Coming To See Philanthropy Differently in Portland

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“Drawing with light” is both a literal and metaphorical description of photography. The Soul of Philanthropy draws inspiration from that definition as well as from the root meaning of philanthropy: love of what it means to be human. Each a potent concept on its own, combined, these ideas have fueled the design and programming for our exhibition. This exhibit illuminates the human impulse to show compassion, to improve, to progress, to connect and to love. We have composed an experience where the images glow, the stories enlighten and passions are set afire. In reframing portraits of philanthropy, we want viewers to embrace and act on the fact that we each have the capacity to give more and wiser.

From the Artist Statement for the exhibit “Giving Back: The Soul of Philanthropy Reframed and Exhibited”

Photography from the exhibition opening on January 20, 2017, at Concordia University in Portland, Oregon. And brought to the community by MRG Foundation.

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On Opening in Oregon

— dimeji onafuwa (@casajulie) January 7, 2017

Friday night, The Soul of Philanthropy exhibit opens in Portland, Oregon!

Joy swells and overwhelms me when I think about evolution of an idea I had 10 years ago: to reframe portraits of philanthropy with love.

MRG Foundation is bringing the exhibition to Portland and mounting it at Concordia University. My friend Dimeji Onafuwa, the book designer for Giving Back and graphic designer for The Soul of Philanthropy, now lives in Portland and is this exhibition’s designer. Photos below show Dimeji and his team installing pieces in the library’s gallery space at Concordia. 

I’m grateful to all of MRG Foundation’s community supporters, which include: Concordia University, The Collins Foundation, Grantmakers of Oregon and SW Washington, KBOO Community Radio, Meyer Memorial Trust, Moda Health, Multnomah County Cultural Coaltion, The Oregonian Media Group, Spirit Mountain Community Fund, Street Roots and Willamette Valley Development Officers.

For MRG Foundation, presenting The Soul of Philanthropy is an opportunity to share its story publicly and welcome new supporters, donors and friends into its work. MRG believes that “giving is an act of social justice” and recognizes that throughout history communities whose needs are not being met by traditional sources eventually come together and build their own systems.

An aim of bringing the exhibition to Portland is making connections with individuals and groups who are rethinking philanthropy and building the structures and support they need outside of conventional means.

— VF

The Soul of Philanthropy: ‘Deeper than your pockets’

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The Soul of Philanthropy exhibit is borne of an unwavering belief that philanthropy is deeper than your pockets and, in fact, that the most potent philanthropy is derived from a blend of what’s within your hands, heart, head and soul. The soul being the core of who you are—the essence of your identity. Besides, what genuine and substantive good could ever come of soulless giving?

As of this week, the exhibit is on display at three venues: NC State University (comprehensive version), Levine Museum of the South (pop-up edition) and WV State University (pop-up edition). Each exhibition presents soulful imagery and narratives to bring to light universal truths about generosity and to inspire conscious giving.

Watch: On The Road With ‘Soul’

After fielding a variety of questions about The Soul of Philanthropy from inquiring museums, colleges, community-based nonprofits and funders, instead of a FAQ sheet, I decided to compile images from exhibitions and programs, to date.

Since pictures speak a thousand words (at least), photographs provide institutions that are interested in hosting the exhibit a window for visualizing their possibilities. My hope is that the compilation of photos—from the multimedia, comprehensive exhibit and the pop-up, abridged edition—allow people to observe variations and options for installation, based on a venue’s gallery space and the imagination of the exhibition designer. Set to classic soul music, the video speaks volumes about the multimedia exhibit and its public programs that reframe portraits of philanthropy.

Please watch, enjoy and share!

Note, you can follow my work on The Soul of Philanthropy via Facebook.

On The Road With ‘Soul’: Mile High City Moments

The Denver opening of Giving Back: The Soul of Philanthropy Reframed and Exhibited, over the August 1st weekend, summed up in photography.

Still reframing portraits of philanthropy!

Photo credits:

  • Flor Blake, The Denver Foundation
  • Andrea Murray, A-Dre Productions
  • Valaida Fulllwood, The Giving Back Project

‘The Soul of Philanthropy’ Comes Alive in Denver This Weekend

Below are excerpts from “’The Soul of Philanthropy’ exhibit celebrates African-American giving” by Laura Bond for The Denver Foundation.

Dora's handsThe Denver Foundation and Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library are honored to co-host “The Soul of Philanthropy Reframed and Exhibited,” a photographic and narrative exploration of African American giving, which runs August 1-31 at the library, 2401 Welton Street, in Denver’s historic Five Points neighborhood.

Denver is one of only ten cities to host “The Soul of Philanthropy Reframed and Exhibited,” which explores the triumphant movement of conscious giving for social change, shared through photos and words of African American philanthropists, with a special addition of Denver notables. Groundbreaking in focus and depth, the exhibition draws evocative images and incisive stories from the award-winning book Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists, by Valaida Fullwood and photographer Charles W. Thomas Jr.

