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Start Date 2014-08-02 02:32:25 |Comments 8 |Entries 11 |Images 15 |Videos 1 |

Category: life

07/05/15 05:43 - 79.ºF - ID#60100

Another Road

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These past few months have forced me to consider the multiple directions my life and future can go. I felt so stuck in Buffalo because all of my attempts to create a better life for myself didn’t seem to change my situation. If you recall, I applied to grad school in Baltimore to get my MFA in graphic design and was accepted as an alternate and placed on a waiting list in case someone declined their offer. As the months have gone by I’ve accepted the fact that I wouldn’t get called to go this year. It hurt to admit that fact to myself, but it gave me the realization that I have another 1/2 a year to improve upon my portfolio and apply again. I poured a lot of energy into a hope that I could start a new life. Maybe all along I’ve just been seeking a means of escape from the limits and boundaries that this city seemed to always place in front of me at every turn?

MICA might not be an option this year, but that doesn’t mean that I’m out of ammo yet. Some of you know that I’ve been working as a graphic designer and illustrator for the “do it yourself” music community here in Buffalo for over 2 years. In that time I’ve designed hand-drawn flyers for punk shows, T-shirts, album art, stickers, posters, and more. (I might’ve posted all that information before and I apologize if I sound like a broken record, but I’m trying to hammer in the fact that I DO have experience.) I’ve learned that even with dedicating blood, sweat, and ink into being a graphic designer and taking a lot of initiative at working hard, it’s still next-to-impossible to land a graphic designer position or career in Buffalo. The latest job prospect that didn’t work out? An entry-level administrative assistant position at an ad agency. Basically a job I had over 2½ years of experience while working as a volunteer at the Book Arts Center. I really couldn’t tell you how dedicating years of free labor to a nonprofit organization while working as a freelance graphic designer didn’t make me a perfect candidate, but I digress. That endless frustration led to a lot of internal contempt and envy for my friends around me and their own successes. The comparison of my continued struggles to just get to a normal life where I could stand on my own two feet against my peers who were enjoying promotions, getting engaged, landing jobs, getting accepted into grad school, buying houses, having exposure in the press, and having solo shows at galleries (amongst other things) was slowly killing my sense of self-worth. I was destroying myself from the inside. Instead of letting that hurt and pain build up any further I decided to launch my Plan B.

For a long time I‘ve thought about crowdfunding so that I could turn my freelance jam into an actual small business. What held me back for a long time was shame about asking for help. Maybe it sounds odd to people, but I’ve always had a hard time asking help from anyone. A lot of it ties into low self-esteem and from my time in which I was homeless and felt like a burden on others around me. I’ve gotten a lot better since then, but still I question how others would judge me given my circumstances. Now with MICA no longer an option this year and my repeated attempts at finding a real job I could live off of frustrating me to no end, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I bit the bullet and launched an Indiegogo campaign.

Why did I turn to crowdfunding? Sure I have a portfolio of over 2 years’ worth of work for musicians, but all that work has been made with dwindling resources and whatever has been in arm’s reach. You see, before I moved into my apartment last July, I had been homeless for almost 6½ years. That means that for the majority of these past 2+ years making art I had no permanent address or stable living arrangement. I made an impact in the DIY community with my work, but I’ve been facing a huge obstacle on how to turn my passion into something I could make a living off of without the actual resources to make it happen. I don’t have the means to purchase T-shirts to screen-print, the parts and machine to make buttons, pens and sketchpads to illustrate with, or even a working printer to make more flyers. I figured if I asked people to help me obtain these necessary tools and offered my own art in return that people would jump on this opportunity. The results, however, have not been what I hoped for.

My goal is a pretty modest $15,000 to start my business out on the right footing and on a (relatively) equal playing-field as my peers. If a guy could raise over $50,000 to purchase the ingredients to make potato salad then why wouldn’t people turn down a chance to help a formerly homeless graphic designer start a small business? I mean, I’m not asking for a handout to pay off my debt. I literally have a business plan in mind so that I could be financially independent. The public loves go-getters who pull themselves up by their bootstraps, right? I have a little over a week left (my campaign ends on July 13th), but so far I’ve only been able to raise $265. In my perspective that’s a lot of money, and all of my donors have been friends that love and care about me. They believe in me and what I’m trying to accomplish, and that means the absolute world.

