It all started with an off-the-cuff remark and led to something truly outstanding.
The year was 2014. This marked the first year that New Beginnings Foundation took over the license to run Via Colori the Street Painting Festival in Kentucky. There was some politics involved. Some red tape. A lot of media. Via was already an event in Elizabethtown. It never sort of found it’s footing and struggled year after year after year. The event was canceled and NBF jumped on board to revive it.
The main purpose was to raise awareness for the desperate need for foster parents. There are thousands of children, all who have been through trauma, in the foster care system in Kentucky. There are not enough people who want to be foster parents. This is a bold truth. One that many people struggle with every day. Where do we place these hurt children who so desperately need a safe place to land?
There is a social stigma with kids in the system — they are sometimes viewed as defiant, rebellious and hard to handle. They can be these things and more. They are still just kids. Most of them are angry, not trusting and they have been let down and very hurt by so many people, it is easier to have a wall or behaviors that scare people from getting too close. They are still children. They laugh, love, sing, dance, giggle, jump up and down with excitement and they still need an adult to show them that the world is not always scary.
So by taking over Via, it was not just to raise money to help these kids, it was also way to try and erase the social stigma surrounding these children. (shameless plug – become a foster parent – www.kentuckyfostercare.com)
How do you revive a struggling festival without any money and with little knowledge of where to look? You ask for a ton of help from everyone you know and then some. And that is what happened. A whole lot of people helped make this event what it was the first year and what it still continues to be. Magical. It was revived and wonderful and still, years later, totally awesome.
What does this have to do with an off the cuff remark? Our event coordinator, that first year, made a remark that Via had everything but the kitchen sink while doing a radio interview! It really did and still does. Street Painting, Music, Vendors, Kids Zones, Cosplay, Scavenger Hunts, Silent Auction, Raffles, ton of food and a bit more. One year we even had to save a dragon egg from a dastardly villain. But that year, in the beginning, it had everything but the kitchen sink.
The night before Via on any given year is a crazy one. It is when we grid the street for the next morning so artists know where to paint. We show to up to grid and what do we find? Low and Behold – a kitchen sink. Seriously. Someone heard that off the cuff remark and dropped off a sink. Literally. So what did we do? We embraced the quirky and turned it a random sink into a festival celebrity. Because why wouldn’t you?
So we may have grown and grown and grown – but we still remember where we started and that day, the day of the sink, will never be forgotten because it marked the day that we realized that the community not just listened to what we had to say, but took it heed. It heard. It wanted to be a part of helping children. It wanted to be a part of something magical and wonderful and just a little weird. That is a beautiful thing because it means that our mantra and hashtag of #artsaves really was being heard. That kitchen sink represented a baby step in a long walk towards helping the community understand the need to help foster children. You can’t put a price on that.
We also learned the biggest lesson of them all – people love a magical experience and with the right attitude, you can make anything seem wonderful – even a kitchen sink on a corner in a small town.