[BLANK] As ART #2, Food

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Welcome back to our monthly series of BLANK as Art! As a recap, this is where we uncover, rediscover and often redefine what “art” is.

In our first post, we stated the sheer definition of “art” as: “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.”

While the definition suggests that painting and sculpture are the common visual forms, we understand, as a people, that many other categories can fit into the art definition. Our aim is to get you to look at the world a little differently. Walk past a specific cloud formation and be moved emotionally or hear a piece of music and sense the beauty.

Today we explore the sheer art form of food.

This is a hot-button topic that has been lighting up the chat rooms for a few years now. One could make the argument that the birth of Food Television created a band of Celebrity Chefs that all use creativity and the desire to move emotion in order to stand out among the many in their field. For me we need look no further that painters use a palette to express themselves and chefs use your palate to do the same. This coincidence cannot be overlooked.

I myself come deeply rooted in the world of food and beverage. 15 years in the trenches of fine dining management have given me an intimate connection to the plight of executive chefs and their desire to move you emotionally.

 

Here then are 4 reasons that food is art!

 

Plating

Nowadays, in almost every setting outside the cafeteria line, chefs are using the plate as their canvas. The preparation of the food is but a footnote in the overall presentation of what your senses are about to receive. Some use large plates with small portions of food to suggest the expanse of the dining experience, the vastness of possibilities and the gentle application of color, texture and layers to unveil their long thought out masterpiece to the recipient. Not unlike real art, the greater the thought in plating is the higher price you are going to pay for it.

 

The Dance

If you have ever been lucky enough to get a sneak peek into a fine dining kitchen on a Saturday night at 8 pm, you have been privy to “the dance”. This is the carefully orchestrated and timed movements of the kitchen staff moving in every direction imaginable in order to stay on top of the relentless ticket machine spitting out demands. Each member responsible for the two-three foot workspace in front of them, but invariably needing items outside the designated area that require ducking, diving and swirling rhythmically as to not upset their neighbor clad in all white and focused on their own personal task at hand. Bodies flying everywhere, some holding knives, and never coming into contact. With the executive chef at the helm like a conductor monitoring all the movements in the ant colony closely for any room for improvement and efficiency. The scene is awe-inspiring and true art in the purest form.

 

Wine Pairing

This is where the rubber hit the road for me in food as art. Before my first stint in fine dining, I had eaten great food and I had sipped fine wine, but I had never taken the suggestion from the brainchild born from two mighty artisans in their craft and married the two. When the Executive Chef and the Sommelier get together to discuss flavor profiles and ingredients in their own respective inventories, amazing things happen. When a perfectly cooked rib eye steak is paired with an old vine zinfandel and the black pepper notes from the wine swirl on the palate with the butter richness of the beef, the term cathartic is inept. If you go into a place with a sommelier be sure and utilize their suggestion based on your appetite that evening. This is art in the purest form.

 

Ratatouille

Leave it to Pixar to simplify our own thought processes and present them in a way that we can all understand. The catalyst of this movie is that the ice-cold curmudgeon of a food critic serves one purpose in his lonely existence. That is to pick apart all forms of food and exposé the flaws to the public. That is until he has the peasants dish prepared for him of ratatouille. On the first bite, he is whisked back to his childhood, to an easier happier time. The surrounding light is golden and suggestions of his mother and her maternal love envelop him. Immediately his impenetrable exterior is shattered and he is reintroduced to his love for dining. This is the power of food as an art form and is replicated in individuals daily all around the world.

 

There is no doubt that food is art. Anything that attacks one, or more of our senses and causes a severe redirection of that sense is certainly art. Anything that requires such planning, thinking, and practice in the hopes of flawless execution and emotional appeal is art. The only problem now is where am I going to find a steak and glass of old vine zinfandel at 9 am?

5 Ways to Save Our Planet, Today!

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The very first time that I heard the term “carbon footprint”, my thought was “that would be a great name for a hard rock band”. You know a group of high school kids that have decided to make a run at Metallica fame by practicing in the garage and hoping to get a chance to play at the dance.

Little did I know what life with kids would do to change my tongue and cheek approach to saving our planet.

While my wife was pregnant with our first child, we happened across the documentary “Forks Over Knives” and our minds were peeled back. Like any good glutton, I devoured media in an effort to learn more about extending my time on the planet by preserving my body and the ground we were walking on. Enter the term “carbon footprint”.

