Tuesday, January 12, 2016

A Post from Paul Mays, our 612 Director of Permaculture (Written 12/29/15)

Ice on the ground, I look over the frozen garden from Sixtwelve’s second floor and realize how much we accomplished in a little over a year. In August 2014 there was nothing more than compacted clay. After a few hundred hours of volunteer labor, aproximately 15,000 pounds of horse poop and compost, 50 bales of straw, lots of plants and trees and some water we have a pretty nice garden. We now boast a 30x30ft main garden that fed quite a few people, including kids from summer camps and pre-k. Our pre-k kids even assisted with harvesting 250 lbs of sweet potatoes, some as large as the kids heads. Twelve fruit trees, donated by Transition OKC, were planted in February with the assistance of more volunteers, the fruit trees will eventually host our Forever Food Forest, a perennial food ecosystem. A Rain Garden workshop was held, and now provides us a large water catchment area as well as providing homes and food for local pollinators. We had workshops on composting and seed saving, planting container gardens, making seed bombs and a great mycology workshop. We had another great seed exchange, and a community outdoor movie night focused around the local food movement here and across the nation.

This is a time of the year when I start really thinking of possibilities for next years garden. Now that I am part time at SixTwelve I am looking at workshop possibilities, planning gardens and camps, I am so excited of the opportunities. We are going to change the garden over to a CSA, with 5 members each paying $250 up front for a weekly produce pickup, let me know if you are interested. We have some great workshops coming up including Compost 101, I Have Worms; Kids Wormbin, Oyster Mushroom Bucket, Garden Like the Forrest, Knife and Tool Sharpening, Kombucha and Fermenting, Spirulina, plus more. We will have an Earth Day Dance Party to be followed the next day by our annual Friendship Plant and Seed Exchange. It looks to be an awesome year and I hope that you can join us in creating a better community.

Monday, January 4, 2016


Happy New Year 2016! I'm sitting in the Charlotte, NC airport, on my way home from Savannah. I've had another great visit there and although I'm returning to a ton of work, I'm happy to get back to OKC. I'm lucky to have all of my friends and family in both places and now I can't imagine my life without either home. I always love that my friends in Savannah and OKC say "welcome home" when I arrive. It definitely feels that way.

2015 was not without its challenges and I certainly grew stronger and more confident in myself because I was forced to, but I'm not complaining. I worked through a LOT of fear and found that I had everything I could ever want or hope for in a support system. How did I get so lucky/blessed/fortunate? I won the birth lottery with my family and can't take any credit for that, but I'd like to think that same family raised me to be the kind of friend I would want and that's the reason for the non-blood-related family that I have in my friends. I thank God and this universe for every kindness and generosity.

I've had almost a week in Savannah and although my time was filled to the brim with studio visits, meetings, advice given and received, dinners, parties, work and very little sleep, I feel rejuvenated and ready to tackle what is coming in the new year. I'm sure that I will encounter challenges and I'm sure there will be more heartache. That's just life...every day and every year. But I have a feeling that the more I get the hang of running 612 and the more that I find the ability to let time flow without trying to hang on too tightly to everyone and everything that is meant to pass through, the more gracious and happy I'll be. So here are a couple of lists that I think are keys to my happiness in this new journey around the sun.

Things I'm grateful for:

1. My family. (This will always be my #1.)
2. My true friends who love and inspire me.
3. SixTwelve
4. This life that allows me to live in Oklahoma and Savannah.
5. My dog, Willie.
6. A sound, creative mind.
7. Physical health.
8. Inspiring people that I don't even know!
9. A loving heart.
10. Enough to have and share.

Things I hope to do in 2016:

1. Sustain and enlarge the PreK program at 612.
2. Sustain and enlarge the 612 residency program in OKC and Savannah.
3. Gain even more confidence and peace.
4. Find friends who will go camping with me.
5. Take better care of my body. (This includes sleeping and resting more, not just losing weight.)
6. Take more time to reflect, ponder and create. I love watercolor painting and thanks to our 612 class, I learned that I love to needlepoint.
7. Blog more.
8. Love more (Yes, this includes opening my heart to dating again. If the amount of flirting I did with men in Savannah is any indication, I don't think this will be a problem. Ha!)
9. Organize my house and 612 in more efficient ways.
10. Be even more open to all the goodness coming my way. I believe in it.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

What It Takes

Lately, I've been trying to get in bed by 9:30pm because I need the rest in order to get everything done the next day. (And I never can seem to get it all done. There are just only so many hours in a day.) Other than my birthday party a couple of Saturdays ago, I've cut waaaaaaaaay back on alcohol. I've turned notifications off for apps on my phone and I've tried to reach at least the 10,000 steps per day goal. All of this has helped my level of peace, but I still need to do more.