“This exhibit is a window into African American giving…While the photos may be black and white, the culture and history of philanthropy in the African American community is a vibrant collage of individual, collective, and strategic giving which impacts and elevates our community. It’s got heart all over it. This is certainly a ‘reframed image’ of what is stereotypically depicted of philanthropy in communities of color. This exhibit is sure to spur conversations, connections, and ideas which the The Denver Foundation looks forward to potentially supporting.”

— LaDawn Sullivan, Director of Community Leadership, The Denver Foundation

Exhibit sponsors are The Denver Foundation, Institute of Museum and Library Services, NGAAP Charlotte, Blair Caldwell Branch – Denver Public Library, Denver African American Philanthropists (DAAP), Denver (CO) Chapter of The Links, Inc., and Sisterhood of Philanthropists Impacting Needs (SPIN).

Event host committee members are Eula and Janet Adams, Councilman Albus Brooks, Linda Campbell, Richela Das, Chrissy Deal, Myra Donovan, MaryAnn Franklin, Barbara Grogan, Eddie and Andria Koen, and Rich Lopez.

Click here to read more from this article.

Hot Day. Heated Time. Warmed Heart

“Goodbyes are only for those who love with their eyes. Because for those who love with heart and soul there is no such thing as separation.” — Rumi

Though I cried when my exhibition’s outdoor installation was disassembled weeks ago, on June 19th the closing reception for The Soul of Philanthropy at JCSU was a time for reflection and celebration.

Unequivocally unceremonious, the outdoor display’s deinstallation would have made any sensitive soul sob. To dodge another tearful goodbye, this time we planned a party!  Food, friends, music and an easygoing afternoon proved perfect for soothing all our souls, particularly one day after learning of the Charleston church massacre. Even after trudging through 90-some-degree weather only to find the JCSU library without central air, the good vibes prevailed.

The collage of photos below capture the farewell to my baby in Charlotte. Now, I’m anticipating a happy reunion in Denver when the #philanthropyframed exhibition opens in August.

To Touch A Soul

The community’s interest and show of support at Friday’s closing reception for The Soul of Philanthropy‬ exhibition at the Johnson C. Smith University library was deeply moving. Some folks who attended the opening event in February returned to see it again. A few of them brought along a friend or family member this time.

The experience was affirming in many ways, particularly in the context of such hot days and heated times. Outside temperatures soared beyond 90 degrees and inside the library’s air conditioner was out (our Giving Back hand fans were, indeed, handy). And just the day before, news broke about the horrific shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, where JCSU administrator Malcolm Graham lost his sister in the massacre.

Given the atmosphere, we were astounded and further heartened by an occurrence at the end of the event. A man unknown to Charles arrived and handed him a sealed white envelope and inside the typed letter read:

Dear NGAAP:IMG_1557

Enclosed you will find a check for $1,000.00 in honor of [name of NGAAP member] and “The Soul of Philanthropy” exhibition at JCSU. In light of the hateful, racist and tragic events visited upon the victims, their families and the church in Charleston, SC this week, it is my earnest hope that the exhibit’s national tour might educate and change lives in unknown and unknowable ways, maybe even profoundly touching a soul in such a manner that turns hate to love.
Respectfully,
JM
More than ever, we aspire that “The Soul of Philanthropy” serve as an instrument in a triumphant movement of conscious giving for social change. #‎LoveGiveGoDo‬

98 Days of Love

Love at first sight.

A dream for years, the outdoor, interactive walls of The Soul of Philanthropy exhibit were installed on February 18 (two days before the exhibition’s opening) outside the venerable façade of Biddle Hall—the heart of Johnson C. Smith University. In pure ecstasy, at the sight of a dream come true, I, along with a flurry of snowflakes, danced about and melted at the site. My long labor of love, about the love of humanity, had manifested a momentary monument to love itself.

For 98 days, my giant love magnet drew to its walls crews of JCSU students, curious campus guests and social media-savvy visitors to the exhibition in the library’s gallery. Every day a fresh canvas, the walls invited, captured, presented, broadcast and reframed portraits of philanthropy.

Yesterday—after our grand opening event, the snow left, springtime arrived, founders week passed, commencement ended and nearly a semester on campus—the “love walls” came down. You’re sure to see the structure (and bits of colored chalk) pop up some place new soon. In the meantime, below is a photo slideshow from the 98-day reign of LOVE at Smith.

Opening ‘The Soul of Philanthropy’

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Two weeks ago we opened Giving Back: The Soul of Philanthropy Reframed and Exhibited in Charlotte at Johnson C. Smith University. For me, the day felt like a dream sequence. Check out these photos and recap via this link.

— VF