The best part about a term so ominous and daunting was that with simple steps, anybody’s carbon footprint is reversible, or at least able to be less impressionable. For most, including myself, starting out is the hardest part. Once I decided to minimize my carbon footprint I wanted to walk out my front door to a lush garden full of my food for the week, get into my Prius and drive to my job saving the whales, but finding my starting point was elusive.

Here then are 5 practical ways that you can make simple adjustments to your daily routine that will feed your desire to preserve our habitat, without having to move to Alaska and homestead, although I reserve the right to do that later.

Don’t Rinse

This one is tough for people to wrap their mind around, only because we have been doing it this way for so long. Keep in mind the adage that 28 consistent days of anything builds a habit. For goodness sake, let the dishwasher do the job it was invented for. How often do we get wrapped up in the process and load dishes into the dishwasher that are spotless? Scrape and load. You will save up to 20 gallons of water on each load, not to mention the energy used for heating.

Be a Vegetarian on Mondays

This is a really good suggestion for two reasons. First of all the science: It takes 2,500 gallons of water for every pound of beef produced…YIKES and 55 square feet of land is cleared (deforested) for each burger that you eat. Secondly, you are going to love the way that eating veggie makes you feel, I guarantee it. After one month you may decide to add a day, then another, and then who knows, I might be asking you over for dinner one night.

Turn Off the Faucet When Brushing

I had a girlfriend once that told her young kids that every time you leave the water running when you brush, it makes a penguin cry. I thought this was a little harsh at first, but they never ran the water and now, long after the memory of her has faded, I still think about the penguins when my kids are brushing their teeth. If you cut the run, you will save 5 gallons of water a day! If everybody did it, we could conserve 1.5 billion gallons in the US alone daily! Stop making penguins cry you, heartless creature.

Buy Local

In order to make a change, we have to change ourselves. This should include going for that easy brand name item on the shelf every time you need something from bananas to car parts. Next time you are in big name grocery store, drive around back and look at the oil stains in the truck delivery pit. DISGUSTING! Now imagine all the exhaust and energy consumption to bring those products to the shelf. When possible, you should be walking and buying directly from the people that create the product. Check out farmers markets near you and do your weekly shopping there. You will feel wonderful making a difference.

Close Your Damper

We seldom think about the things we don’t see, so it helps to reimagine the truth. Leaving your damper open in the winter is like leaving a living room window open 24/7. No, the damper is not as large but heat rises and constantly looks for ways to escape. Your chimney flu is the highest point on your house, so plenty of opportunity to pour heat (money) out of your chimney. Close it!

 

So there you have it, 5 ways to begin your quest to a better and greener tomorrow. As you begin to harvest the good feelings associated with being positively proactive, research other ways to make a difference. Before you know it, you will be dancing at Earth Day celebrations and kissing your great grand babies!

How Long Is a Minute?

 

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I never really took the time to think about “time” quite the way I do now that I am a parent, but I wish I had. I really do believe that an elaborate dissertation could be crafted around the interpretation of a “minute”. The bottom line is that it is the exact amount of time that it takes to change the world on a scale from a personal to global. Let’s take it down a peg first.

Here is how my mind operates. I get a moment of peace and calm in my day where my mind has not quite stopped firing and something seeps in that sets fire to my creative side. Here is that moment that led to this blog. When I am putting my kids down, I have figured out that after their little bodies have stopped moving and the eyes are closed (sometimes assumed closed), I have three minutes until deep sleep sets in, or at least deep enough for me to execute the ninja moves that it takes to get out of a dark room, riddled with obstacles, undetected. There is seldom a clock nearby that allows me to cheat the process so I count (in my head) three 60-second sets. Those 60 seconds are an eternity when the adult’s only portion of my day lay on the other side. Seriously, do it now. Stop reading and count 1-60 Mississippi. You had no idea did you?

But there is no other measurement of time quite like the minute. A “second” is far too fast to encompass total power and an “hour” is an eternity no matter where your vantage point lies, but “the minute” can mean so many things to so many people.

There is the “teenager on the phone minute” when they are being called to by a parent in the home…”I’LL BE THERE IN A MINUTE!” That is really like saying “you are number four on the priority list for the day”.

OR there is the “I’ll be there in a minute” when a girlfriend calls and says she thinks she hears somebody downstairs. You can’t possibly move faster than that.

There is the “they were just babies a minute ago” when you turn around and are celebrating your child’s 10th birthday.

OR there is the “they just started sleeping through the night this minute” which took a total of one thousand years to reach.

