I first started getting involved with Aurora Studio & Gallery in the fall of 2018. I volunteered a few times before my internship started in january of 2019.  I worked with three other interns for the spring semester of 2019, then continued on as the solo intern from fall 2019 to summer 2020. As my relationship with Aurora continues post-graduation, I am stepping into even more creative roles for the organization. I’m excited to share this story with the next wave of potential interns as well as interested volunteers! I found a place that fits perfectly for my skills and passions to be used for a small, heartfelt, and community-based non-profit. 

Our program serves people from all sorts of backgrounds, often having faced life challenges, sometimes participants may experience food insecurity. One of my main goals has always been to “bulk up” the meals we serve for lunch during the program. I connect with local food banks to use food that would otherwise become food waste; I plan and make balanced meals for everyone and offer take-home grocery bags of veggies and non-perishable staples. This has proved to be really rewarding for me, a chance to service people directly, to nourish in the most literal sense. 

An aspect of attending Aurora in any capacity, as a volunteer, paid worker, or participant, is the amazing exposure and accessibility to art and an art community. We all get to practice new mediums with local artists, and the group dynamics provides a safe container to express creatively. There is a binding thread between all involved- it is that we enjoy creating something new, learning and appreciating beauty together. The connections with the artists, those in the program and those visiting to teach, is definitely the most important aspect to me. We all come from diverse backgrounds and are able to connect over our art in such genuine ways. In addition to seeing the demonstrations of new forms and techniques, Lori, the director, has collected lots of donations of art supplies so materials are always available for people to try and make things to keep, gift, or sell and make profit. Specifically with the roles I fulfill, I also get more of a foothold into the local art scene by connecting with local gallery spaces to schedule shows and sell merchandise. 

Learning the in’s and out’s of group facilitation in a therapeutic setting and non-profit organization planning has been invaluable for my interests. Ive been able to practice, with guidance from a professional, how to facilitate a creative group with a strong focus of support and inspiration. This has acted like a safe womb for me to experience myself in that role and to explore and get feedback on what worked for the group and for myself. I’ve been brainstorming big-picture and long-term visions for us a lot during quarantine, like expanding the food program, getting touched into more sections of the population, and the ideal space for us. I also participate in event planning initiatives, direct and indirect fundraising, marketing for art and merchandise, and very soon this month i will be attending the board meeting to learn about the grants related to our mission and other planning and budget discussions. This upcoming board meeting will be another milestone for me within this organization, one that will look and feel slightly different because of current Covid-19 restrictions, but nonetheless another step i am excited to take with this community. It’s been great so far ~ I would love to talk to anyone hoping to get involved about how you see that happening and how we can collaborate in beautiful ways!

-Pax Cleary

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