Updated: Jan 8
How our project started, how we brought the Skeleton Clique together for mental health awareness, and the unfolding of our first fundraising event in Columbus.
Fanart Fridays. I always look forward to them, especially when it comes to Clique Art. There are so many insanely beautiful creations out there. Sometimes I feel like Instagram is my own personal Clique Art museum; I could spend hours on there scrolling through the artwork. But I see so much more than just detail, originality, and passion in these pieces.
“That is what I see in between each picture, painting, and poem. This sense of hope. It is the opposite of isolation. It is togetherness in spaces where loneliness looms."
I see brushstrokes of pain. Dark spaces in the shading of shadows. Fear inside splashes of red. Hope inside splashes of yellow. I see hundreds and hundreds of stories, each one unique, yet brought together within this worldwide community. A community started by a unifying love of music, a mutual understanding that life can be relentlessly brutal. Life can be messy and chaotic. It can cast burdens upon you too heavy to bear alone. So instead we take those burdens and use them as a foundation for this space we are creating. Yes, it is okay to hurt. It is okay to be sad. It is okay to be completely numb. It is okay to scream, cry, run, sing, dance. Set your shadow outside the door, right here where we have all left ours, and come inside. Don’t be afraid of the uncertainty. We’ve all ventured into this darkness together, and eventually, if we lean on one another, we will all step back out into the light.
That is what I see in between each picture, painting, and poem. This sense of hope. It is the opposite of isolation. It is togetherness in spaces where loneliness looms.
I have been involved in the Skeleton Clique for a few years now, and my heart swells with pride, appreciation, and joy when I see drops of encouragement between members of the fanbase online. Someone sits in a cottage in a small, rainy European town, hurting to the core of their soul because they don’t know how to share their struggles with their family or friends. But someone else sits in the sun in Los Angeles, California, assuring them that they, too, have been in the same predicament, and they do not have to battle their pain alone. A safety net that crosses states, oceans, continents. I wanted everyone to have this kind of support. But how could I take the support found within the Skeleton Clique and move it to the outside world? Would the tight-knit Clique be willing to open their arms wide enough to accept people outside of the fanbase? We tend to be fiercely loyal to our own: The Few, The Proud, The Emotional. But I soon realized, these feelings, these challenges are hardly exclusive to the Skeleton Clique. If we are able to let each other know we are not alone within the small corner we have built, why wouldn’t we want to extend that out into the world?
So I tasked myself with a challenge: Bring the Clique together to help organizations outside of the Clique. What better place to start than the birthplace of twenty one pilots?
I began researching mental health organizations in Columbus, Ohio, all the while brewing up violent storms of ideas in my head about what supporting a nonprofit with the Clique would look like. It had to include art. It had to include music. It had to include bringing people together to talk about mental health in a safe and informative way.
I contacted my friend Nicole, who I knew through the Skeleton Clique, to pitch my idea to her. Can we host a Clique-inspired event to raise support for mental health? Nicole had worked for a few years with a nonprofit, organizing and planning events. I knew she had the experience necessary to help tackle my lofty dream into specific, realistic ideas. She came through immediately: silent auctions, live performers, video game contests. Things started connecting quickly: we could invite Clique Artists from all over the world to donate their creations for us to exhibit, auction, or sell at the event. All of the profits could go to a nonprofit that would be willing to work with us.
Nicole was all-in; she wanted to be a part of this. With her knowledge, she would make an invaluable partner. As Nicole started discussing details with me, I quickly became overwhelmed. Who was going to help us keep track of money? Who was going to help us design a logo or website? Who was going to help us set up social media accounts or promote our project? There were a thousand little things that I hadn’t even thought about. What were we even going to call ourselves? How could we gain momentum without a name? Throughout the entire initial brainstorming process, one song kept ringing in my mind: “Kitchen Sink”. A song all about using creativity as an outlet to channel your hurts, misgivings, and confusion. The Clique was extremely good at this, and that is exactly why I wanted to use their art to make a bigger impact on the world. I decided to assign the song title to our mission. We would be The Kitchen Sink Project.
Soon after we had christened our project, we were able to assemble a team of Clique members. I think we forget that, while the Skeleton Clique is extraordinarily artistically gifted, there are a plethora of strengths and abilities represented in the fanbase. We had a graphic designer, a treasurer, and a couple of people to assist with social media. Just enough to get things started. While we put together ideas for venues, deadlines, and budgets, I continued to struggle with which organization should be our first beneficiary. In my overly-ambitious mind, we would partner with a large organization that had a history in Columbus. Hundreds and hundreds of people would flock to the event from all over the country, and local businesses would jump at the chance to donate products or services! Nicole quickly pulled my head out of the clouds and set me gently on solid ground. This was our very first event. Nobody had ever heard of us. We had to be realistic. We set smaller goals for ourselves and the event, but we still had a problem. Nobody wanted to partner with us.