The reality is that everything…EVERYTHING boils down to one minute or the time that it truly takes to make life changing decisions or reactions. We arrive at the monumental minutes by stringing together many of them as a path, but ultimately the trigger time is a minute.

In our world of what we do, the minute is no different. We can choose to throw away that crayon or we can choose to figure out how to breathe new life into it. Think about the difference of those two minutes, because we have. On one hand, you can pitch the crayon into the trash and never see it, or think of it again, but that crayon will go on to rue your decision. It will go to a landfill and try to blend in for the next one hundred plus years ultimately unchanged, OR, you can locate the nearest Crayon Initiative box and drop it in there. Here you not only get the chance to possibly see that crayon again but certainly the opportunity to think about what your decision meant to a child in a hospital bed just trying to get well. Going back to our friend “the minute”, this is the exact amount of time it takes for a little body to turn the tables on its illness. In one minute, the internal fight is a losing one, then in the next, systems have been boosted, spirits have been raised and outlooks have improved. The possibility of creating that minute through art has been medically proven and all we aim to do is load the toolbox.

Think about “the minute” the next time the word crosses your lips and realize that 60 seconds is a very powerful amount of time. Worlds have crumbled and futures have been made possible all inside that tiny, seemingly insignificant amount of time.

 

Do You Want To Love Fireworks Again?

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The smoke is beginning to clear from our recent explosive holiday and as you head over to your social medias to unload the barrage of red, white and blue family pictures, you find solace in the fact that you will go another six months before New Years Eve rolls around and the next obligatory round of pyrotechnics start all over again.

Ok, so I am a little bit of a curmudgeon when it comes to fireworks. The crowds, the cold and the boredom fought with clinched fists only to gaze star-ward at something that you have seen a hundred times and has never changed. Can’t we just stay home and set fire to some stuff around the house? But wait…there is hope. A friend of mine suggested that I look at the marvel of fireworks from a scientific perspective. What a novel concept. So I will share with you exactly how I breathed a little life back into my fading interest in our pyrotechnic holidays by doing a little research.

According to John Conckling chemistry professor at Washington College in Chestertown, Md., and past executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Association all fireworks have two essential ingredients.

  1. A chemical that’s rich in oxygen (this is where the color comes from)
  2. A chemical that serves as the fuel and results in when detonation occurs

The actual makeup of a firework contains five parts to pull off the ooh and aah factor!

  1. Stick (“tail”): A long wooden or plastic stick protruding from the bottom that ensures the firework shoots in a straight line.
  2. Fuse: This is the part that starts the main part of the firework (the charge) burning and ignites other, smaller fuses that make the interesting, colorful parts of the firework (the effects) explode some time later.
  3. Charge (“motor”): The charge is a relatively crude explosive designed to blast a firework up into the sky, sometimes a distance of 1000 feet at a speed of up to several hundred miles per hour It’s usually made up of tightly packed, coarse explosive gunpowder (also known as black powder).
  4. Effect: This is the part of the firework that makes the amazing display once the firework is safely high in the air. A single firework will have either one effect or multiple effects, packed into separate compartments, firing off in sequence, ignited by a relatively slow-burning, time-delay fuse working its way upward and ignited by the main fuse.
  5. Head: This is the general name for the top part of the firework containing the effect or effects collectively known as the payload

Well, then how do we get those amazing colors?

According to Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D. and Chemistry Expert “There are two main mechanisms of color production in fireworks, incandescence, and luminescence”. “Incandescence is light produced from heat. Heat causes a substance to become hot and glow, initially emitting infrared, then red, orange, yellow, and white light as it becomes increasingly hotter and luminescence is light produced using energy sources other than heat. Sometimes luminescence is called ‘cold light’ because it can occur at room temperature and cooler temperatures. To produce luminescence, energy is absorbed by an electron of an atom or molecule, causing it to become excited, but unstable. When the electron returns to a lower energy state the energy is released in the form of a photon (light). The energy of the photon determines its wavelength or color.”

Thanks to our friends at about.com, here is a list of the chemical compounds inside fireworks that give us that dazzling effect!

