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Your heart will melt at what local charity is doing with old Halloween costumes

Mitch Hooper

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It doesn’t take long to clean up all the festivities following Halloween each year. As soon as the calendar hits November, all the shine and focus is on the upcoming holidays. The carved pumpkins to scare away the spirits are swapped out for an assortment of colorful gourds and the occasional pumpkin still lingers. Eventually, it’s the same old dance of grabbing a box from storage, stuffing away all your Halloween belongings, and waiting for another season of spooky.

And while that twerking skeleton you purchased on a whim at CVS this season will be forever a hit around the house, costumes have a much shorter lifespan. There’s a reason Halloween- themed costume stores pop-up in strip malls every September through October—being a costume repeater is a Halloween fashion faux pas. Though adults might sit out on the celebration some years, children are not missing out on the action, and they most certainly aren’t committing a fashion crime either. From ballerina tutus to Batman suits, every year is a chance for these little ones to take on a new persona, and it’s also another year that the storage box gets a little fuller, or the landfill gets a new outfit.

Photos: Rebecca Tien

It’s this realization of a costume’s life after Halloween that caught the attention of Nayra Betances. Growing up in the Dominican Republic, Betances said costumes were an integral part of how she and her family celebrated Carnival and Independence Day. While her family was fortunate enough to be able to DIY costumes each year, many children and families around her couldn’t afford to do so.

“When I was growing up, a huge part of my childhood was Carnival and the Independence Day festivities on February 27,” Betances recalled. “It was sort of like Christmas for us because there were towns and neighborhoods that planned year round for Carnival Month. Every Sunday of the month of February, towns, villages, and neighborhoods come together and parade in costumes.”

In 2009 at a Halloween parade in New Jersey with her three children, she recognized how often she was purchasing costumes each year, and wondered what other families were doing once the holiday ended. To no surprise, many of these costumes were being stuffed away, or thrown away. That’s when Betance devised a plan: she reached out to the principal of the school and asked if she could send flyers home with children to collect their costumes. Her purpose? Send these leftover costumes to families in need back in the DR. It was then that Create Happy Moments was born.

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I literally had an ‘aha’ moment and said to myself, ‘Oh my god, what happens to all these costumes once Halloween is over?’ I’m not rich but I have the means to buy three new costumes every year for my children— god forbid someone wants two,” Betances said with a laugh. “Imagine if I would’ve had costumes like that when I was growing up in the yard? And right there, I said, ‘What if I start asking these parents?’ ”

Her efforts proved to be successful that first year as she was able to collect more than 80 costumes to send back to her home country. Through assistance from her family still living there, they were able to distribute costumes to foster homes and low income areas in the Dominican Republic. Each year, that number of families helped and children costumed grows. Create Happy Moments now helps roughly 500 children each year.

“To this day, I think, ‘Why didn’t I think of this before?’, ” Betances said.

For Betance, it’s truly a family a air from November until Carnival and Independence Day in February. First the process begins on Nayra’s end with raising awareness, hosting fundraising parties, and collecting as many costumes as she can box up. It takes about a month for the team to deliver the costumes, so this gives Betance about two months to collect. Once December hits, it’s her and her team carefully cleaning the costumes; separating them by size, design, and gender; boxing everything up; and a race to ship everything off. Once in the Dominican Republic, her cousins and other family members go door-to-door, dropping off costumes just in time for the holidays. Just last Carnival, Betance was able to return to the DR, help drop off the costumes, and see her impact firsthand for the first time.

“There’s never going to be enough money so I took money from my paycheck and went,” Betance. “I covered my expenses, I went, and I promised myself I was never going to miss another one.”

While she vows to never miss another Carnival, she does want to continue to grow Create Happy Moments to a financially stable place where the program can afford to send her back each year.