I had reached out to a small Columbus organization called Franklin County LOSS (Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors) at the beginning of 2019. I was intrigued by the uniqueness of their mission: suicide postvention. How do you respond in the aftermath of a suicide? As a school counselor, I knew that in order to have good suicide prevention, a solid postvention plan was absolutely essential. But not a lot of people talked about that. A twinge of excitement spread through my heart when I saw an email from Franklin County LOSS in our inbox. They wanted to schedule a phone conference to learn more about us. I fumbled for my phone frantically and got a hold of Nicole. It was a small step, but sometimes the slightest momentum can provide a surge of motivation.
After speaking with Franklin County LOSS’s founding director, Denise, they concluded that they wanted to be the beneficiary of our very first fundraising event. In return, they agreed to help us plan and promote the event in any way they could. I breathed a (short-lived) sigh of relief: the major details had come together. What followed were nine months of non-stop work, not just from me, but from the team of people working with me and staff and volunteers from Franklin County LOSS. It didn’t take long for members of the Skeleton Clique from all over the world to join our efforts, too. Though we had only gained a small following on Instagram, word had spread quickly among Clique Artists, and many people wanted to help. We received countless emails from artists sending us digital files of their artwork, giving us permission to make prints to sell at the event. We even had several artists commit to create original pieces for us to put in the event’s silent auction. It was finally starting to happen. I was watching this community join forces to promote positive changes in the world. I silently hoped that we could keep up the momentum.
Working full-time and devoting every free moment I had to this event was mentally and emotionally exhausting. Going through hundreds of pieces of art, reaching out to bands and live performers, keeping social media updated, and staying in contact with Franklin County LOSS were just some of the things our team had on their plate. On top of that, all of us lived in different states, and only one of us was in Ohio. I knew it wouldn’t be impossible to pull this off, but as time went on, it became more difficult than I had anticipated. The thing that kept me going was hearing stories from people impacted by Franklin County LOSS and knowing that this event had the potential to help them reach many more. The weeks felt long, but the months flew by, and before I knew it, it was time for the event. Three of our team members (including myself) made the trip to Columbus to prepare. We were up late the night before putting together last-minute details and packing up boxes and artwork into my little Prius hatchback. We left for Columbus early the day of the event and arrived at the venue at noon to start setting up. By the time the event started at 4:00, we had just finished setting out the last auction item.
I wish I could say the event went on without a hitch. I wish I could say everything went exactly as planned and it was a fun, stress-free day of enjoying music, art, and good food with a community of helpers. The reality is that tiny little fires popped up all day. Our stage manager/sound tech didn’t show up, we miscounted the number of concessions vouchers we needed, and items for the silent auction kept getting knocked down by the wind. But each of these hiccups allowed me to witness people work together to fill in all the gaps that had been torn open. One of the performing bands stepped up to provide equipment and run sound, the concessions director from the venue provided us with extra vouchers, and we were even able to get a videographer to document the day for us at no cost. When we support each other, incredible things can happen.
Our original goal was to raise $3,000 at Ohio H.O.P.E.S. for Franklin County LOSS. At the end of the day, we were able to surpass that goal. Since the event has taken place, we have raised even more for them through an online campaign (running through December 31st) and the sale of donated items in our newly-opened Etsy shop. Our goal is to raise $4,500 by the end of this year. Because of our commitment, ambition, and the participation of the worldwide Skeleton Clique, our first fundraising event was a success. As incredible as that is, there are smaller moments that I will forever treasure in my heart. While setting up for the event, Marc (the event coordinator for Franklin County LOSS), approached me. It was fantastic to finally meet him in person; we had been communicating via email for months. He pulled me aside to thank The Kitchen Sink Project for all of the work we had done. He was amazed by the Skeleton Clique; he had shared the story of the fanbase and what we stand for to countless people. We had helped restore his hope in humanity, and for that he would always be grateful. A few days after the event, Denise sent me an email to share with me that she had purchased some Clique Art at the event. She would be hanging it up in the room that once belonged to her son, who had taken his own life years prior.
Clique, not only were we able to bring our talents and hearts together to help provide resources, services, and positivity to a community. We reached outside of our little corner and invited in new souls with open arms. We were able to bring a spark of hope back into the lives of hurting people.
I contemplated shutting down The Kitchen Sink Project after Ohio H.O.P.E.S. It was a lot of work, and I poured every ounce of myself into it. But once the event was over, Nicole and I decided that we had to keep going. There is too much potential for good within this project for us to give up. We have exciting plans, even though it means putting our next event on hold while we get ourselves in official order. In the meantime, we want to continue to help provide support and raise awareness for mental health and suicide awareness nonprofits all over the United States. Whether you’re a part of the Skeleton Clique, or just someone who wants to help others, there is space for you in this project. Donate, nominate, or help spread the word. Follow us on social media or subscribe to our newsletter to stay updated with our progress. I can’t wait to see what wonderful things we will accomplish together in the future.
Founder & CEO
The Kitchen Sink Project
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