A day of music, 1000 hours of empowerment

The house seems too quiet as I settle down to write about Sunday’s workshop at Indiegogo headquarters in San Francisco. I start a playlist on Spotify. It takes me back to the workshop, the first in a series where guest musicians will come help us explore how sound stimulates and shapes creative output. For the record, I’m listening to Bach.

With a total of 199 funders, Kids & Art culminated our nearly 10-week campaign at 105 percent of our $25,000 goal. We raised $26,207. The campaign also raised awareness of the importance of Collaboration, one of Indiegogo’s four cherished operating values, and one of ours, too.

The workshop soundtrack comes courtesy of Tim Hilborn, a friend of Kids & Art, whose Monday to Friday gig is teaching music at Abbott Middle School in San Mateo. He knows a thing or two about creative collaboration. Tim has planned an impromptu world beat drum circle, but before we all get down on the cement floor for the percussion practicum, we have work to do.

We’re here to make thank you cards for the greatly appreciated Indiegogo campaign contributors. Donors who gave $25 could opt to receive the handmade art when they made their donation.

We’re working at a handful of tables in small groups, a nice group of kids, teens, and grown-up volunteers. Employees from Indiegogo have come to help as well, an apt reflection of the company’s spirit of collaboration.

Paintbrush in hand, Pam, Indiegogo’s cause campaign specialist, who assisted Kids & Art with the Cancer Sucks Art Heals campaign, chats with me about her role in helping clients. She also tells me about the company’s work culture and inspirational values, which, interestingly, are integrated into the space where we work. Apparently, here it is okay to write on the walls.

Before you get to the reception desk, a six-foot long lit-up sign reads EMPOWERMENT; it greets you as you exit the sixth floor elevators. That’s what Kids & Art is all about, too. It describes our mission to help empower children whose lives are affected by cancer and those in their care circles.

Tim starts off with a soundscape exploration to inspire us, which is also a creative exercise in its own right. I’d describe it as somewhere between background music and foreground music, which might not exist as a term, but I’ll use it anyway. Participants, including those at my table, get busy each time Tim shakes something called a flextone or strikes a cowbell.

It serves to make us even more aware of sound. I overhear people at each table chatting away. Every once in awhile, we hear Philip, one of the workshop participants, share a phrase he likes with the group: “Ready, Go!” Perhaps it is the name Indiegogo that has reminded him of this.

“That’s what Donkey Kong says,” he explains. The cards Philip creates picture the game franchise’s mushroom character, Toad. Go figure. Toad turns up on another card, too.

One thing seems clear: Indiegogo is big on words. Authenticity, Collaboration, Fearlessness and Empowerment. We try to integrate them in our card designs. The little four-year-old at my table, Naomi, might think these are some pretty big words. While she works away with a tiny brush she is inspired to write words she knows how to spell. Precocious and darling child we are all thinking as she paints.

One of her cards reads ‘Once upon a’ and is decorated in springtime hues with what I describe as a firefly, but I’m not sure. It could be something else with wings. Naomi has created another card with a happy little figure that faces out from the page. Someone comments that she has made a heart. “Who is that?” they ask. “That’s me. Since my mommy loves me, I’m a heart.”

Later, with her mother’s assistance, she brings a bold and colorful canvas to the table. It features the vibrant face of a girl with a generous amount of blue hair. We all want to get a shot of it with our phones. She names the girl Fuchsia. Her blue hair will take some time to dry.

It’s a debut for music maker Tim to try the art and music format together. As he plays a number of different instruments, each with a different personality and timbre, for 30 second bursts, we are to respond with markings and brushstrokes on our paper stock and canvas.

During these 30 seconds, we are invited to listen, to really listen mindfully. Now there’s a challenge. Purvi wanders by, and we let her know “We’re waiting for inspiration to come.” Eventually, at every table the thank you card factory revs up, and before we know it, a few hours have passed with art and conversation and music. A long worktable is filled with the output of the day.

Then, with the right amount of cajoling, most participants end up on the floor in a kind of drum circle where each player gets a chance to solo. From four-year-olds on up, it’s our chance to be kids. It’s surprisingly fun.

“It’s all primal. That’s the great thing about percussion,” says Tim. “You don’t need to know how to play it.” Tim goes over the rudiments of conducting so we know when to stop, get softer or louder, or play solo.

This music day circle marks the successful culmination of the Cancer Sucks Art Heals funding campaign. Whether we were accompanying Tim or the other way around, the experience is memorable. It is a day of thanks, just like every day is for Kids & Art. The campaign goes out with a song.