Carson-Based Community Organization Awarded $15,000 Bank of America Grant on #GivingTuesday to Continue Critical Needs Services During Prolonged Pandemic
Award winning “Love My Neighbor” program pivoted from arts workshops for at-risk youth to food aid and art kits for homebound families.
Administered by nonprofit Artward Initiative, the organization at the outset of the pandemic back in March quickly pivoted in response to stay-at-home orders and launched an emergency food distribution service to the most vulnerable households within the Scottsdale neighborhood. The organization has made more than 50 food deliveries and served more than 100 at-risk Scottsdale residents in need with approximately 15,000 pounds of high-quality and nutritious food donated by local grocery stores Trader Joes, Whole Foods and Sprouts with the help of Food Cycle LA.
The program has since evolved from the initial small volunteer team – Olga Vlasova, Artward Initiative, Director, Alexey Steele, Artist, Project Founder, Sadie Dix, Scottsdale Townhomes Board President, Johnathan Delgado and Adam Valenzuela from Scottsdale security team, and property manager Michael Yadrick who together volunteered over 600 hours – to now include longtime partners at the Carson Sheriff Stations’ Gang Diversion Team (GDT) who help deliver art supply kits with food relief packages to local families.
“It means a lot to our team that has been working tirelessly and with great dedication throughout these unprecedented circumstances to be supported by our longtime partners at Bank of America, who are helping us address the glaring needs in the community. I cannot express how we are all touched by the recognition of what we were doing in the community throughout all these difficult months. Bank of America has provided us with crucial support when we needed it the most,” said project founder, artist Alexey Steele.
The pandemic has given rise to significant increases in negative emotions, with emotional costs running higher for the poor and vulnerable and heightening deep pre-existing inequities in well-being of our communities. With the closures of schools and afterschool care, there is a great need to find ways to engage at-risk children in underserved communities who are more likely to turn to local gang influence. Artward Initiative developed a way to combine a food distribution program with art as an emotional support to the community and outreach to local children.
“The Love My Neighbor program has had a transformative positive impact on the Scottsdale community and Carson for many years. The bank is honored to continue to add value to their important work where we can – from teaching free financial education to families in past years, to now investing in their emergency food program which leverages their artistic assets in new ways,” said Raul Anaya, market president, Bank of America. “This formula addresses hunger and emotional support that lifts spirits and keeps entire families engaged during these challenging times.”
The grant from Bank of America comes at a critical time for Artward Initiative’s “Love My Neighbor” program as it looks to meet the ongoing needs of increased distance learning and expand with a technological component to reach additional families and community members as the pandemic continues well into 2021.
*Digital images of artwork and program photos are available upon request.*
About Alexey Steele
Alexey Steele is an award-winning visual artist with a background of the Russian representational school. Born in Kiev, Ukraine, he began art training at an early age in the studio of his father Leonid Steele, a renowned Soviet Union artist. Alexey attended the prestigious Surikov Art Institute of the Soviet Academy of Arts in Moscow. He moved to Los Angeles in 1990 and has been a resident of Culver City since 2013, where he lives with his wife and two sons.
Mr. Steele is best known for his large-scale figurative works in oil and on paper, portraiture, and plein-air landscapes. His works have been commissioned, exhibited and recognized throughout California, Europe, and Asia. He is also the founder of the critically acclaimed “Classical Underground,” a classical music and visual art project that has run continuously since 2008. Since 2016, Alexey has been an artivist in The City of Carson, CA founding the non-profit Artward! Gallery “Scottsdale” in Carson's most difficult and long marginalized neighborhood where he developed the “Love My Neighbor" Public Art Project. The project is recognized for its measurable positive impact and for being instrumental in the community turn around with its art-centered outreach programs to residents and at-risk children. Alexey Steele and his Love My Neighbor Public Art Project in Carson were selected as a 2019 California Park & Recreation Society (CPRS) Award of Excellence recipient in the Creating Community Award of Excellence category.
Artist Laureate Program: https://bit.ly/2WwLcwP
About Love My Neighbor Public Art Project
About Artward Initiative
Artward Initiative is formed to strengthen Southern California local communities through its charitable cultural activities. Our goal is to provide the economically disadvantage people and indigents in the local communities with improvement of professional skills and other educational resources they may need. Our events and projects are centered around community development and revitalization, enhance community's quality of life through art, cultural and educational projects. We support cultural and educational projects, public art and social action programs in underserved communities of color that promote cultural diversity and encourage greater understanding among different cultures including community beautification, civic leadership, citizen education as well as arts education initiatives that contribute to the positive development of young people and young people at risk. We aim to support projects and programs that promote cultural diversity and encourage greater understanding among different cultures including community beautification, civic leadership, citizen education as well as arts education initiatives that contribute to the positive development of young people and young people at risk. We support public art and social action programs that reflect our goals.
During the last several years, our main focus has been one of the most diverse cities in California - the City of Carson, with the primary focus on its long under-served and troubled Scottsdale neighborhood.
Love My Neighbor Public Art Project in the Scottsdale Neighborhood of Carson has been selected as a prestigious 2019 California Park & Recreation Society (CPRS) Award of Excellence recipient in the important Creating Community Award of Excellence category.
In 2018, we have received Cultural Pathways Grant from California Arts Council to increase the reach of our community outreach projects in the City of Carson.
Artward Initiative is a 501 c(3) non profit organization.
Alexey Steele, Love My Neighbor project creator attaching printed children artwork to food bags upon food delivery to Carson. The food donations were secured thanks to a collaboration with Food Cycle LA non profit.
Deputy Frederick Noya leading nationally recognized Gang Diversion Team of Carson Sheriff Station and during pandemic partnered with Artist Alexey Steele and Artward Initiative to bring food relief and art supplies provided by AI to home bound kids who are part of GDT program.
Kids produced some awesome art with compelling messages that were scanned, printed out and attached to food relief packages as a form of emotional emergency relief to the crisis affected neighbors at risk and in need.
Sadie Dix is a long time Scottsdale resident, community activist and President of Scottsdale Townhomes board of governors. She is packaging delivered by Alexey Steele food for distribution by “Scottsdale” security team to residents in need.
Scottsdale Carson is the long underserved and marginalized community in the LA County, long suffering from decades of neglect and structural inequity. Photo credit: RJ photography
Delgado and Valenzuela volunteered their own break time during their shifts to deliver prepared emergency relief packages to local residents at risk and in need.
One of the kids who participated in the program belong to an extremely high risk family with some members suffering from suppressed immune systems. As a result, the family observed the strictest isolation. Beautiful art became their form of communicating with the world.
John Lipsey is one of the long time Scottsdale residents, a disabled senior at high risk, who participates in the program.
Members of Carson Sheriff Station Gang Diversion Team distributed food and art supplies to kids in their program and brought back the artwork that became part of the emergency relief packages.
Artist Alexey Steele creating portraits of special neighbors in a series of live sittings became a center of engagement in this infamously difficult neighborhood. During the pandemic as close contact of live sitting became impossible, Steele created his work in a series of distant-live sessions.
Artist Alexey Steele developed an innovative distant-live method of creating his work in a series of technology powered virtual sessions.
Artist Alexey Steele had a FaceTime video conference streamed to the big screen TV in his studio to produce his powerful depiction of our time.