Delaware Public Media’s Tom Byrne and contributor Larry Nagengast discuss Creative Vision Factory artists
Eliseo Gonzalez wanted to come in from the cold, to find a place that would ease the chill of homelessness.
Mary Makwach, disabled and homeless, needed somewhere to go during the day.
Knicoma Frederick had been painting on Rodney Square and along Fourth Street but he wanted to take his artwork indoors.
All three of them, and dozens more as well, have found their way to the Creative Vision Factory, a place artist Carl Bailey says is “like a social club. Anybody is invited to join, and the only price they have to pay is just respect everybody there.”
Here are the stories of some of the artists whose lives have taken a positive turn through their affiliation with the Creative Vision Factory, a program created in 2011 as an outgrowth of a settlement between the U.S. Department of Justice and the state to improve and increase the number of state programs for Delawareans with mental illnesses.
Mary Makwach, 29, a native of Kenya, came to the United States in 2016 when she received a scholarship for a five-week college summer program. A civil war broke out in her homeland, her visa was extended, she became pregnant and could not safely return home.
Vase by artist Mary Makwach
By November 2019, disabled and needing crutches to walk, Makwach was staying at the Salvation Army shelter in Wilmington with her then 3-year-old daughter. Out for a walk, she passed by the Creative Vision Factory, a couple of blocks from the shelter, “saw good stuff,” and was invited in by Michael Solomon, one of the CVF’s first artist members, who died early last year. “He said, ‘you want to visit? Come look around,” Makwach recalls.
Makwach says she had no art experience other than doing some embroidery while a high school student in Kenya. “I saw mosaics, I saw drawings. I said, ‘I can do this,’” she says.
Quickly learning the techniques, Makwach has become “an amazing mosaic artist,” CVF executive director Michael Kalmbach says. Several of her vases were sold through Brandywine Counseling’s annual online auction.
“I enjoy mosaic. I don’t have a job, so this keeps me busy. And I get some money when Michael sells it [for me],” she says.
She praises Kalmbach for the support he provides. “I don’t know many people like him. He does amazing things for the people who go there,” she says.
The stability Makwach has gained at CVF has helped her put her life in order. She’s now staying at the YWCA’s …….