Thank you for noticing.

Painting “Notice Me” on the first Girl Noticed Mural in Hollywood, Florida. The next day early in the morning the city would paint over it thinking it was graffiti.

5 years ago I asked you to notice, and you did. You noticed an artist who possessed a lofty idea of spreading the powerful message of a girls worth. The idea to create 50 murals in 50 states in charcoal that would fade off the wall sending the message, if you left a girl unnoticed her value and self worth would fade away, just as the mural did.

Originally the project was to last 3 years, and during those initial years I had the empowering and uplifting support of Elizabeth Sanjuan, who traveled with me not only as the project’s photographer but as a friend who cracked the whip and made sure I stayed focused on my goals. Without Elizabeth and the support of her husband Ken Brown and Sharon Lane from Gallery 2014 in Hollywood, Fl. Girl Noticed may have never found its wings, and for that I have the utmost gratitude.

Of course anyone who has ever set out on an endeavor, especially one that is even bigger than themselves, knows that along the way things change, evolve, and often turn into something beyond what you ever could have imagined.

Girl Noticed did just that. With each state I visited, 15 to date, I discovered the possibilities that were bursting to be developed out of this project. Workshops, lectures, scholarships, communities coming together and holding public events to empower their girls were all created from an original yet simple idea of using art to spread a message. I became aware of the impact that could be made through the testimonies of girls and women who would pass by as I created the murals. Stories of how they often felt unnoticed and the empowering and inspiring message a mural would leave on their community. Stories of how they were witnessing the creation of something they never thought possible. I met powerful women already working tirelessly in their community for their community. Their only reward was knowing they might make a difference in the lives of others. By the way ladies, you’ve made a difference in mine.

Calcagno Cullen founder of Wave Pool Gallery and Sheryl Rajbhandari Executive Director of Heartfelt Tidbits in Camp Washington, Ohio
Deirdre Love, Executive Director of Teens with a Purpose, Norfolk, Virginia
Bathsheba Smithen, Executive Director Of Cage Free Voices, LLC (listen to her podcast here: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/cage-free-voices-radio/id1156230609 )
Battle-Lockhart Tajala, Founder and Executive Director of Phenomenal Young Women, Inc
(Order her just released book “Purpose Pushers” here: Aikal Beaute https://purposedpublishingcompany.com/tajalalockhart/

Just a few pictured above, but the list of what these particular women do in their communities and beyond can not be contained in a caption. Truly inspiring.

There have been 35 murals created so far and each mural event has become more impactful. For example: The last mural created in Jackson, Mississippi was made possible by the Greater Jackson Arts Council. A local poet and civil rights Activist Margaret Walker Alexander and a silhouette of a girl reading, representing the girls who passed through the entrance of the school each day, were drawn larger than life on the exterior of Hardy Middle School. In what was considered an underserved community local officials and community leaders gathered to hold workshops for the female students and also held a beautiful mural unveiling that celebrated not only Miss Walker but the entire school and community. The Margaret Walker Alexander Foundation gave the girls journals with the promise of teaching them how to journal and creating an area by the mural for them to gather and hold a journaling club. Something that had never existed before at this school. Not only the girls but a community who typically would appear to go unnoticed were shown how valued they actually are. I know that if the perspective of just one girl was altered on what her future could hold, my job was done, and done well.

So many of you have been following and supporting since year 1 and yes this is year 5, well past the 3 year mark. But how do you stop something that keeps growing and becoming more with each experience? You don’t. You set even loftier goals and you begin to believe anything is possible. This year I hope to create murals in three more states. I have begun the process of launching a local endeavor recognizing and hearing the voices of the surviving women of the Holocaust that live in my own community. I’d like to take the project outside of the United States.

Your help has gotten me this far, and I thank you. Here’s to an empowering and inspiring year ahead.

Women make things happen.

We were literally two strangers with a common mission living on opposite sides of the country. It’s funny how on Instagram we do what’s called “following” each other. Where else other than social media would a 27 yr old mom/entrepreneur from Utah and a 51 yr old mom/artist from Florida actually end up following each other? Instagram is funny like that. You follow who’s work you admire, who’s photos you like. You follow who entertains you visually and inspires you. Does it always end there? What if you reached out and actually connected?

Connecting was exactly what my intention was. I had decided one evening to write down all of the women’s/teen organizations that “follow” Girl Noticed on Instagram. I then proceeded to email or message each one telling them more about the project. “13 states, 50 murals, workshops, presentations, Marie Claire magazine, national recognition… hey, hey you, pay attention! Notice me!” That’s pretty much how it goes. Did you think people just call me up an invite me to there state to do a mural? I’ve had to get creative when it comes to how I get a wall, and make this project happen. Writing my instagram followers was one of many avenues taken to get Girl Noticed “out there”. In this case the emails and messages were sent, and then I wait. I wait hoping maybe someone will take the extra minute to actually read what I wrote and show interest. And that’s just what Desiree Tolman creator of the Utah Mom Show did. About a half dozen emails and a few phone calls later we pooled our resources and figured out just how to make this happen.

