There are so many people in Harrisburg who inspire with their love, sacrifice, and intention. I witness all the beautiful things they do and as a result, I feel drawn to them and driven to work harder, create well, and love more. The Giving Keys collaboration with Koji is an opportunity to recognize a few of those people and I am so excited and honored to make images to celebrate them. This place has so much heart. And I love to give a little relief and recognition to tireless efforts. It’s important to lift each other up. The following is text by Jen Merrill inciting our little Harrisburg chapter of the Giving Keys story… We encourage you to do the same: buy the keys with purpose, open your heart and allow others to inspire you, pass the message on.
COLORMAKE & THE GIVING KEYS
Text by Jen Merrill
Most of us have a ring full of keys that jingle along as we carry on through our days, but do we think about the power that simple ring of keys might hold?
One might unlock the door to your home, offering a safe refuge from the world outside. One might unlock the door to your place of work, where you hopefully feel inspired by what you do as you toil away and, at the very least, earn a livable wage to help feed, house and clothe yourself and your family. One might be for your car – or bike lock! – allowing you to get here, there, and just about everywhere with ease.
And with these keys comes a sense of vulnerability, as they act as a map of our lifestyle, a way to access the parts of our lives that mean most to us.
The Giving Keys is an organization that understands the power of these tiny pieces of shaped metal. On the surface, they make jewelry, but their purpose is so much more than that. The Giving Keys employs individuals looking to transition out of homelessness to create jewelry out of repurposed keys, each engraved with a unique message like “hope,” “strength,” or “courage.” When the wearer of the keys meets someone else in need of the message, they’re encouraged to pay it forward and pass the key on to its next owner, spreading its message out into the world.
The Giving Keys recently approached Koji about creating his own key, and after much thought, he decided to use the word “Peacemaker,” which shares its name with a track on his recent split with La Dispute, Never Come Undone. The song was written for his friend and fellow activist, Nate Henn, who was killed by an al-Shabaab suicide bombing in Kampala, Uganda during the 2010 final World Cup match. Nate, as part of the organization Invisible Children, raised money and advocated for children forced into warfare.
“I think it’s important to show the link between art and activism as forms of expression that give people agency. Our mission with Colormake is to get people to engage with ideas, their sense of self, and sense of community,” says Koji.
Colormake is giving keys to three very deserving Harrisburg individuals: Ashlee Dugan, Loretta Barbee-Dare, and Stephen Michael Haas. These leaders are much like keys themselves, unlocking the goodness, the potential, the beauty of their communities and allowing us into the places that we need most. We admire how they use their voices, passion and leadership to continually uplift those around them.
Ashlee Dugan and Loretta Barbee-Dare have had a rich history together of activism and community work in the Harrisburg, Pa. area, ranging from their time with Food Not Bombs, Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), and Pennsylvanians Against the Death Penalty. In the current moment, Ashlee works as the interim market manager at the Broad Street Market and is the co-founder of The Greenhouse, a Harrisburg-based community organization that recovers healthy food that would have otherwise been wasted and preserves it in healthy and creative ways before distributing it to the community. Loretta has worked hard to receive her real estate license and continues to work to get members of the community into homes they can love and afford. Both of these women work tirelessly to give new opportunity and resources to those that need it most.
Stephen Michael Haas is a multi media artist based in Harrisburg, Pa., known for his colorful, multi-dimensional work that’s filled with honest, positive messages that encourage self-discovery and display the creative process in its sincerest form. When looking at a piece of Stephen’s work, one feels immersed in the artist’s brain as his off-kilter characters and sentiments jump off the page – or wall, or screen, or installation – and into the viewer’s heart. Stephen recently created a zine entitled “You Can Try, But You Can Also Not Try,” and he’s worked alongside Wayne White. His dedication to his craft is admirable to all as he inspires those around him to do what they love, take risks, and not be afraid to grow and evolve their work in the public eye.
We’re so pleased to honor these individuals by offering them each a Giving Key and encouraging them to pay it forward when the right time comes, helping to unlock their own power as well as the power of the communities they know and love.