Though Create Happy Moments isn’t attacking larger issues like hunger or poverty, what Betance sees this program doing is enhancing culture and a sense of community. Betance said Independence Day is a chance for many different subcultures of the DR to showcase their flavors of life and costume designs vary from city-to-city. The adult costumes range from political satire to customs and traditions that date back to the origins of Carnival. The children, however, are just eager to get dressed up and get in the action.

Create Happy Moments originated in New Jersey, but has become Betance’s full-time project now that she’s moved to Columbus. For her, the city gave her the boost she needed to devote her energy to the program.

“Columbus is such a niche for philanthropy and nonprofits and social enterprise and giving back,” Betance explained. “When I came back, I said, ‘This is a calling.’ ”

For more information or to donate your used costume, visit createhappymoments.org.

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Arts & Culture

Gallery Space: Danielle Deley

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In the ‘60s, the clash of mass culture and fine art exploded. Led by New York-based artist Andy Warhol, whose silkscreen paintings of Campbell’s Soup Cans and Marilyn Monroe were instantly iconicized, the vibrant basis of his works became known as pop art. While Warhol was one of the founding pop art leaders, the lesser-recognized Roy Lichtenstein was a Fine Arts graduate from The Ohio State University in 1949 and was notable for his comic-like expressionism.

Subtly following Lichtenstein’s influential trajectory is visual artist Danielle Deley, who’s currently prepping for her Skylab show Jubilee. Her use of color is rich in tone, and her subjects are easily recognizable, with cultural nods to Frank Ocean, Barbara Streisand and the late David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust.

Photos: Brian Kaiser

“I want Jubilee to feel like you’re walking back into the height of the pop art era. I might have a more muted color palette than Lichtenstein, but I want it to make a comment about traditional fine art,” Deley said. “Each of the 2D pieces are based off of very popular sculptures in Greek and Renaissance art. Each 3D piece is taken from paintings from that same time period.”

Originally from Youngstown, Deley graduated from CCAD in 2011 with a BFA in graphic design and advertising. Spending a semester in England while she attended CCAD, Deley regularly kept in contact with her grade school art teachers, who provided encouragement and foundational skills. Their guidance led her into becoming co-president of the Columbus Society of Communicating Arts, and even illustrating Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot on a cover of Chicago Reader in April. Through Deley’s intricate, pastel design, Lightfoot is recreated into a queen of spades form.

“Sue Kwong, the creative lead for the Chicago Reader, reached out, had this awesome cover idea and wanted me to bring her vision to life,” Deley said about the collaboration. “She found me on this forum called Women Who Draw, something I submitted to six years ago. They make a space for female artists and illustrators to find other female artists and illustrators. [Illustrating the cover] probably took eight hours. It was my first cover illustration for a big publication so I wanted to get it right.”

Often visiting Gateway Film Center to see how films are composed, Deley actively studies the meticulous craft of cinematography, along with going to intimate gallery spaces to align with the art community. After graduating from CCAD, Deley would only create on her computer, but decided to transition her work into watercoloring. “[Watercoloring] then moved into gouache, wood carving, and finally painting with acrylics. My style started to take shape just from doing these small projects that popped into my head,” she said. “My first one was The Young and the Restless illustration that I have on my website and I just couldn’t stop. The style stayed the same but I would push myself with composition, size, and color.”

Currently contracting as a designer at independent digital design Studio Freight, Deley also co-created the “mind reading” board game Medium, which Two Dollar Radio attendees had the chance to celebrate and play after its release. In August, Delay also illustrated children’s (and dog lovers) book Good Night, Buckeye with author Dan Wurth, with all proceeds from the book benefitting Canine Companions for Independence. With Deley’s hectic creative schedule, Jubilee could have become an afterthought, but she assures (614) that the show’s creation was intentional, with retrospective, familial ties.

“I came up [with] the name [of Jubilee] for two reasons. One, Jubilee came from the idea of celebrating. I thought it was time to celebrate this style I’ve been creating,” she said. “And two, it’s an homage to my grandparents. My Baba would always make this rich and delicious cookies called ‘jubilees’. They were always doing a craft with me or when I would come visit they were creating something.”