We knew after our first conversation we were kindred spirits. Two women that society would just as well have written off. We both had the odds stacked up against us in life and we both wouldn’t allow ourselves to be defined by those odds. Even though Desiree and I are from different generations, yes I have kids Desiree’s age, we both see the world in front of us as an opportunity for change, a place to inspire and empower. We also see challenges as just that, a challenge. Nothing more. When we allow those challenges to turn into fear, that’s when we have a problem. We’ve proven to ourselves over and over again that fear is a liar and what we put our minds to we can accomplish. We also know that when life has allowed you the strength and will to succeed it’s your responsibility to pay it forward, to give back. Desiree’s Utah Mom Show was created for every mom, tackling all stages of motherhood, while uniting parents who feel they’re alone in their stories.

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Desiree Tolman creator of the Utah Mom Show and Lori Pratico, Girl Noticed

I am thrilled to be working with Desiree and creating a mural for this years Inaugural Utah Mom Show. I would have clearly picked Desiree, but instead I read each of her Mom blogpost nominees and chose an incredible mom to notice.

Kait Peterson and her daughter Eva will be part of an interactive mural where you can write and leave behind your thoughts about what mom means to you. So come say hello and be a part of Girl Noticed’s 14th state.

In the words of the great O, no not Oz, Oprah of course, “What I know for sure is”, that when two women collaborate, you better move out of their way.” 

Get more info and tickets for the Utah Mom Show at http://www.utahmomshow.com

Noticing Kandy G Lopez

Born In New Jersey Kandy G Lopez moved with her family to Miami where she received her BFA and BS from the University of South Florida concentrating in Painting and in Marketing and Management. She received her MFA with a concentration in Painting from Florida Atlantic University

She is now an Assistant Professor in the Department of Performing and Visual Arts at the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences (CAHSS) at NOVA Southeastern University, and has also taught at Florida Atlantic University and Daytona State College.

As a visual artist, Lopez explores constructed identities, celebrating the strength, power, confidence and swag of individuals who live in urban and often economically disadvantaged environments. With a variety of mediums, her images develop a personal and socially compelling visual vocabulary that investigates race, the human defense mechanism, visibility and armor through fashion, and gentrification. Lopez wants her artwork to help educate, communicate, and foster uncomfortable topics that we seem to look past or avoid in our multi- cultural society. Representing individuals within poor communities in the U.S., these portraits help her, as a female Afro-Dominican American, come to terms with the way she too has to adopt and perform identities of survival.

Kandy G Lopez’s work has been exhibited in several galleries and museums. Recent exhibitions include: The ARC – Arts and Recreation Center, the Girls’ Club, Broward College Rosemary Duffy Gallery, Yeiser Art Center, The Catalina Hotel for Art Basel, Cape Cod Museum of Art, Verum Ultimum Art Gallery, Santa Fe’s Gallery 901, Stephen F. Austin University, and Umpqua Valley Art Center.

Click here to check out more of her work.

 

 

 

In her words…

Quetcy was 17 when I featured her as the Troy, NY Girl Noticed. Her bravery and resilience does not go unnoticed. She owns her story and continues to push through. She has allowed herself to be vulnerable in telling her story.

With her permission I share this with you in her words.

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“The Story of Me” by Quetcy Jacobs
Everyone has a story, some stories are good and some are bad but through all the stories there are meaningful messages to them all. I hope to share my story with you all and I hope to inspire all of you who read this.

It all began a little before birth, I was born premature to a mother who was addicted to all sorts of illegal substances and she did things that weren’t healthy for her or the babies that she was carrying; or even those around her. She was an unstable individual. Let’s just say my journey into this world wasn’t easy. If any of you were to look at me, physically I would appear average, if any of you were to look at me, mentally I would appear average. You wouldn’t be able to tell just by looking at someone what there life story was. This is why I am sharing mine with all of you. I don’t really remember much from birth so I am going to skip a few years…

My birth mother was unable to care for me in the proper way, and because of this I was given to my paternal aunt. From the moment that decision was made, I remained in the custody of my aunt for a few years. Those years weren’t the best years of my life.