 

Color Compound
Red strontium salts, lithium salts
lithium carbonate, Li2CO3 = red
strontium carbonate, SrCO3 = bright red
Orange calcium salts
calcium chloride, CaCl2
calcium sulfate, CaSO4·xH2O, where x = 0,2,3,5
Gold incandescence of iron (with carbon), charcoal, or lampblack
Yellow sodium compounds
sodium nitrate, NaNO3
cryolite, Na3AlF6
Electric White white-hot metal, such as magnesium or aluminum
barium oxide, BaO
Green barium compounds + chlorine producer
barium chloride, BaCl+ = bright green
Blue copper compounds + chlorine producer
copper acetoarsenite (Paris Green), Cu3As2O3Cu(C2H3O2)2 = blue
copper (I) chloride, CuCl = turquoise blue
Purple mixture of strontium (red) and copper (blue) compounds
Silver burning aluminum, titanium, or magnesium powder or flakes

So in six months when the next round of fireworks appear and the greater group is against you sitting at home and setting stuff around the house on fire, just go and view the spectacular with a scientist’s eye. Sure you will still have to fight the boredom of the before, the possible cold, the crowds and the fact that tomorrow is a work day, but the show itself will hold all of your attention and more.

[BLANK] As ART #1

what is art?

 

Admittedly, Googling “what is art” was an exciting venture for me. At first I thought the simple script would cause smoke to begin pouring from my hard-drive. I imagined that this is the type of question you would use against a cyborg to cause it to self-destruct, but then again, I am an artist. What exactly does that mean? I am the type of person that sees art in almost anything without having to cram the square peg into a round hole. I was prepared for even Google to fall short of my own personal definition of “what is art”, but then, like a fortune cookie, Google nails it with a broad net. For just a minute the cynic in me was screaming for them to BRING IT ON, then they disarmed my internal time bomb with two words: “emotional power”. This is exactly what I think “art” is, and why I truly believe that art can be found in the most unsuspecting of places.

 

If you recall, we recently posted an “ongoing” exposé of music as art, and began with Flowers Are Red by Harry Chapin. After careful consideration, we (as a committee) became convinced that the greater picture was being ignored and that a great injustice was inadvertently being done to every finger of creation and happenings that fit into the art category by definition of things that hold “emotional power”.

 

I have been an artist all of my life. So much so that when I “grew up” I was convinced that I was supposed to do something else because it was never work to me until I realized that there is a way. However, I first became aware of the emotional power of art in my early 20’s. Here is that story.

 

I was lucky enough to be in the Guggenheim in New York. My friend and I were on a cross-country tryst. This was a last minute adventure to really get to know each other by escaping the ills and obligations of west coast life. While there, we decided to fit as much “New York” into our short time as humanly possible. The itinerary was ridiculous, even by a youthful standard. In a 48 hour period we went to Phantom of the Opera on Broadway, ate at Jerry’s Famous, saw a taping of the David Letterman Show and Kelly and Regis, picnicked in Central Park, took the subway (at midnight), walked to the middle of the Brooklyn Bridge and went to the Guggenheim. It was here at our last stop that I entered the stark white hallway displaying multiple artists and their masterpieces. From a hundred yards away I could see that the end of the hall ended in an abstract two-tone piece with a bench in front of it. I didn’t really care about the bright orange and deep blue painted boxes on the wall; it was the bench in front of it I needed. I just wanted to sit down as the weekend was catching up to me. I made it to the bench, sat and began to look at this painting. My mind was blank, which in hindsight served me well. The painting was by Mark Rothko and as I began to stare at it, something inside me stirred. It started in my belly then slowly moved in both directions towards my toes then my head, leaving that “prickly skin” feeling in its path as it traversed my insides. As I got lost in the deep blue and contrasting orange, and without any warning, I began to cry. Not sob, but simply allow my tears to free fall in homage to this work of art against all of my better judgment, and I did not care, this moment was out of my control and was the true essence of “emotional power” of art!

 

This day taught me more about art than my previous 22 years on the planet. I became aware that art is anything that takes over your momentary perception and makes emotional decisions on your behalf, with or without your approval. That “art” can be music, nature, children, or anything else that moves you without the necessity of a paintbrush or crayon. Our only duty then is to recognize that moment and properly label it as “art”.

 

We are going to attempt to share with all of you the things that we see as art on a monthly basis, and really open up the discussion. We employ you to go to our Facebook Page and post your own thoughts on art. Where were you when art got redefined? What then is your new definition of “art”? Are you listening to what you see?

 

Hold onto you hats and glasses, this could get emotional because it should!

Art Does Heal

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The process of gathering crayons and recycling them is a multi-tiered process with truly measurable positive outcomes. On this blog, we have explored how we keep them out of our landfills and save the planet one colorful paraffin stick at a time, but the driving force is the medical miracles that can happen when a brand new, shiny crayon is in the hands of those that need them most.

