Founder and Director of the Artist Volunteer Center, Jason Maas, talks about the intersections of art and service engagement, how Hurricane Sandy provided career guidance, and how you can get involved as a Program Assistant Intern (NYU CareerNet Job ID #915532) at the Artist Volunteer Center.
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, MFA 2011
Founder & Director, Artist Volunteer Center
Volunteering changed my life. I was a full-time working artist until Hurricane Sandy made devastating landfall. On the evening of October 29th, 2012, the first floor of my Brooklyn studio building on the Red Hook Waterfront was swept with seven feet of water. My space on the second floor was untouched, but all of my friends and neighbors below were completely devastated— their artwork, equipment, and livelihood vanished. I was grateful for having not been directly affected, but also traumatized for witnessing devastation all around me. Instantly I was inspired to help others get their lives back on track. I began volunteering full-time in the recovery effort and was hired by NY Cares and later by the organization Respond & Rebuild to run Volunteer Coordination in The Rockaways to clean homes free of mold and debris with the work of volunteers.
I had never done any work like this before, and these experiences not only showed me valuable skills I didn’t know I had, it also completely inspired new artwork. My artwork was socially conscious before the storm, but there was something missing and I couldn’t figure out what it was. My time in Rockaway illuminated what was missing: I had been taking all my imagery and inspiration for social causes from the internet; I had no direct connection until now.
Getting out of my studio, getting my hands dirty and actually helping people changed the course of my life and my artwork was taken to a whole new level. My time out in Rockaway for nine months not only presented to me a need for artists to be supported to volunteer and make are about it, but my work with Respond & Rebuild gave me on-the-job training on how to start a nonprofit. These experiences led me to found the nonprofit The Artist Volunteer Center. We promote humanitarian volunteerism by artists, and support the creation of artwork inspired by volunteer action. The AV Center connects arts and volunteer programs with the purpose of uniting organizations and individuals for the common goal of helping artists help people.
I have a new career path, and a vision to help artists help people. This all began with volunteering. Volunteerism could lead you to a new job or a new path, but what it certainly will do is provide you with a unique and meaningful experience. If you are interested in making art about your volunteer experience, you should definitely reach out to us.
Still wondering if volunteering might lead to a new career or life path? New findings show that volunteers have a 27% higher chance at finding employment than non-volunteers. See the full study here.
We are also looking for a Program Assistant Intern. This is an incredible opportunity for someone to get involved in many aspects of nonprofit management.