I just honestly don’t know how else I can get other people to take it seriously. Even by promoting it on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram nonstop, I can’t quite get people to bite. If I had extra anything I wouldn’t need to ask for help, but what a lot of people don’t realize (or maybe they willfully ignore) is that this has been the first time in forever in which I wasn’t hanging on for dear life by my fingertips as circumstances beyond my control dragged me through the fires of hell. The fires have subsided significantly for the most part and I finally have the mindset and found the courage to dictate how I want my life to go, but I’m just starting to get used to living a life where everything wasn’t so bleak and on the brink of despair. Trying to walk again without the weight of the world on my shoulders has been a new learning experience. I’ve already proven that I’m willing to work hard to live a “normal” life like everyone else and that I’m not looking for a quick fix for all my problems. I guess my biggest frustration is getting others to realize that too. The one thing I’ve learned from the DIY community is that we all work together to help others in need. I just hope that somehow I can convince others that ultimately this is what I’m also trying to do.

If you’re actually interested in my campaign or more of my story, please feel free to check out my fundraising page on Indiegogo. I have T-shirts, stickers, zines, and more available at different reward levels, and all proceeds go towards starting my freelance business and eventual online store. If nothing else if you could share my link (igg.me/at/steveardo) to anyone who’d may be interested in supporting small businesses, DIY culture, formerly homeless entrepreneurs, and/or LGBTQ artists that would help out a lot too. Even if I fail miserably at reaching my goal amount, I will still continue making my art. I fought so hard to survive in this world that I have no intentions of ever giving up.
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Category: school

03/27/15 11:42 - 23.ºF - ID#59927

Potential

Back in January I applied for the Graphic Design MFA program at MICA in Baltimore. The school’s program is ranked #3 in the country and focuses on the social impact of design along with working with/building upon communities. Baltimore has best been described as a bigger version of Buffalo by basically everyone I’ve come across, and appropriately enough it has a thriving DIY music and art scene. I love working with bands and musicians, but I also want to help out others and ideally want to use my talents to work with outreach programs/organizations for both LGBT homeless youth and those for individuals affected by/living with HIV and AIDS. On top of some pretty not-so-subtle hints from life this past year, the opportunities offered at MICA and Baltimore are geared perfectly for what I want to do with my life and so it seemed fitting.

I received an e-mail on March 13 explaining that decisions were made and notifications were to be sent out starting that weekend with the latest arrival date of March 23rd (previously stated as April 1st). I had been living the last few months in perpetual limbo not knowing what awaited my future. On the 17th I received a letter from MICA in a standard-sized envelope, and accepting a rejection letter I began to open it while repeating to myself that I could always apply next year.

“Dear Steven,... The Graduate Committee of Maryland Institute College of Art has carefully reviewed all candidates for admission to the Graphic Design (MFA). You have been selected as one of a small number of candidates to be on a list of alternates for the program.”

Instead of a letter of rejection I was surprised instead by a letter of... well, kinda-acceptance. MICA was indeed interested in me and placed me on a waiting list, and so instead of a concrete answer I’m back to a world of limbo on where I’m going to be later this year.

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This (potential) new life looming in the near future comes with the reality that I’ll be leaving Buffalo and quite possibly never return. I love Buffalo and I love my family and the friends I’ve made, but the truth is I’ve always have been and will be limited in the amount of personal growth I’ll be able to do here. Both (e:yesthatcasey) and (e:uchina) know quite a bit about my past and the struggles I’ve faced just to hold onto a sliver of stability in my own life. I’ve tried so hard over these past few years to get my name out there and be taken seriously as both an artist and graphic designer (while dealing with horrendously awful life circumstances), but the only major support I’ve gotten is from my friends who genuinely appreciate what I do. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve gotten a little recognition for the work I’ve done, but it’s quickly overshadowed and forgotten about because I’m not one of the “recognizable names” in the local press. I do also have connections and friendships with individuals heavily involved in local music events, entities, and news (that aren’t my DIY friends), but I’ve seen time and time again where they contract or ask a local, well-known artist to do work for them when said artist has absolutely nothing to do with any of Buffalo’s music communities.

