Lost art, found education

Tue. May 15, 2012 12:00 AM
by Bill Pritchard

As a child I was blessed by Parents who placed great value in the arts. I enjoyed expression in many forms; including music, photos, dance, paintings, theater, glass, and sculpture. We often joke around the Pritchard family home about the lack of space on the wall. My father's addiction to art afforded all us kids the opportunity to see firsthand the joy that comes from appreciating creativity.

Additionally, public schools provided art appreciation, band, jazz choir, theater classes and artistic clubs. Today I look on art and the arts as extensions of my life. It's the first thing you notice in my flat. Sadly, such options are the first to be cut in school district budgets. Thank goodness for organizations like Chicago Lost and Found !

Chicago Lost and Found is a not-for-profit organization committed to art education and inspiring creativity throughout the city of Chicago and ultimately the nation. The organization re-purposes materials with no value or which would otherwise become landfill and transforms it into unusual art and functional furnishings. (See what were once my trousers transformed into marvelous clutch bags) Sales from the creations assist in generating funds to provide hands-on art education anywhere there is a need. Simply put, they take trash and turn it into treasure; all the while teaching folks the importance of art, creativity, and making a difference in their community.

"I began Chicago Lost and Found in 2007 because I saw a need." says founder and President Mitchell Pennell . "As creative programs continue to disappear and budgets for the arts are cut, I feel compelled to help reverse this tragedy." One man's dream has suddenly caught a wave of attention, including endorsements from popular Food Network personality, Paula Deen and Top Chef Dale Levitski .

Deen's belief in the organization prompted the opportunity for Chicago Lost and Found to feature last year's Christmas tree skirt in the November 2011 holiday issue of Cooking with Paula Deen . Additionally, Pennell was featured on Deen's show last June, giving further exposure to the important work that Chicago Lost and Found provides.

The centerpiece of Chicago Lost and Found is its Creative Studio, where they provide employment for artists, seamstresses, carpenters and other craftspeople to create art from junk and discarded materials found in alleys, dumpsters, and construction and demolition sites or anyplace where refuse hides.

Finished works are then sold through exclusive retail establishments and their website ; with proceeds given to fund their educational outreach. That outreach has included classes and workshops for children and adults, focusing on reusable products. It really gives a whole new meaning to everything old, is new again !

With more people stepping up to make a difference, Chicago Lost and Found has positioned itself to be the perfect conduit to give hands on education whilst opening doors for countless people to give back to their community or school. "A unique facet of Chicago Lost and Found is that everyone can be involved." says Pennell. "Whether you contribute financially or give your time, become a student or teacher, volunteer or have junk we can use; we hope you will jump on this wagon as we move forward to make a difference."

Countless people write asking how they can get involved in their communities. Perhaps groups like Chicago Lost and Found will be the perfect fit for you or someone you know! Be sure to check them out at .

If you're in the city of Chicago May 24, 2012, be sure to attend Chicago Lost and Found's Big Picture Soiree, featuring creations from Top Chef Dale Levitski and entertainment from cabaret duo Amy Armstrong and Freddy Allen .