I've been giving everything I've got to 612 because, here in the first few months of running it by myself, I haven't really had a choice. That's just what it takes, but I have to admit, there has been some guilt with cutting back on what I give through volunteering and even with missing social times with my friends. That guilt can be crushing.  I end up feeling bad for saying "no," even when I know it is what will save my health, attitude and sanity. And there are times that I don't even have a choice. My body just says "no" for me.

So to all of my friends who have started to say that they miss me, I miss you too and I wish I could spend more time with you as well. To all of the organizations that I just can't give to like I used to, I'm sorry, but I promise that I'm giving everything that I can for our community. Please know that it isn't personal and that I want all of the goodness for you that I always have. Starting and running a business, being responsible for the well being of others and their education, and making sure that I'm protecting 612's physical and fiscal health all takes so much time and energy that on the off chance that I do get a free day to be with my family or by myself, I will take it in a heartbeat.

The truth is, I don't owe anyone an explanation for that. My family and true friends have never once complained. They have continued to patiently support and encourage, even during this year when I have had less and less to give. They have never once judged me or accused me of pulling away. Those are the people who have helped me to have faith in myself and to think I can do this. They even continue volunteer and give, and I am so grateful.

This is my dream and I have to see it through. It is taking everything and more than I have to make it happen, and I won't apologize again for giving it. If my family and friends, who have been so generous with their time and money to help me do this don't complain, no one else has the right to.
To those who HAVE complained to me lately, think about what you're doing. I've given you years and years of friendship, service and funding and you have repaid me with selfishness, guilt and judgement. Do you think I would really want to continue giving in return? I have never owed you anything. I have given because I loved our community and I thought it would help. 

To the people and organizations who have been patient with me while I start over on my own, who have been so generous even during this time of my retreat to figure it all out, I love you with all of my heart and will never forget your kindness. You are the people I want to invest my life in and I'm so lucky to have you in mine. Thank you over and over again for all of your help. You are the people who help me have faith in myself, the mission and this world. I love you. 

p.s. I don't know why this post insists on appearing in larger, red, font. I've tried to fix it about 100 times, but it just won't let me change it. Hmmmm...

Friday, September 4, 2015

SixTwelve PreK Pilot Program

This week we began a great adventure at SixTwelve! The first steps toward making this dream a reality were taken over a decade ago when I left teaching in Norman, Oklahoma to go back to school for a Bachelor's and Master's in art history. I really wanted to start a little preschool where the kids learned through art and music. I not only finished those degrees a few years ago, but I also was lucky enough to work at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art for about 3.5 years during the time away from teaching. This gave me some much needed administrative experience.

Earlier this year, in February, I met Julia Roff. She was teaching at John Rex Elementary School downtown and I could tell that she had a real passion for preschool. So we talked about her coming to work at SixTwelve "someday." I went to visit, observe and read to her class one day and was hooked! This woman knew everything that I didn't (and apparently, that is a LOT!) I don't have the early childhood education that she does. I have the elementary school music and art experience, but together we make a great team! I'm so grateful for her.

We are holding our PreK program two days a week, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, from 9am to 2pm. We capped our enrollment at 10 students so as to make sure that this pilot program really served the students individually. We also wanted to make sure that we gave ourselves plenty of room to learn. There is sooooooo much to learn. But we're doing it! We now have 7 students! Next year, we hope to expand to two classes, five days a week with before and after care. We'll see what happens with funding. I've written letters of intent to local foundations, but haven't been accepted to write a grant proposal because we aren't a full time program. And that's ok! We just want to start small and grow so that we do things organically. That's kind of a theme at SixTwelve! :)

I'm so grateful and excited and exhausted, thanks to this wonderful experience. I'm fortunate to have this chance to see this dream through. I have many people to thank for that, too. My family and friends helped me so much to get to this point. I'm a lucky, lucky woman. Couldn't be more grateful.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Forward Motion

The past month has been such a crazy whirlwind of great experiences (residencies, Rock & Roll Camp for Girls, etc.)  and I have a lot to share for the purpose of this blog, but I feel that there is one thing that deserves its own post before I write about anything else. After 6 months of opening 612's doors and almost 6 years of working on the project together, James and I have decided to dissolve our partnership so that he can move on to other projects, and so that I can run 612. 

It has been a true adventure and I have learned so much about business, people, communities, buildings, and more. I wouldn't trade the experience for anything. Sometimes you just come to a place where it's better to make a shift and move in a different direction, for the sake of what you've created. James has been instrumental in rezoning our properties, establishing the non-profit and organizing the renovations of the building. His large vision for tying historic preservation and a sustainable community together has helped to guide 612 in so many wonderful ways and I am convinced that it was our partnership that created the magic that helped bring everything to fruition. 

