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Conversations with Vicki Rosenthal

Today we’d like to introduce you to Vicki Rosenthal.

Hi Vicki, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today.
I am a social impact visual artist. My business, Vicki Rosenthal Art, thrives on its mission to advance advocacy through authentic art. Through my business, I create distinctive designs on apparel and paintings, and for public art installations and community art workshops. Additionally, for artwork sold, I invest 10% of net profits back to grassroots causes.

In my childhood, I learned various art techniques, and exhibited and sold paintings in my teens, but did not choose art as a profession. My parents supported art as a career (unlike many artists), but I painted for pleasure and worked a variety of jobs. Eventually, I went back to college taking loads of art classes and earning a Fine Arts Department Honors Scholarship which helped pay for my education in social work.

With this qualification, I worked for nonprofit organizations in HIV/AIDS and anti-human trafficking advocacy and education. I taught and developed a macro social work curriculum at Florida Atlantic University, all the while creating art projects and paintings. In 2018, my social work/social justice focus and art converged to launch Vicki Rosenthal Art, a cohesive social impact art business.

The 2021-22 artistic highlights have included an awarded Broward Cultural Division (BCD) Artist Support Grant where I created “Their Souls Live On”, a community art project and wall mural installed at the newly constructed LA Lee YMCA / Mizell Community Center. I received a commission to illustrate a children’s book, and gave a presentation as a guest speaker at the 2022 “BCD Business Skills for the Modern Creator Institute”.

So far in 2022, I have had the opportunity to show in three art exhibitions, plus an ongoing exhibit at the Plunge Beach Resort in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, FL. My prior accomplishments include a 2020 NHL Florida Panthers’ Training Staff commission to paint a commemorative pair of hockey skates for (former) Panther Player #3, Keith Yandle, who achieved the Iron Man streak status, the 3rd all-time in NHL history.

Also in 2020, I was a recipient of the BlueHook Creative Hack-a-thon award hosted by Redhook School of Curitiba, Brazil, and the American Advertising Federation (AAF) of Greater Ft Lauderdale and the Palm Beaches. In 2019, I received an honor designation as an ambassador of the Artist as an Entrepreneur Institute (AEI), Broward Cultural Division.

Besides creating, painting, and installing projects to bring awareness, empathy, and change to social justice issues, I continually advocate and volunteer for these issues, including assisting people persecuted in their home countries and seeking protection in the US. The immigration justice experiences have broadened my focus to share and scrutinize societal disparities through art exhibitions and community interactive projects.

Presently, I am working with asylum seekers to share their stories through art offering the public a greater understanding of firsthand persecution to bring more acceptance to people seeking asylum and challenge biased news media. Asylum seekers hope to create awareness and empathy toward their plight so they can live their lives with autonomy and self-sufficiency.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The obstacles that I experienced are expected when first starting a business, mostly developing business operations and a website, creating more artwork to sell and exhibit, and growing a customer base, including social media followers. I have lived in Broward County for most of my life and many people know me.

But as a professional artist, I was starting from scratch to establish myself in the art world, and to find my audiences, fan followers, and buyers who were motivated by social justice, environmental responsibility, racial equity, and social change.

My 4-year business anniversary is October 1 of this year. I have had four years to build a business; to create a start-up woman-owned entrepreneurship through the turbulence of COVID-19. With the closing of many businesses, lots of layoffs, and canceling of art events (eventually occurring via webinars), artists were challenged to get their work seen and to pay the bills.

The beginnings of Vicki Rosenthal Art were no different than most artists during this time. We were trying to figure out how to maneuver the unknown, develop processes, and establish new relationships, while art galleries and exhibition spaces were striving to keep their doors open.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
As a social impact visual artist, I am living a dream. I feel so fortunate that my life’s journey has led me to this place to learn and grow in the advocacy world and to express it creatively through art. Creating paintings on canvas and designs on apparel has been my primary specialties, but the community art workshops are just as important as they provide outlets for others to experience creativity and discover their talents.

One of my favorite sayings is, “Talent is universal, but opportunity is not” (author unknown). My art business can be a tool to ignite these opportunities. My most current public art installation, “Their Souls Live On” (photos featured in this article) consisted of free community art workshops for the families to paint images and words on shoes honoring family members who have passed. Their work now hangs as a public wall mural inside the new YMCA in the Sistrunk neighborhood on the historic land of the first black hospital in Broward County.

My business has also advanced TLGBQIA+ rights, immigration justice, racial justice, education rights, environmental consciousness, women’s rights, reproductive justice/abortion rights, cancer prevention, and voting equity. Individuals, communities, and organizations share their causes with me, and together, we create amazing projects to heal and inspire a better world.

When an individual shares their story with me, their words and images are the elements of the design whether on art canvas or apparel, usually shoes. Some of the art projects are very personal stories of people wanting to inform the public of their experiences of political persecution from their home countries. With these projects, my approach is to create a trusting space and anonymity as with “Lovelin”.

Her art piece, featured in this article, promotes immigration and TLGBQIA+ justice. She is currently seeking asylum in the US after fleeing her country when she and her girlfriend were attacked by the Muslim Brotherhood; her girlfriend was killed shielding Lovelin from the attackers.

After the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs Wade and the influx of state laws that went into effect restricting people’s rights to choose abortion as a reproductive choice for their health and welfare, I designed and painted a beautiful ceramic piece called OvaVenger – a superhero for reproductive justice!

This project was in collaboration with ceramic artist Ellen Cohen-Berman. The sides of OvaVenger’s armor are quotes from signs of the masses who took to the streets in opposition to this ruling. This piece is more powerful as many voices are a part of this art.

I continue to educate myself on social issues that affect our lives so that I can best represent them artistically. The projects are not about me, but the world around me – the people and environment. That is what I want to be known for, an artist who can tell a ‘story for change’ and that it will make a difference.

I am most proud of the trust that people give me to represent important parts of their lives. I have built a reputation over the last 4 years and now people, communities, and organizations are reaching out to me for social justice projects. Even with the deterrents of COVID, putting constant efforts into promoting my business and exhibiting my art has started to pay off. This year has been the most gratifying thus far!!!

So maybe we end on discussing what matters most to you and why?
What matters most to me is to use my ‘art and soul’ to connect with others to make a change in the world. Many people say, “what can one person do?”, including me as I listened to news about family separation and asylum seekers abused by ICE. Before my professional art career, I started visiting asylum seekers who were being mistreated in local ICE detention centers.

As an individual, I cannot directly change the US Immigration policies, but I can assist persons seeking protection in the US. Just this act of showing up and doing something to combat the injustice made me feel empowered and less hopeless. These types of moments motivated me to use my artistic talents as a social impact artist and to create a business.

Contact Info:

  • Website: VickiRosenthal.art
  • Instagram: @VickiRosenthal.art
  • Facebook: @VRosenthal.art
  • Twitter: @VRosenthal_Art

Image Credits
Donner Photos, Dave Rosenthal, and DeSiRe Photography

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