Mint Artists Guild Works to Develop Detroit’s Creative Youth

Sep 17, 2019 | Detroit Designers

Vickie Elmer is no stranger to creativity. Raised in a family containing several artists, her love and appreciation for the art world came naturally. As the current Co-Founder and Executive Director of Mint Artists Guild, Elmer shared how she is using the organization to help shape the creative futures of Detroit’s youth.

the Birth of Mint Artists Guild

Mint Artists Guild is a non-profit organization that works to equip youth with the life skills and tools needed to be creative entrepreneurs. The organization was formed when Elmer saw growing interest from youth wanting to participate in art fairs. “My husband runs a series of art fairs in and around Detroit. He kept getting inquiries from young people who wanted to be a part of the fairs. Some of them would even apply and get in without disclosing that they were still in high school!” she laughed.

(Photo: The Creative Armory)

“One by one he would help them figure out what they had to do, so I suggested that we put together a workshop that would provide training for those interested in the idea of selling their work and learning more about creative careers. We didn’t know we were going to have a non profit with a studio space in Palmer Park, we just knew that it could be a good opportunity to introduce them to selling their work at the Palmer Park Art Fair.”

Scaling a non Profit

Elmer explained that having a background in journalism helps in her day-to-day operation. “I was a business writer and editor, so I use a lot of what I learned over the years in helping the young people with their entrepreneurship. Journalism teaches you to be fearless about asking questions and for help,” she said.

“When you run a non profit that is not backed by a large funder, you have to ask for a lot and be fearless about it. You have to learn how to turn a ‘no’ into a ‘not right now’ and understand that sometimes people say no for really good reasons. If you can respect that and maintain a positive relationship, in a year or two they may come back and fund you.”

Donated art supplies. (Photo: The Creative Armory)

Inclusive Programming

The Mint Artists Guild studio is where teens of all backgrounds can gather to practice creative expression. “Everyone understands that our number one rule is respect,” said Elmer. “Our artists are so united in their love of being able to create and sell their work that I don’t think it occurs to them to think about their differences. They truly become each others tribe and support system, and it’s really beautiful to see. We try to foster the sense of helping one another be successful.”

(Photo: The Creative Armory)

Motivational poster and artwork posted in Mint’s studio. (Photo: The Creative Armory)

Shaping Detroit’s Creative Future

As a native Detroiter, Elmer is focused on developing youth that will ultimately contribute to the city’s economical growth. “I live in Detroit and believe in it. Detroit is having a creative renaissance with artists and musicians coming from all over the country. People are seeing this as as great place to be an artist. Yet, there are many young people in the city who are never introduced to successful artists and don’t get to visit the latest gallery pop up,” she said.

Painted artwork from Detroit teens. (Photo: The Creative Armory)

“It made sense to match up the young people from all across Detroit to help them make connections. If we start them on the path now and stress community service, generosity, and mutual support, we are going to create a powerful ecosystem of artists and creative entrepreneurs that are going to spread beauty and success around Detroit and the world. I’m going to bask in the reflected glory of all that they do.”

Future Plans

Currently, Mint Artists Guild is preparing to make an appearance at the Funky Ferndale Art Fair September 20-22. This fall, the organization is also launching its first internship focused on marketing and promotion. Youth resumes are now being accepted for the program.
“Our goal is to eventually have a much bigger organization. I want to be able to hire more teens in Detroit and make sure we cover a broader spectrum of mediums such as digital art and graphic design,” said Elmer.

(Photo: The Creative Armory)

“I think about the youth in the program and the ones that came before. I think of  the opportunities they may get if I keep going, and the opportunities that will disappear if I don’t. I’m aware that without Mint, they may lose their dreams and find it that much harder to have a door opened for them. Along with the support of my husband and a few close friends, that is what helps to keep me going.”

Elmer holds a well-used palate that is repurposed to become an art chain. (Photo: The Creative Armory)

Can’t make it to the Funky Ferndale Art Fair? Mint Artists Guild will host their second Mint Masterpieces fundraiser on October 19, followed by their Paint Detroit with Generosity exhibit in November.

(Cover photo by Brendan Ross)

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