As a youth-focused organization, Mint Artists Guild Executive Director and Co-founder Vickie Elmer started the organization to offer a place for Detroit youth to nurture their creativity and also learn how to have a lucrative career in the arts, but now she wants their voices to play a larger part in the organization’s programming. That’s when the organization elected to add 23-year-old Alexis Bagley, a long-time participant, to the organization’s board as vice president, speaking on behalf of the youth involved there.
One Detroit contributor Marcus Green meets up with Bagley to hear how she feels about being elected the organization’s board vice president and more about her evolution as an artist. Plus, Elmer shares the types of support and resources the Mint Artists Guild makes available to Detroit youth interested in visual arts.
Alexis Bagley, Vice President, Mint Artists Guild: I’ve been an artist, I would say all my life. Like even when I was little, I used to draw. You can find my paintings and my little like scribbles on my grandma’s fridge and everything, so, as long as I can remember. For whatever reason, like, art just stuck to me like I always was creating something and always having fun drawing something. And my grandfather, he was an artist, and so, I always used to hear stories. My grandma used to tell me all these stories about him drawing, she said one time he drew her head on the body of a spider, so just stuff like that. And so, I would draw my grandpa sometimes, and yeah. I remember working more, so in colored pencil and regular pencil.
And then as I got older, you know, just watercolor here and there, but never like acrylic or anything until I got like in high school. Now my art, I focus on like realism. So like my art, I’m drawing like a picture basically that I’m like looking at another picture and then, I’m drawing a picture, but I incorporated like abstract elements. So, I like making my own and everything.
I got involved with Mint my senior year of high school, so 2016. There was a girl in my class named Misha Rahman and she came to art class one day and told us that she knew some like this like organization, and we could be an art fair, like free of charge and you know, being in art class and like, I was like, okay, that sounded great, you know, being able to sell my work because I finally figured out my medium back then. And so, my work started actually being like, okay, this is kind of good. So, that’s how I found out about it.
Vickie Elmer, Co-founder & Executive Director, Mint Artists Guild: I realized there were no youth arts programs in Detroit. There were plenty in performance or poetry. There was singing, it was theater, but there was nothing for visual arts.
Alexis Bagley: My first impression, I think that I was really happy. I kind of had a bad experience with art in high school due to some circumstances. But I like being around art and artists and everything. It was, it was really cool, you know, like because, you know, I was learning things that I never, like, learned before. You know, they always say, Oh, starving artist and, you know, just all this negativity and they don’t really fund like the art classes and everything, like they fund other areas of school. So, it was like seeing that like there was this world of art where people actually were passionate about what they did.
Like these are real artists, like not just like in their craft, but like they make a living off of what they do and everything, I think that was like the first thing that stood out to me. I volunteered to be the Interim Board President twice in a row. And I was like, you know, talking with Vicky and we would have our powwow sessions, and we’d go over everything. And I was like leaving the board meeting and in the past year, I got like really, really involved with Mint, like really involved. So, after the like last time that I held a board meeting, I was talking to Vicky and she was like, Do you want to be the vice president?
I think that would be good for you. And I was like, me? because I’m always doubting myself, and so I’m like me, the board, what? And so yes, she asked me if that’s what I wanted to do and I was like, Yeah, I’ll try it, you know, like, hopefully I can make you proud, but I’ll, you know, I’ll give it my best so.
Vickie Elmer: Everyone thought this makes perfect sense. We want youth voices, we want youth leadership, we want it. We want the organization that serves youth to have you at the helm.
Alexis Bagley: My goal for Mint is to really help young people feel the way that I did when I first got started with Mint. And to have these opportunities that are kind of like life-changing because like without Mint, I don’t think I would be making art anymore.
Vickie Elmer: It’s been a beautiful thing to see Alexis grow, to see her step up, to say yes to things, and she brings others along with her, too. So, there are some other youth leaders who I think are taking more active roles, some of them are as young as 16 and 17.
Alexis Bagley: Mint supports me so much. Like I said earlier, I probably would not be artist right now if it wasn’t for Mint. So, you know, Vicky, she’s always sending me different opportunities, like different gallery openings, different calls for art and everything.
And then, like even the people that I know, like now that I have done different art shows with, met them through Vickie, you know, met them through an artist deal, being able to network, being able to like get myself out there, has been through Mint, so you know, it’s just, and I know if I ever need anything like art wise, even just life wise if I need anything, like, they got me.
They got my back, Mint has my back, you know. And I want artists to experience what I’m experiencing, you know, like being able to be a part of this community and being able to have the community grow because of Mint. And it’s like, I just want everybody to be able to understand and live that life.
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