About Art 180 180
ART 180 creates and provides art-related programs for young people living in challenging circumstances, encouraging personal and community change through self-expression. Our group is based in Richmond, Virginia.
ART 180 gives young people the chance to express themselves through art, and to share their stories with others.
Our work with young people will turn lives and communities around 180 degrees.
Our Operating Model
ART 180 partners with other nonprofit organizations to serve children living in challenging circumstances in Richmond, Virginia. Through our programs, youth discover ways they can positively engage in and influence their surroundings.
Professional artists and volunteers work with youth after school for 12 weekly sessions. Each program grows from the needs and interests of the group of young people being served.
The young artists are asked to explore crucial personal statements that reinforce their sense of identity and purpose, such as: What is a hero? What do I want people to know about me? How can I make my community a better place? Programs culminate with some kind of public presentation of artwork. These have included billboards, art exhibits, poetry readings, CDs and DVDs.
By merging the private creative experience with a public showcase, ART 180 offers youth a safe way to talk about what matters most to them, while offering the community a compelling way to hear it.
Our MotivationTo quote Rita Dove, former U.S. Poet Laureate, "If our children are unable to voice what they mean, no one will know how they feel. If they can't imagine a different world, they are stumbling through a darkness made all the more sinister by its lack of reference points. For a young person growing up in America's alienated neighborhoods, there can be no greater empowerment than to dare to speak from the heart-and then to discover that one is not alone in one's feelings."
Marlene Paul, Co-Founder and Executive DirectorLike all of us, Marlene was born an artist. Today, her “medium” is ART 180. The Richmond native’s formal education began at Crestview Elementary, site of ART 180's “I Am” project. She graduated from James Madison University, where she studied art until she remembered she was better at writing and switched to communication/journalism. Like a good girl, she put her degree to use and got hired to communicate, with jobs in writing, editing, public relations, and publications management. She worked for an odd mix of employers on her path to a more meaningful career, including a professional association for CPAs, a theme park's PR department, a startup magazine published by Southern Living, and an advertising agency called WORK. She also wrote newspaper and magazine articles as a freelancer for more than 10 years. Finally…FINALLY, she co-founded ART 180 in 1998. In 2006 she was recognized by the American Business Women's Association as a Star in the Arts, in 2008 she was named a YWCA Outstanding Woman of the Year, and in 2010 she was awarded a Pollak Prize for Excellence in the Arts by Richmond Magazine.
She lives in the woodsy ‘hood of Woodland Heights (hands-down the best neighborhood in the city) with a brown-eyed girl named Maya, feline dependents named Lucky and Li’l P, and an aloe vera plant. She prides herself in knowing RVA like the back of her hand, supports public radio, and is never one to miss a farmers market or festival. And she is addicted to Nate’s Tacos!
Betsy Kelly, Program ManagerBetsy thinks that “without art, life would be pretty dull”—a feeling Chris Bolling, one of the young people in ART 180's programs, recently helped her put into words. Growing up in Long Beach, California, she loved to wander the neighborhoods there and in nearby Los Angeles in search of graffiti art and public treasures like the Watts Towers. When she moved north to study English at Stanford University, she gained a greater understanding of how people learn through art in its many forms, and developed a passion for grassroots activism. In 1994, Betsy joined the staff of Free at Last, a fledgling nonprofit in East Palo Alto that in her seven years there became a model for community-based responses to the cycle of substance abuse. Betsy next earned an M.A. in print journalism from the University of Southern California, leading her to continue her wandering as a reporter for newspapers in California, Virginia and South Africa. When she landed in Richmond in 2004, Betsy worked for the University of Richmond's Center for Civic Engagement and the nonprofit Initiatives of Change before heeding the voice in her head reminding her that she, like the rest of the world, needs art! Betsy is now the program manager at ART 180, where she loves getting to know the young people and artists of Richmond, and rediscovering nearly every day the sense of wonder, connection and possibility that art can give.
Michael Guedri, Program and Volunteer CoordinatorA Richmond native, Michael has always been motivated by the intersection of community and art. Since second grade, he has been an incorrigible cartoonist and a constant doodler. In 2004, while working at Ellwood’s Thompson Natural Market, Michael met some ART 180 volunteers, who were there bagging groceries and earning a percentage of sales. Soon afterward he showed up at a program in his Oregon Hill neighborhood, and the next thing he knew he was leading a program there. A circuitous route led him to Austin, Texas, and back to Virginia Commonwealth University where he studied Art Education. In 2009, Michael joined the ART 180 staff as Program and Volunteer Coordinator and has been smiling ever since. He looks forward to talking with you about ways YOU can volunteer with ART 180.
Trey Hartt, Resource Development Manager
Trey's journey has taken him all over the country. As a child of an Air Force Colonel, he moved every two years before landing in Richmond in 2004. Trey received his BFA in Theatre Performance at Virginia Commonwealth University, and he started on a MFA in Theatre Pedagogy until realizing he was more interested in creating theatre than teaching it. In college, Trey's dreams of Broadway quickly changed after acknowledging a greater love for social justice arts activism. In 2006, he began working with The Conciliation Project, a Richmond-based social justice theatre company that initiates dialogue about racism in America.
Trey comes to ART 180 with experiences in the traditional development role as well as arts advocacy, grassroots organizing, and using art as a tool for social change. Currently, he is an ensemble member and on the Executive Committee of The Conciliation Project and is a board member of Alternate ROOTS, a regional organization that supports the creation and presentation of original art to eliminate oppression. At ART 180, Trey manages fundraising, volunteers, events and communications.
Alex Graf, Office Manager
Alex springs from the mother of all arts, architecture, to join the force that is ART 180. Designing the new home of ART 180 in Jackson Ward opened her eyes to so much about the organization that when presented with the opportunity to join the staff, she leapt at the chance. She is the mother of two young cubs named Felix and Greta. Alex drives a maroon Crown Vic (which complements her orange hair), skates with the River City Rollergirls, and makes wearable art in her spare time. She also serves up pulled pork, collards and jalapeno mac ‘n cheese as pit mistress of ZZQ, which she co-owns with her beau. She often says there is nothing better than teamwork and helping out.
Our Board of Trustees:
President: Tristana Nesvig Trani
Social Media Strategist, Virginia Commonwealth University
Vice President: Scott Blackwell
Vice President of Corporate Culture, Health Diagnostic Laboratory, Inc.
Secretary: Sarah Mansell
Associate Director of Annual Giving, University of Richmond
Treasurer: Stuart Horsley
Vice President, U.S. Trust (Bank of American Private Wealth Management)
Executive Director: Marlene Paul
Director, Corporate Contributions and Community Relations, Altria
Assistant Professor, Trauma, Critical Care, & Emergency General Surgery, MCV
Executive Director, Parent Child Development Corporation
Sue Ann (SAM) Messmer
President, Philip Reese
VCU Community Academic Liason, Center on Human Needs