There were some days that were good but there were some days that were bad. As a child, I was physically and mentally abused. As far as education went, my aunt and uncle, whom I called “mom and dad” rarely took me to school. I didn’t really have friends, I didn’t even know how to make friends. I lacked so many skills that are important to a child’s development. On the days that I didn’t go to school I remember being very sad. School was like an escape for me. An escape from the chaos and havoc in my life. I felt like I was living a different life while I was at school.
I was always kept inside, isolated from the outside world. Due to the instability of my environment, living with my paternal aunt and uncle, I was removed and put into foster care.
My years in foster care were from ages 7 till about the age of 10. I bounced around from foster home to foster home. I wasn’t an angel. I was at times a misbehaved little child. I was very rambunctious. I was afraid to let anyone in. Afraid, that someone would hurt me. My life didn’t really get better until I was about 10 years old. On my tenth birthday my then fabulous social worker, took me to the park where I was going to meet my foster parents that were soon going to be my adoptive parents. That visit to the park was one of the best visits. I remember playing scrabble with my soon to be foster parents and laughing. It was then that I knew my life would completely change…. for the better!

I am very happy with the life that I have now. Two moms and a family that I can call my own is the greatest thing that I could ever ask for. My parents are the light of my life, they are my whole world. They inspire me to reach for the stars and strive to be the best that I can be. Both of my parents believe that education is very important so I made it a point to make education a huge part of my life. I managed to graduate at the top of my class and I even received the only scholarship that there was from my principal as well as getting a music recipient award from my music teacher.

“Flash Forward”
Fast forward to the year 2016-17
I am 18 years old about to be 19. I am an active member in the LGBT community. I am happy to be in a community that accepts individuals for who they are, flaws and all. Back then being gay, wasn’t the easiest thing for anyone; but things have changed quite a bit, especially when the Supreme Court legalizing gay marriage. This was a huge positive turning point for many.

Knowing that you no longer have to hide is one of the greatest things in the whole wide world! I love life, even though life is hard I manage to find the good in every situation no matter how big or how small. When my skies are grey, I use the one gift that God gave me. My voice. I sing whenever I can. I sing in the car, in my room, and in public. I just recently sang at my parents wedding. I am still so happy that my parents were able to get married.

Over all, life is rough but with love and God on your side everything will be okay. I leave you with this: “ We may not have it all together, but together we have it all”

I just want to thank Lori Pratico for giving me the opportunity to write in her blog and share my life experiences with those around me. I hope that you all find my story inspiring and leave knowing that you are not alone!

If you would like to share your story, email girlnoticed@gmail.com 

Weak or Wise?

Notice you’re worth it.

I came across a quote this weekend that read:

“There’s no trophy at the end for doing everything alone, and you’re not weak for asking for help. Every single time that you open up about your struggles and find ways to support other women, you are being devastatingly brave”.

Wow, is there so much truth in that. I find myself often telling the story of my life as “I raised my kids alone”, “I became who I am as an artist with no support from family”, “I built my business and learned what I know with no formal education, again on my own”. I tell my story that way because I’m proud of where I’ve ended up considering where I’ve come from.

But is it such a bad idea to ask for help? Help with “life” stuff. Stuff like I’m struggling, I’m lost, I’m depressed and don’t exactly know why.  Also stuff like, I just really don’t know what I’m doing. Did you know that not knowing something doesn’t make you stupid? Why is it we think we need to know everything? Why is it so hard to wrap my head around the idea that you might actually know better than me? Why can’t I admit that in most parts of my life, I am not an expert?

Oh and then there’s when I’m having what in my mind is a ridiculous crazy, devastating moment? You know the ones that usually pass in a day or so, but at the time they’re happening are life altering. Come on, you know exactly what I’m talking about. What if there were people in your life who didn’t judge you for those? Who gently helped you off the ledge all the time reminding you “you got this”.

img_8837Photo: Women teaming up together to support each other in Montclair, NJ

I’ve decided being strong, being fulfilled, being successful doesn’t mean you go it alone, it means you teamed up with good people who want you at your best. It means your relationships are give and take. And that give and take isn’t the kind that is measured and held in comparison. It’s the kind of give and take that says, I’ll be there, you can count on me, I won’t let you down.

Reality is, there have been people helping me all along. I may have not recognized it or even appreciated it as much as I should have, but they were there. I didn’t get where I am today, with my family, my work, or my art by myself. And I honestly apologize to those who I dismissed and didn’t acknowledge when they were helping because I was too busy being independent.

Today I am proud of the the support I have, not the lack of it. I recognize the people who stand with me. I also know how when I put myself in a place of asking I’m making myself vulnerable, and that can be really scary. Can I tell you how worth it it is? That when you find the people who truly support you and let them in what a brave and incredibly beautiful thing it is?

