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Paying it Forward…Artists Making a Difference

An Unexpected Return on Giving Back

Laura Letchinger with PBP artisans 

Mixed media artist Laura Letchinger believes in paying it forward. “It’s important to me to not only create art, but also to use what I do where I can to help create sustainable positive change.”

Laura Letchinger painting

Letchinger was introduced to the arts nonprofit Piece by Piece when attending an Into Action event in Los Angeles this past January. Talented mosaic artist and Piece by Piece instructor Leigh Adams was speaking on the “Creative Renewal: Arts + Homeless Crisis” discussion panel, and the work this creative community was doing made a lasting impression on Letchinger.

Established in 2007, founder Sophie Alpert saw a need for a program that would empower participants in underserved neighborhoods of Los Angeles. Working with residents of Skid Row and South Los Angeles, Piece by Piece provides free mosaic art workshops using recycled materials to low-income and previously homeless people in order to build skills, self-confidence, earned income and an improved quality of life. She met Program Director and artist Dawn Mendelson, who has been a part of the nonprofit for eleven years. Starting out as an instructor, Mendelson taught free mosaic workshops, but admitted she received so much more in return. As an artist, she exhibited in many exhibitions, but felt something was missing. “I’ve always enjoyed working with people, and I wanted more connection with others in creating art. I was starting to formulate how to achieve this when Sophie Alpert, the founder, contacted me out of the blue and asked if I’d like to teach mosaic art in Skid Row.”

Laura Letchinger and Dawn Mendelson

Mendelson described this as a pivotal point in her life…knowing that this is what she was meant to do. “My passion is working with people, especially those new to art, and watching their moments of self-discovery. At Piece by Piece, I get to see that every day.” She commented that giving back has increased her own confidence and courage and stressed the importance and need of the participants to reconnect with the world around them, since many have experienced homelessness and are now working. “I think art impacts all lives,” said Mendelson. “Art frees us to see things from different perspectives, to express ourselves, to tell our stories, to problem-solve, to understand, to question, to heal.” Recycled materials, such as broken glass, china, tile and found objects are the primary art supply. However, Mendelson insisted that support is needed from the community. “By purchasing artwork, commissioning projects, volunteering, and donations, the public can make a positive impact on a person’s life, fostering self-confidence and creating strong communities. We are so grateful to Laura for her kind support and contribution to our program.”

Laura Letchinger with PBP participant – Mike

An obvious fan of Letchinger’s work, Mendelson said, “I am drawn to Laura’s art because of its textural nature and its expressive imagery. I love the vibrancy and the urban feel. Her creative process and her purpose behind her work is inspiring.” Letchinger has invited the organization to be her special guest at her upcoming October exhibition.

Members of Piece by Piece have created a mosaic version of one of the artist’s paintings (pictured below). The two works will be exhibited side by side. When Letchinger was asked about the collaboration, she replied, “It should be a rich and enlightening experience for our participant artists, as seeing art through another’s eyes gives a new perspective.”

Laura Letchinger, FLY, acrylic on canvas, 60” x 60” x 1.5” 

On October 4, 2018, Laura Letchinger will be featured in a solo exhibition titled “CONNECTION” at Castelli Art Space. In addition to the collaborative work (mentioned above), a variety of mosaic wall hangings and sculptures will also be exhibited by Piece by Piece. Letchinger will be donating 10% of all her sales during the exhibition to the nonprofit. The opening reception runs from 6-9pm, (on October 4), and the show will remain on view through October 7, 2018. Castelli Art Space is located at 5428 W. Washington Boulevard in Los Angeles. For more information, call (310) 204-6830 or visit these websites…https://www.castelliartspace.com https://www.lauraletchingerart.com https://www.piece bypiece.org

Laura Letchinger with PBP artisans 

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