Marlene Kohn is currently showing in the Modalities of Expression exhibition at Agora Gallery, from November 3rd to November 24th. In addition to producing her intricate, mixed-media abstractions, Marlene has founded The Fund 4 Design & Art Education (F4DAE), a truly inspiring nonprofit with the intention of assisting art students with supplies, guidance, financial assistance, and more.
If you’ve been following Agora Gallery for some time, you’ll know that we’re always encouraging artists to use their work for good causes. It is no surprise, then, that we took to Marlene’s story with great excitement.
We spoke with Marlene about her amazing work with F4DAE. Read on for the full interview.
Can you tell us about Fund 4 Design & Art Education and its mission?
The F4DAE seeks to further the creative development of Miami-Dade art students by providing art materials, guidance, and financial assistance.
The first part is the Amazing Sketchbook Project, which provides sketchbooks, supplies, and artistic guidance to emerging artists in grades K-12. Art teachers nominate deserving students to receive their sketchbook and art supplies at one of the many Miami-Dade county public school art shows, providing students with the opportunity to observe wonderful works of art on display and inspiring them to create their own.
The second part is The Isaiah Fund (named for a former student and all the other Isaiahs out there), which provides guidance and financial assistance for high school graduates to pursue art and design post-secondary degrees. Scholarships are awarded in the amount of $1,000 each to 10 to 12 students every spring at the Fund 4 Design & Art Education silent auction and art show.
Since F4DAE was established in the summer of 2013 we have awarded over $37,000 in scholarships. We have also networked another $27,000 from other not-for-profit organizations. We have also provided countless sketchbooks and art supplies to K-12 students.
Why did you start the Fund 4 Design and Art Education?
When I retired 3 years ago, I asked my school not to have a big retirement party for me. I wanted the money instead to start a fund to buy art supplies for Miami-Dade art students. When I called the head of art education to inform her about my idea, she told me about another art teacher who retired the year before. The other art teacher’s name is Marilyn Traeger and she was starting a fund called The Amazing Sketchbook Project. I donated my retirement gift to that project. Marilyn called to thank me, and we met for lunch. As art aficionados will do, we imagined a fund that would help students do what they loved best, and further their studies in art and design.
The Fund 4 Design & Art Education was created, and Dade Art Educators Association became its fiscal agent. Our new organization received a generous donation, which we immediately directed to five well-deserving students. The first F4DAE scholarship was awarded on August 29th, 2013.
Marilyn Traeger and I both taught in the Miami-Dade County. Marilyn taught for 37 years and I taught for 33 years.
How has this experience influenced your art and career?
In my career, I had always taught elementary students. Working with the Fund 4 Design and Art Education I am now working with high school students. I am helping them reach their dreams. I also have a dream to show my own artwork in art shows and galleries around the world. I need to lead by being an example.
How has your art and career influenced your work with Fund 4 Design & Art Education?
When I was in 10th grade, my art teacher sent me to Carnegie Mellon University for their Saturday art classes and their summer art program. This experience changed my life. At the age of sixteen I became an artist. I knew when I became an art teacher that I wanted to help my students both inside and outside of the classroom. When I retired, I did not want to stop helping students with their art and goals. The Fund 4 Design gives me this opportunity to continue.
What was ARTportunity?
When students were applying for the Isaiah Scholarship we noticed there was a big discrepancy in the students’ writing abilities. We wanted to even out the playing field. ARTportunity was a free one-day workshop for 11th and 12th-grade art students to help them prepare for art school admission. It was held at the Frost Art Museum on the campus of Florida International University.
The students received valuable advice, breakfast, lunch, a free sketchbook, funding, scholarship opportunities, and they learned to write artist statements and college essays.
The students were to bring a first draft of their artist statements.Before the event they researched artist statements on line at the Agora Gallery website. The students could also bring a sketchbook to receive a critique of their work. One of the the most important aspects of the event were the two speakers from the University of Miami, Adina Garcia and Christina Mayo from the Miami Herald newspaper.
What is the best part about this experience for you?
The best part of this experience has been meeting adults and students. I have watched students grow and meet some of their goals. I myself have grown from the experience of starting the foundation in both my art and as a person. I have marveled as a young man moved from living in foster care to living on his own. Isaiah, the namesake of our scholarship fund, proudly attend Parson Paris and is in the process of making his dreams come true.
Agora Gallery is proud to promote the work of Marlene Kohn and many other artists who use their artwork for a great cause. Our bi-annual magazine, ARTisSpectrum, features a recurring section about these artists and their inspiring stories. Read them here →