To my friends who supported me and the Girl Noticed initiative on this last fundraising drive, I can’t thank you enough. In two weeks we sold 30 shirts and raised $350. Not too shabby.

I’ve got my arms around all of you, and together we lift each other up. We’re all worth it.

Thank you to the following awesome ladies, and one awesome guy, who ordered “Just Being Me” shirts. Make sure to send me photos. Can’t wait to see everyone wearing them!

Lori Cataldo
Wendy Sosa
Rebecca Chandler
Colleen Sullivan
Lauren Feher
Shelley Mitchell
Sheila Danzig
Noah Parang
Mary Pohlmann
Betsy Janigian
Jan Spear
Melanie Gilson
Dana McElroy
Teri Forero
Jennifer Haley
Heather Neiman
Angeline Martinez
Sean Mullaney
Diane Fennekohl
Myra Wexler
Sheryl Rajbhandari
Calcagno Cullen
Annay Kotiaho
Lori Doody-Lanza

The Girl Who Walked on Her Tiptoes.

Semele Halkedis and I became friends in kindergarten, and it never seemed unusual that Semele’s heels never hit the floor when she walked. It almost seemed as though she had been given a special gift or ability to be able to walk on her tiptoes, because it made her that much taller with her head held that much higher. We spent many years in school together and I remember often feeling envious of her. She possessed a self confidence and self awareness I searched for within myself. On the outside I sure looked confident, but on the inside I questioned everything about myself. Still on her tiptoes, she just seemed to know something I did not.

Now 40 something years later I don’t know if her heels ever ended up touching the floor. I see her only through Facebook and we did not stay in touch through the years for me to know how her life has been. It is absolutely clear to me however that through her life’s challenges and struggles, she has not only walked on her tiptoes, she has danced.  I no longer envy Semele, there are no longer pangs of jealousy, instead I appreciate who she is as I continue to search for her grace in myself.

Today, take a minute to hold your head high, embrace what it is that makes you different. Maybe even walk on your tiptoes.

To help Girl Noticed continue to empower women and show girls their value pledge to our Kickstarter campaign. http://kck.st/295lUzG

Just Ask!

Seems like such a simple thing. I’ve heard these words probably a thousand times.

“Why didn’t you just ask?” 

Honestly it still doesn’t come easy for me. I’d rather completely torture myself physically, and mentally agonize over something for days before I’d just say “Hey can you help me?”

What’s the problem? Is it pure stubbornness on my part? Or a sick obsession with having to prove I can do it myself. Possibly. (hey, you weren’t supposed to agree with me on that!) I mean people ask me for help all the time, and I’m more than happy to offer my help, so why wouldn’t people want to help me?

 Actually, people do want to help!

The problem is I don’t think I’m worth it. I don’t value myself enough to believe someone would want to help me.

And that’s just silly. It’s the old recordings in my head, things I’ve convinced myself of for years all glaring at me saying “you can’t do that”, “you can’t ask for that”. People will think you’re self absorbed, people will think your taking advantage, people will think Oh my God, did she actually ask for that, I mean after all who do I think I am, and the last thing I want to do is make someone feel like I’m putting them out, or god forbid put them in a situation where they might have to say NO, that would be just horrible. Can you see the mental agony happening here?

So this week I’m going out on a limb. I’m erasing the old tapes and moving, actually leaping forward. I’m going to ask and I’m going to keep on asking till I probably get on a few people’s nerves but just as I don’t mind being asked, I’m going to believe people don’t mind me asking. Especially people who care about me, and care about this project. I doubt I’ll wreck anyone’s day or destroy a relationship because I asked.

After all I have to believe I’m worth it. I’m traveling the US telling girls and women they are worth it. How will they believe me if I don’t believe it myself?

So here’s me asking…

Please donate to keep Girl Noticed moving. We need funds to continue this project. To continue traveling 50 states, to continue spreading this important message.

Because I think this project is worth it. I think I am worth it.

And I think You Are Worth It!

Check out our brand new kickstarter project and donate. No amount is too small. And if you just can’t then please share. Click the link below to support.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1507400103/girl-noticed-nationwide-mural-project?ref=user_menu

Noticed on a Candy Bar! 

This winter Hoffman’s chocolates chose Girl Noticed to be featured on one of their candy bars called the ArtBar. Along with 5 other acclaimed Florida Artists, Girl Noticed artist Lori Pratico created artwork to be featured on the wrapper. Proceeds from sales of the chocolate bars directly supports Girl Noticed!

 Visit Gallery 2014, Hollywood, FL during this Saturdays Artwalk and receive a signed commemorative poster from the artist with your candy bar purchase!

also available online, just click this link:  http://www.hoffmans.com/artbar-s/178.htm

or stop in any Hoffman’s Chocolate store!