble in a 3-block “marathon” in heels to fund creative empowerment programs for queer youth in the Denver community. The event is organized by Art from Ashes, Denver’s LGBTQIA* community and Allies. Each year runners are asked to raise money through sponsorships to trot 3 blocks down 17th Avenue in heels, starting at Ace Eat Serve patio next to Steuben’s Food Service followed by an all ages (until 1.30 pm) after party at X Bar!
Proceeds contribute to continuing transformational creative programs for local youth who identify as LGBTQ+. While the event is silly, the statistics for our LGBTQ+ young people are decidedly unfunny: gay and lesbian youth are two to three times more likely to commit suicide than other youths, and 30% of all completed youth suicides are related to the issue of sexual identity; 45% of gay males and 20% of lesbians surveyed reported having experienced verbal harassment and/or physical violence during high school as a result of their sexual orientation; 26% of gays and lesbian youth are forced to leave home because of conflicts with their families over sexual identity. Art from Ashes provides creative programs with proven results that improve self-perception and increase involvement with and connection to the community.
Run a 3-block marathon in heels to help fund creative empowerment workshops for the queer youth in our community! Register with a $40 donation below:
RUNNERS Register here: bitly.com
(or send by cash or check to Art from Ashes, 1310 West 10th Ave, Denver CO 80204)
The fee entitles runners to the ROTG “I brought the gay” t-shirt, a goodie bag, a free Mimosa courtesy of Steuben’s, and a foot massage!
Runners also seek sponsorships from friends and family to raise money for the youth programs. Download the Runners Packet for more info!
SPONSORS SUPPORT YOUR RUNNER HERE!
If you are sponsoring a specific runner, please enter their name in the Special Instructions field of the Donate Now window.
BUSINESS PARTNERS SUPPORT THE MARATHON HERE!
So many thanks to our wonderful business sponsors, most of whom have been sponsoring Running of the Gays since 2010! If you’re interested in supporting our youth program, please download our ROTG Sponsor Menu.
Thank you to all those who have “come out” in the past. Re-live the fun here:
FREE PIZZA! FREE ART! RESPECT FOR YOUR CREATIVE GENIUS!
All youth ages 12 to 24 are invited to join us at Art from Ashes every Thursday from 4 to 6 pm for a FREE Creative Time workshop: create art in a welcoming, safe space where people respect you and your creativity.
All youth are welcome; free pizza provided.
YOU ALREADY ARE AN ARTIST! WE BELIEVE IN YOUR CREATIVE GENIUS!
Workshops are at our location just off the 10th and Osage light rail station.
If you’d like to let us know you’re going to stop by, contact Celeste Seiler at Art from Ashes, using the form below or JUST DROP IN.
Thank you so much to Imagine 2020 and the Arts in Society grants, and to all our business sponsors and individual donors who make these workshops possible!