Yes, I graduated from UB with my BFA in Communication Design back in 2012. No, it’s been almost 3 years and I still haven’t been able to land any sort of job remotely related to my field of study. Part of it is due to the extreme competitiveness in a city of our small size, but a lot of it is due to playing catch up for the past 6½ years of my life that I spent homeless and not having the same opportunities that my peers have had during and post-undergrad. Instead, I took it upon myself and got involved with a community of DIY musicians creating art and designs for them. Even with 2+ years of experience under my belt designing merchandise and print advertisements I receive the same answer from design positions that, “Your work is good but isn’t quite a fit for our setting, have you tried freelance?” What they don’t seem to get is that you need money and job experience to start making money and getting more experience. I understand that they are looking for a particular form of “experience”, but it’s frustrating that even by making my own opportunities where I had none and being extremely resourceful I’ve still repeatedly gotten shot down. It’s also quite infuriating when my friends already in steady, reliable graphic designer positions state that they’ll also be applying to a job I am, not because they necessarily need to, but because they can. And because they have the professional experience they’ll get the job over me, so I’m just supposed to bite my lip.

I’m still in limbo until MICA starts calling alternates in mid-April, but after a long period of thinking it over I know I’m ready for something new. There are a lot of good memories I’ve created here, but there is also a lot of pain I’ve had to endure. If I stick around that means I would have peaked far before my potential has been reached in a city that would rather stick to something familiar than embrace something “different”. I know I shouldn’t jump the gun before I get a concrete answer from MICA, but the truth is I’m not happy in Buffalo at all. I’ve grown a lot over the years and now know who I am with a great group of friends that became a support system I always lacked, but I also know what I want out of life. More specifically, I know what I deserve out of life. Even though I’ve worked my ass off for so long, my only reward has always been a tease of how things could be or the opportunities I could be having as they are thrown to my peers instead who inadvertently take it all for granted. I need a massive change, but more importantly I need to finally be able to direct my own future.

Buffalo, I love you, but I don’t think this is meant to be.
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Category: school

01/16/15 12:28 - 29.ºF - ID#59753

No. Sleep. Till MICA!

So I didn’t think I’d ever have the chance to do this, but I just applied to a graphic design MFA program that’s ranked #3 in the United States. Hell, I’d never thought I would have the chance to even SAY that.The deadline was at midnight tonight, but at 9:00 PM the school sent an e-mail explaining that they will extend it to next Tuesday on account of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. It didn’t matter because I completed and submitted everything with 15 minutes to spare. Curriculum Vitae, Statement of Purpose, letters of reference, portfolio... all of it. Now I play the waiting game, but it’s all right since this was the biggest hurdle for me.

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Category: music

12/08/14 03:47 - ID#59649

Roots Radicals

Speaking of local DIY bands... A while ago I helped record a cover of Rancid’s “Roots Radicals” by another friend’s punk/ska band Seven Thirty Seven. My friend Mike from Accidentals and I did the chorus along with the “whoas” and “yeah, yeah, yeah”. So I guess now begins my new career of singing backing vocals for punk covers.
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Category: music

12/08/14 02:07 - ID#59648

This is what we built



On The Cinder are a few of the many friends i’ve made since getting involved with the DIY music community here in Buffalo. A three-piece punk band hailing from “The Flower House” (where I stayed before moving in with (e:yesthatcasey)), they’ve been huge supporters of me and never hesitated when I needed help in any way. This is a music video that we shot on a weekend in early July. Included in it are cameos from local DIY artists and musicians (including me!) who keep our scene going strong. We might not have a lot of money or get much in terms of press, but we sure as hell put the most heart and soul into what we do.
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