Plywood People: What is One Love Generation?
Jennifer Lester: One Love Generation is a non-profit org empowering youth to inspire positive social change through art, service and awareness. We work with 50 local teens and countless professional artist mentors on projects that focus on a different idea or topic – from environmental to socio-economical and philanthropic issues. The organization is committed to creating a generation of service-minded people who give back to the world by using their innate gifts. Art is a way to connect with teens. It is a common ground between the mentor and mentee and is conduit for a deeper and more meaningful relationship. We currently have 3 programs at One Love Generation: Studio, Mentoring & International with a camp series on the way. We also take field trips ranging from local art galleries to design-build projects in foreign countries. By introducing the teens to new and positive life experiences, they will be given an opportunity for change in their lives and to inspire others; regardless of their career path.
Plywood People: What were you doing before One Love Generation that made you want to start this project?
Jennifer: I studied fine arts & interior design in Chicago during college, then gypsied around the country working on various night-club and restaurant projects. It was a great experience, there just came a time when I decided I wanted to be in service to the world. My love for art paired with my passion for youth and positive change birthed a unique organization.
Plywood People: Can you share about your unique studio space?
Jennifer: The studio is located at the Goat Farm Arts Center, which is housed in a repurposed 12-acre mid-Victorian industrial site in the heart of Atlanta. The space is actually the Goat Farm’s education center that OLG helped establish. It is completely inspiring and truly magical (we welcome visitors with open arms). The education center itself is a safe space for the artists to kick back and tap into their energy. The kids call it their “glee club” because they are all so diverse in style, background and ethnicity; but all bring inspiration to the organization. If they’re ever lacking inspiration, all they have to do is walk outside and tour the turn-of-the-century brick buildings, pop into The Warhorse coffee shop/library, or peek into one of the other studio spaces where musicians, dancers, artists and thinkers are exploring their crafts.
Plywood People: You incorporated a global aspect to what you’re doing. Would you share about the tree you created in Guatemala?
Jennifer: The International Art Service Project is an extension of the Studio & Mentoring Programs. Teens are selected to participate on the annual trip based on an extensive application process that begins with studying the area we will be visiting & identifying the needs of that specific destination. Once a topic is established, the young artists are required to put together a proposal for an art project that will raise awareness or serve a purpose to the established need. The most recent trip was to El Remate, a village of 370 families in Guatemala. We partnered with our friends at Ix-Canaan, a project created to enable the local people to become “guardians of the rainforest”, and identified problem areas within the community. Littering seemed to be a major issue they were dealing with, so we started studying this along with general Mayan culture. The teens began to assemble individual project submittals of art created from water bottles and soda cans. In the process, we discovered countless pieces of contributing information including the Maya Tree of Life, Yaxche. We found it thought-provoking that the Tree of Life represents the idea that “every choice you make in the wold has an impact on the rest of the world”. This inspired a deeper examination of littering & the impacts the act has on a local community; and on a larger scope, Earth. It was also interesting that we were designing a sculpture made out of man-made trash items that would be installed in Peten’s rainforest, some of mother nature’s best work. It was like a beautiful paradox that was meant to be. Anne, the director of Ix-Canaan, began to spread the word throughout the community that a group of teen artists from Atlanta were planning a community project that all could participate in. When we arrived that first day, we were greeted with more than twenty members of various ages from the community and 2,000 plastic bottles and cans they had collected leading up to our arrival. Even now, that initial welcoming morning that launched the project brings me to tears. It was a reminder of one of many meanings One Love Generation holds for me: humanity coming together as one to create more “good” in the world. The tree sculpture we built that week was more beautiful than we ever could have imagined, in so many ways than just the physical outcome. “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” -Gandhi
Tree rendering attached by Khatia Esartia.
Guatemala Photo Set: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150383166761764.382468.240679881763&type=3
Plywood People: What is your greatest inspiration in the work you do?
Jennifer: Countless “aha! moments” make each day more exciting than the last. Being in the trenches and fighting for more love in the world gives me a sense of a meaningful life. Glimpses of the kids “paying it forward” without OLG’s assistance makes me believe this crazy idea worked. I’m constantly inspired by the potential of the organization’s growth. I can’t wait to see how it will unfold, how many communities it will impact and how many heart-centered leaders it will launch into the world.