Once our crayons have been gathered, sorted, melted, strained, molded and boxed, they go directly into the hands of the patients in Children’s Hospitals around the country. This is more than a “nice-to-have” for these kids that need the power of the rainbow so badly. We give them the tools to create that rainbow, and art has been proven to heal scientifically. Here is how:

Structure

Nurses and Doctors all over the country have been interviewed about their experience with inner hospital art programs and the effects they have had with their patients. The majority of personnel have reported that the structure being taught through art has helped the patients with their medication regimen as well as given them something to look forward to on a daily basis. The simple structure of art-time gives the child a sense of schedule and anticipation. The eagerness to create has dulled the edge of getting them to take their medications as the creative side and medical side get fed simultaneously. Nurses have also noted the depletion of stress in an art heavy department and Doctors site a lower readmission rate of patients involved in art programs.

Escape

Whether the child artist is sitting at home on their bed drawing, at a desk in school painting or in the oncology ward in their local hospital coloring, they are all united in a world far away when they get to open up their imagination. This escape is especially important to the child who is in a hospital setting. The desire to leave a confined area is never greater than when you know you can’t, but the imagination of a child is a powerful thing. When a child gets drawn into the world they are creating through art they come back feeling like they have been on a small trip. They had a reprieve, if only for a moment, from the realities of being in the hospital. They got to see magical things that exist only on their own personal canvas, and they did it without changing their gowns and often refreshed enough to face the next challenge. This alone is the magic of art.

Many hospitals have formal art programs, where actual professionals come in direct the children. Many of these directors are actually therapists that use art to allow hidden fears, anxieties, and trepidation to come to the surface so that they can be dealt with. The message that these patients receive before the crayon even hits the paper is that they are not alone and that there are people that care about their emotional well-being, and are available to help when they are ready.

Iva Fattorini, chair of the Cleveland Clinic’s Global Arts and Medicine Institute, says, “The arts create this communication channel. The hospital becomes home to some people. What do we actually do to address the emotional needs of people living in that hospital? How do we change their state of mind and perception of the hospital?” She continues “What we know is that art is not a commodity; it’s really a necessity,” she continues. “It’s really about infusing some beauty and spiritual values in the arts to people whose spirits needs to be uplifted. If good emotions and energy are transmitted through good art, it doesn’t matter where (patients) are, or who they are. It does help.”

When the thought of The Crayon Initiative came into our mind, we were flooded with directions that we could take it. The possibilities of positivity were endless and still are, but as the model began to take focus we realized that the people that needed to prosper the most from this endeavor are the very users of these waxy tools, and there are no better builders than those that are attempting to re-build themselves. Our hope is that one of our crayons will create the rainbow unicorn that will keep a child smiling tomorrow through the challenges they face today.

5 Ways to Celebrate Your Little Artists

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In our crunched time of public spending and budget cuts, more often than not, the first thing to hit the trash pile in our schools are the programs surrounding arts. Art programs are responsible for half of the development of our children’s brains, but often get treated as a luxury and, therefore, often discarded with little more thought than their monetary value. We could very well wallow in the injustice of it all, but step back and realize that the sheer soul of art thrives in an oppressive environment. Some of the most meaningful and moving pieces have come from somebody saying, “you can’t do that”.

If your child’s school has suffered an arts cut back or simply wasn’t there to begin with, then the time has come to channel your inner Ginsberg and Howl! These are the times where as parents we should be finding ways to celebrate our little Mary Cassatt’s and Rembrandt’s.

Here are five ways to properly pay homage and inspire our little’s to create!

1. Rotating Frame

 The brainstorm that resulted in this very blog produced this idea. This is an idea that admittedly I have not incorporated in my own home yet, but one that I certainly plan to. If you have more than one tiny artist in the house or one that paints with the passion of Jackson Pollock, then fridge space is at a premium. Why not set aside a prominent spot on a wall in your home for a frame to rotate and showcase your pick-of-the-week/month (time frames open to suggestion). Make certain that the frame is large enough to hold (reasonable) variations in art sizes. The last thing we want to do is tell our children that their art needs to be 5×7 or it just won’t make the cut. Then pick a different piece of art produced by your child to display for the designated time for all to see. This will be a confidence builder and allow the child to be celebrated for creating, as well as allowing your fridge to look like a fridge rather than a huge decoupage project.