We now find ourselves at a place where all of the dreams are pushing their way up to the surface to become reality and with that push comes some friction. This change will help to make things run a little smoother. I still love and respect James and wish him nothing but goodness. I know that James will go on to use all of the knowledge and experience he has gained to help people in other communities and I'm proud to have worked with him these past six years to help create something for Paseo that wasn't there before. 

SixTwelve was always meant to bring people together and to highlight all of the great things happening in our OKC community, through the arts and sustainability. Now James and I are making a decision that will allow for sustainability in our friendship. I'm so grateful for that, because in the end, 612 is product of our love and respect for each other and our belief in our community. Those things will now live on for a long time. 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Residencies at SixTwelve

One of the most important aspects of SixTwelve is our residencies. We've decided that when we've raised enough funds, we will have six different residencies per year in Oklahoma City and two per year at the Savannah location.  The goal is to have the residents in both locations create, collaborate, teach and plan community outreach programming focused on the arts and sustainability. We feel there is a need for more opportunities for artists, writers, chefs, musicians and those that take care of our earth. These integrated, creative experiences provide a supportive structure for meaningful and lasting transformations in individuals and our community.

While James and I are the first residents in OKC, Denise Duong, is our first resident to work in Savannah! I am in awe of Denise and have been for years. Her work is simultaneously playful yet serious, vibrant and haunting, and it can be found all over the walls of my house. When her rep, Joy Reed Belt of JRB Art at the Elms, generously offered to let her be our resident, I was moved. I'm grateful for Joy too. 

Katherine Sandoz, Denise Duong, Vesella Valtcheva-mcgee, Lori Judge, and Lane Huerta
Denise is staying in the Savannah cottage for three weeks, creating and preparing for her show at Iocovozzi Fine Art and Judge Realty. My friends Kim Iocovozzi and Lori Judge have graciously opened their doors to us so that we have a location to have an opening on May 1st and to show Denise's work for the month following. I can't believe how fortunate I have been to make these friends, because I had no idea where I would be planning to show our residents' work when I dreamed this up. I just knew that it would come to us, and it has!

In my visits to Savannah I have crashed Rotary meetings, attended art openings and music events, such as Savannah Music Festival and Savannah Stopover. I've eaten at so many great restaurants, visited Little St. Simons Island and Ossabaw Island and even drove up to Charleston and Beaufort. I have explored and experienced as much as I could of the area and culture during every visit, partly because I love it and partly because I wanted to do the best that I could to provide a good experience for both the people that we send to Savannah AND bring to Oklahoma City. It's important to be a part of a both communities if you really want to offer a balanced and reciprocal exchange.

We will be bringing our first Savannah artist, Katherine Sandoz, to Oklahoma City in June. We couldn't have asked for better, especially for the very first artist. Her work is of the highest quality and so is her ethic. This woman is creating all the time and I really respect her.  Her paintings are as deep and powerful as the layers of paint that she swaths onto the canvas or board, and her illustrations inspire a focused, magical curiosity. Katherine also creates wonderful, textural fabric works, collaborates on public art and in general, just never stops. I can't wait to work with her. 

We will bring in artists from all over the country, but the biggest exchange program we will provide will be with Savannah. This is a dream come true for me and I still have to pinch myself to make sure it's a realty.  I was laughing with one of my Savannah friends on the phone yesterday and discussing the things that I hoped for this exchange. She was helping me to figure out the best way to get the word out about Denise's show and Katherine's visit to Oklahoma City. I told her that I had to do all of this once in order to really figure out what I was doing, and that it felt like I was just in the beginning stages of learning how to ride a bike. 

She said that my group of friends were all there to help me and that I'd get my training wheels off soon. Erin is so funny! It helps so much to know that I have friends who are cheering me on (in both communities) and encouraging me to see this dream through. None of this would be happening without these brilliant, creative, imaginative, driven, focused and generous friends. Thank you LoriLouMeredithKevinSusanFrankKatherineLane, Erin, Kim, Jason, and Jamie. So grateful for you! 

(The residency application page of our website will be up soon! Just researching a little bit more to make sure I get it right!)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Round 1! Ding!

Goodness, life is moving fast! In the past two and a half months we have seen some great things happen at SixTwelve. We've had so many dreams for what we could provide for our community, so once we finally opened our doors, we hit the ground running.  