2. Personal Email Addresses

 This is an idea that my wife and I do utilize and have had a lot of fun with. Set up an email address for your kids. Don’t tell anybody but you and your partner and safely secure the password for later use. We use this email address to send our kids thoughts, pictures, words of wisdom, fresh memories, etc. from time-to-time. The idea is to give the kids their password when they become old enough to truly digest the contents and use it as inspiration for life (17-18 years old). Working in tandem with this topic, once your child’s art is removed from the marquis placement in the frame, take a picture of the piece and send it to their email address. Rest assured that when the picture is in the frame, they are admiring their work the whole time it’s up there, whether you notice it or not. Chances are when they get to see it again later in life, it will remind them of a simpler time.

3. Make Supplies Readily Available

 What good is the box of crayons up on the high shelf? Why would you want the only paper in the house to come from the office printer where they are not allowed to go? Put your children’s art supplies where they can grab them at a seconds notice. A true artist knows no schedule and inspiration can (and will) strike at odd times. This time should not be squandered looking for a pen and something to write on. NOTE: this does not apply to scissors. When you make scissors available to little fingers pets and siblings get haircuts. Keep those up high!

4. Art Classes

 If you witness your little people creating a lot of art, sticking to one singular medium when choices are available, or talking a lot about something artistic, find a way to enroll them in a class outside of school. Talk to the about the option to learn from a professional in a learning environment and let them see that you are in tuned with their inner voice. Most communities have learning annex’s or even private enterprise options offering everything from cartooning to beginning sculpture. Observe and listen to your artist and see if you can take their learning to another level.

5. Point Out “The Arts”

 One of my favorite movie quotes is from Joe Versus the Volcano. “My father says that nearly the whole world is asleep. Everybody you know. Everybody your see. Everybody you talk to. He says that only a few people are awake, and they live in a state of constant total amazement”. BE AMAZED…BE AWAKE! There is art all around our daily lives. Art that we pass with little to no thought or even notice. This does not have to be paint on canvas or a 30-foot statue. Art can be a sunset or somebody playing piano in a mall. Our job is to stop and bring these crumbs of inspiration to the attention of our own little minds. Show them that art is constantly being created and presented to us everywhere we go and that whenever they feel ready, they too should feel like being a part of the movement. Whatever their medium is, there is no wrong way to do it and all art has an audience. This is a huge confidence builder.

There are many more ways to inspire, nurture and celebrate our tiny Picasso’s, and these are just a few. Let us know of ways that you inspire art, because after all, there is no right or wrong way!

The Color of Music (pt. 1) Flowers Are Red

 

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The visceral feel and smell of a crayon can bring any adult back to an easier time. Too close ones eyes and know that a box of waxy colors and a blank piece paper was the only passport you needed to travel as far as the moon, face your fears or live every dream imaginable. Music really is no different.

In this series we will dissect songs that have affected each of us in different ways, and have that same visceral power to whisk us away to a different time and place with the strategic placement of our ear-buds.

 

Flowers Are Red by Harry Chapin

 

If an organization was ever built around the meaning of one song, then this song is our unofficial anthem!

The little boy went first day of school
He got some crayons and he started to draw
He put colors all over the paper
For colors was what he saw

 A clear introduction to the power of crayons, paper and an endless imagination built on the infancy of worldly observations. Limitless in their possibilities.

 

And the teacher said, “What you doin’ young man?”
“I’m paintin’ flowers” he said
She said, “It’s not the time for art young man
And anyway flowers are green and red”

 A simple comment from a jaded adult, delivered with little thought but with the effect of Thor’s Hammer.

 

“There’s a time for everything young saw
And a way it should be done
You’ve got to show concern for everyone else
For you’re not the only one”

 “A way it should be done”. In this line we get our first real punch to the stomach. This is the oppression of an influential and stronger person instilling their will to mold another human beings whole future, and not for the better, as it should be done by an adult in power.

 

And she said, “Flowers are red young man
And green leaves are green
There’s no need to see flowers any other way
Than they way they always have been seen”

 At this point, we feel terrible for the child because we are behind soundproof glass and want to yell “THAT’S NOT ACCURATE”. We find solace in the fact that currently the world does reward those that color outside the lines, and think outside the box, but still, poor little guy. Just hold on a little while longer.

 

 But the little boy said
“There are so many colors in the rainbow
So many colors in the morning sun
So many colors in the flower and I see every one”

This is the child’s first attempt at standing up for himself against oppression, a glimpse that there is a free thinking fire naturally placed inside his soul that can manifest itself in spoken word.

 

Well the teacher said, “You’re sassy
There’s ways that things should be
And you’ll paint flowers the way they are
So repeat after me”

And she said, “Flowers are red, young man
And green leaves are green

There’s no need to see flowers any other way
Than they way they always have been seen”

 The refuge of an ignorant person has, and always will be, the reliance on brute strength to win an argument of the minds.

 

But the little boy said
“There are so many colors in the rainbow
So many colors in the morning sun
So many colors in the flower and I see every one”

 He continues to fight for what he feels is right, even if he doesn’t know exactly why, or the importance of every step he is taking.

 

The teacher put him in a corner
She said, “It’s for your own good
And you won’t come out ’til you get it right
And are responding like you should”

Once again, our Goliath continues to pound with clenched fists, not really knowing how to digest all of the pushback she is getting on her own belief system form such an unassuming opponent.

 

Well finally he got lonely
Frightened thoughts filled his head
And he went up to the teacher
And this is what he said

 And he said
“Flowers are red, and green leaves are green
There’s no need to see flowers any other way
Than the way they always have been seen”

 This is a sad point in our story. The boy has been physically beaten, but his message remains strong in it fortitude. He is simply unable to keep the fight alive physically, so he has succumbed.

 

Time went by like it always does
And they moved to another town
And the little boy went to another school
And this is what he found

At this point, a sliver of sun begins to break the horizon of this boys life, and we assume that he is completely unaware of the possibilities that removing yourself from a negative environment can hold.

 

The teacher there was smilin’
She said, “Painting should be fun
And there are so many colors in a flower
So let’s use every one”

In the book/movie Matilda, there is the teacher Ms. Honey that sweeps in and shows her that life is beautiful and different for everybody. She shows that all interpretations of the world we live in are correct, because they are personal. This is our boy’s introduction to his own Ms. Honey.

 

But that little boy painted flowers
In neat rows of green and red
And when the teacher asked him why
This is what he said

And he said
“Flowers are red, and green leaves are green
There’s no need to see flowers any other way
Than the way they always have been seen”

 Our song ends on a cliffhanger. Clearly the boy has been so badly beaten that he is weak. Perhaps he wouldn’t have been so badly beaten if he never fought back. However, every interaction that he has with “Ms. Honey”, with no further interactions with the evil Ms. Trunchbull, provide hope that this young moldable mind will find his way back to painting the world however he sees it!

 

 

 

The Environmental Impact of Our Friend the Crayon

 

Green Crayon

 

For most of us, the very first art gift that we were given was a crayon. As we begin to have little’s of our own, we celebrate the day that we get to present them with their own box of infinite possibilities and creation.

 

As time passes, and the children grow with every feverish picture, we become privy to the sad last little nub of the crayon that had an arguably illustrious career. Oh, the things that this tiny, non-useable nub, has created. Purple monsters, blue ducks, space adventures or sea voyages cut short by pirates flying the Jolly Roger. You have done well little nub, but your time is up and I must replace you. Or even sadder is the crayon just removed from the box that promptly breaks in that one mathematical junction that renders the two crayon halves cumbersome and challenging to use. This crayons life has ended before it has begun. Never will this crayon live up to the potential that it was intended for. Without much of a thought, we declare these crayons “unfit”, so into the bin with you both.

 

If the advances and progress that our environmentally aware public has made are to be true, we owe it to our planet as well as ourselves to stop and ask, “where do these used and broken creators of dreams go to?” Certainly we understand that the garbage bin is not a magical portal that will break down our crayons on a molecular level, thereby erasing their existence. As a matter of fact, their journey has just begun.

 

Traditional crayons are sticks of paraffin wax, which is a by-product of petroleum or crude oil. Paraffin wax, colored pigments, and often other byproducts, are combined to make crayons.

This wax is NOT biodegradable. It is true that in the right type of environmental factors, crayons can break down over time with the assistance of bacteria, but the number one factor necessary for this to happen over a double digit to multi-century process is exposure to air. Now, admittedly, I have never personally been buried in a landfill, but I am willing to bet that there is little to no air flow under the heaps of other garbage and earth. Therefore, the breakdown process for crayons can take 100’s of years. In addition, crayons mixed with by-products can cause low-carbon pollution.

More than 12 Million Crayons are made in the United States every day! Every 100 new crayons equal about 1 pound, which totals out to 120,000 pounds of being manufactured and distributed daily. Just for the record and to put more of a “WHAT” factor in place, that is 60 tons of petroleum-based paraffin wax that will eventually find their way to landfills. We estimate that roughly between 45,000 and 75,000 pounds of broken crayons are discarded in landfills throughout the country annually.