James and I talking to the crowd during our Open House (see #2)

While James and his TradeShare lead facilitator, BC, have been getting ready for summer camps, I have practiced a lot of the different things that we want SixTwelve to offer through different kinds of residencies. I believe that when writing a paper, you can't edit until you've written something. The same holds true for creating a new entity or program. You have to start somewhere, so we've just tried to practice all of the ideas, gather experience, and then write up the policies, procedures and systems for everything. And this is what we've done so far:

1. We started after-school classes.

Lauren Zuniga & Denise Duong taught a literacy + illustration class called "HeadNoise"

Samantha Lamb & Erin Latham taught an art + sustainability class called, "Shades of Nature."

2. We had a grand opening, open house which more than 700 people attended!!!

James & I celebrating at the open house!

3. Went on the radio with the smart, witty and hilarious Mitchell in the Morning crew, KOKC 1520am talk radio. Scott and Kandyce not only let us come on and talk about our Mardi Gras party and again to chat up the spring break camp! And then to add even more goodness, they actually came to SixTwelve for events and helped us plant trees! (see #5)

Rick, Me and Scott Mitchell - photo credit: Rick's Instagram :)

4. We held a crazy-fun, amazing Mardi-Gras Ball, which will be our annual fundraiser for SixTwelve!

5. We held a Spring Break Mural Camp with Rick Sinnett and Jason Pawley. The very best reward/feedback came from Maxine's (a magical and hilarious camper) mom on Instagram. She said that the camp did so much for her self-esteem and artistic ability. THAT MAKES ME SO HAPPY!!! We even had an article in the Oklahoman about SixTwelve and our camp. I can't explain how grateful I am for Brandy McDonnell and all that she does to bring awareness to the arts and cultural affairs of Oklahoma. Thank you Brandy! We do feel like we're "Artfully Living the Dream!"


6. We've planted in our community garden and had Saturday morning work days with Paul Mays. We also held a composting workshop with Paul and a drought pod workshop with Ron Ferrell! We also had a tree planting workshop with TransitionOKC. They provided fruit trees so that we could have a small orchard and we couldn't be more grateful! We started seeds in my greenhouse at home so that we could have plants, and had a seed exchange for anyone who wanted to come. Thousands and thousands of seeds were donated! Our hope is to begin a seed library at SixTwelve for the whole community! SustainableOKC has also been a huge partner in rain barrel workshops, seed exchange, volunteer raising and donations we didn't expect. Our sustainability community in OKC is stellar and we're happy to be partnering with so many wonderful groups!

TransitionOKC Tree Planting Day

We love TransitionOKC and are grateful for their donation of trees and service!!!
Paul Mays giving the Compost 101 workshop at SixTwelve!

The day that we held the tree planting, Sherri and Chris Hultner, who created and own Edmond Active Magazine came out to interview me and to take some pictures. The result was an incredible, multi-page article in their publication with some gorgeous images! Thank you so much, Sherri and Chris!

Photo credit: Lisa Jean Allswede

7. We've partnered with some incredible people and organizations to provide poetry slams, private parties, workshops and really fun events!

Lauren Zuniga has been a great addition to our 612 team. She sets a really high standard!
Here is the crowd who came in for Lauren's poetry event with Andrea Gibson!!!
8. I've travelled to Savannah, GA with Denise Duong to set her up in our very first residency at the 612 Cottage. We're throwing her a show on May 1st at the Iocovozzi Gallery & Judge Realty and I couldn't be more thrilled about seeing this dream come true! We'll be bringing our first artist, Katherine Sandoz, from Savannah to OKC in June! And thus begins the residency exchange!!!! Yes!!!

We have worked so hard for years to prepare for these events and experiences. It makes me so happy to see them happen. When Katherine Sandoz's residency is over mid-June, everything that we have dreamed up so far will have come to fruition and we will have the systems in place to make it happen again and again. Our main goal and mission is "Sharing Tools to Build a Better Community." I think we're on track!

And this fall, I'll turn these things over to other people to work on starting the pre-school. So much to do! So grateful to have the opportunity!

p.s. Humongous thanks go out to my partner James Varnum, BC Summers, Lauren Zuniga, Denise Duong, Samantha Lamb, Erin Latham, Paul Mays, Ron Ferrell, Jennifer Alig, Sustainable OKC, Transition OKC, Dustin Green, our Mardi Gras committee, our board, Bumbershoot Media, Tracey Zeeck, Krystal Yoseph, Greg Elwell, Lori Judge, Kim Iocovozzi, Judge Realty, Iocovozzi Fine Art, and the countless volunteers who have helped us to get our start.

We especially thank James' and my generous families too. We couldn't have done any of this without them. We are so blessed!!!!