 

This is a travesty and should be taken into consideration, and most certainly one of the cornerstones that The Crayon Initiative was built on.

 

Let’s go back to our tiny little nub that has served us so well, but this time, let us realize that by throwing him or her into the bin for simple disposal is only the beginning of its life here on the planet. Wouldn’t that life be better served as a recycled form of their glory days and in the hands of a deserving child that can realize all the potential of sea and space voyages for a whole new block of time? Not only do we believe this, but also every child’s movie ever made about inanimate objects would agree.

 

After they are created, crayons sole purpose in life, is to bring imagination to life, and they are designed to do so for decades, certainly not live under a pile of other household trash for centuries.

 

So remember the next time it’s time to buy new crayons, we should take into consideration that we are merely renting them.

 

Three Reasons Why Crayons

 

child crayon

When we are young, we have two criteria when daydreaming about the future. What is going to make us happy and how am I going to change the world? As we get older, the lofty utopian visions get pushed aside for a more “practical” approach, and we get launched into our “how can we provide” or “how can we make ends meet” mode of survival. The world doesn’t seem to support professional cowboys and we can’t all be President of the United States, but the few people that realize those childhood dreams as reality certainly experience rewards deeper than those of the status quo.

 

This then makes finding crayons as our answer that much more interesting. Certainly we couldn’t teach a class on how to find wax sticks of color as the answer to both questions posed as an unassuming youth, but that is exactly what happened.

 

Here then are three reasons why crayons are the perfect vehicle to support happiness and world-changing philanthropy.

 

They Were the Exact Tools We Used to Realize Our Dreams

 

All of us have sat somewhere as a child and had the thought that “I want to fly to the moon” or “I am going to rope and ride broncos on the open plain”. When I was personally faced with those determined goals, I can tell you that smashing open my piggy bank was not going to finance a small plot of land that I could work in Montana, let alone a small down payment on a new pair of boots, and no amount of extra chores were going to get me closer to the assumed lofty price tag of rocket fuel, let alone a ship to put it in. So what then was I to do in order to feed my hunger for adventure? I grabbed my crayons of course. Within moments, I was the wild plains drifter fighting cattle rustlers in big black hats and fully equipped head-to-toe in NASA approved equipment on a solo mission around the moon, and I’ll tell you what you already know, these images appeased my hunger and allowed me to be the person I wanted to be, even if only for a moment.

I love the scene from Billy Madison when he has to go back to school as an adult and complete each grade starting with Kindergarten. The determining factor of his graduating to the first grade is when he explains “I drew a duck and colored him blue because I have never seen a blue duck and I wanted to”. A+ Billy!

 

The Emotional Appeal is Textile

 

Naturally things change as we hurl ourselves through time, space and childhood, and as we reach adulthood, things change at an even faster pace. Everything from the neighborhood I grew up in is now a strip mall to the pastry I loved from Starbucks has been discontinued. Everything on every level changes with or without our permission. Crayons have not changed!

The feeling of infinite possibilities, when you open a fresh box of new crayons, as the myriad of color triggers allow us to feel invincible. The feeling of the waxy paper between your fingers and the odd sense of accomplishment when you are forced to tear a little paper off to expose more crayon to work with. The smell of a collection of crayons be they in a box, cup or a Tupperware container, can hit you in your senses from 100 yards out. Any one of these factors will (not just can) trigger every dream you ever had as a child and the act of making them a reality on paper.

 

Our Earth Doesn’t Need Them Like We Do

 

Inspiring children to create and giving them the tools to do so could have been enough of a reason to move forward with our vision, but the responsible adult needed a say in the matter as well. On this platform, we realized that as wonderfully simple and unchanged as the crayon is, they really have no place in our landfills. This is exactly what a responsible adult should realize and want to do something about. Millions of crayons are manufactured every year and millions of crayons run out of paper to tear and are discarded into regular trash receptacles. Wax is not a substance that breaks down over time. We love crayons for the fact that they do not change, but the adverse effect is in the wrong place (our earth) they still don’t change, for centuries they just get pushed around and offer no valuable source back to the planet. The bottom line is they should just stay crayons in use, recycled again and again…This is what we do!

 

After taking into consideration all of the factors above, and crafting a viable plan to make a difference, we have launched The Crayon Initiative to keep these sticks of nostalgia and creativity out of our landfills and in the hands to the people that can do the most with them. The kids that take them and without a nickel invested make their dreams a reality! This is exactly how we stay happy and change the world.