With appreciation for local art venues such as 934 Gallery, No Place Gallery and Roy G Biv, Deley avidly wanted for Jubilee to be placed in Skylab, ready to share her “post-pop art” genre with Columbus. “Skylab was the perfect space to propose this show. Its view of art has always been contemporary and experimental, and that’s how I view everything I make,” she said. “Contemporary art for me is about making things weird and beautiful at the same time and that’s how I hope people perceive Jubilee.

Jubilee opens Jan. 1, 2020 at Skylab Gallery, located at 57 E Gay St., 5th floor.
Visit danielledeley.com or @danielle_deley on Instagram for more information.

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Arts & Culture

Thinking Big: The Amazing Giants bring circus arts to events across town

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If you have been to a local festival, parade, or corporate event where you’ve seen stilt walkers, fire-eaters, hula-hoopers or lyra artists, there’s a good chance you’ve been in the presence of an Amazing Giant. Founded in 2011 by Jessica Minshall, The Amazing Giants was born out of one woman’s love of stilt walking and her friends’ desire to learn the skill. Now a new challenge is looming for the group—a business expansion to Hawaii.

Working in the service industry, Minshall saw a need in Columbus for a different type of entertainment. She taught herself how to walk on stilts for a festival gig out of state. This new hobby intrigued a group of her friends, and they decided to learn, too. From there, The Amazing Giants were born. “My partner and I bought a lot of stilts and just taught people how to do it,” she said. “We all found each other.”

What began as a few friends learning a new skill and having fun together practicing it evolved into a booming business with 40 employees and contract workers, including magicians, face painters and more. They are hired for events to do everything from wearing full bodysuits covered in tiny mirrors and dancing to wearing and serving champagne from large metal skirts to dazzle a crowd.

“We have evolved with different equipment, too,” Minshall said. The Amazing Giants owns the only sway pole in the Midwest. It allows performers to create a large- scale spectacle with an extreme cirque-style pole acrobatic act without the need for a permanent installation. With hundreds of costumes, 20 pairs of stilts, and entertainment offerings of just about every circus art imaginable, The Amazing Giants truly seek to astound.

Having had great success in the Columbus market, Minshall decided to grow her business, and recently brought The Amazing Giants to Honolulu. “I had family out here that I would visit and realized they don’t have anyone doing what we do. There’s not really a group or team of stilt walkers working together,” she said. So Minshall bought six pairs of stilts, and hosts open gyms where interested performers can show off their skills and possibly train on stilts. “They don’t need to send me a resume, necessarily,” she said. “It’s about personality and talent.”

Importantly, Amazing Giants must have an abundance of confidence without an overabundance of ego. “I tell people we have to get comfortable being uncomfortable. As an entertainer you have to get over your shyness and put yourself out there.” The ability to work as a collaborative team player is also key, she said. “Our team often works in tight quarters, and whether or not it is well-received, you have to put on the show as best you can.”

Although Minshall is keeping the headquarters in Columbus, now headed by Chief of Operations Olivia Ranier, she says she is excited about the expansion and her recent move to Honolulu. “It reminds me a lot of Columbus because it has that small-town, big-city feel with a similar {\(metropolitan area) population of around one million people,” Minshall said. And the environment is ripe for her type of business. “In Honolulu, we have events year-round; in Columbus our business slows down after New Year’s Eve,” she said. “There is also a lot more tourism and a convention center that brings in a ton of people.”

Although her business has expanded, don’t for a second go thinking that Minshall is going to forget where she comes from. “A lot of times people ask me where I am from and they say, ‘Wow, I’ve been hearing a lot about Ohio lately.’ I have nothing but good things to say about Columbus and what kind of platform it’s given me. It’s a massive city with a thriving arts and entertainment culture—and it’s extremely underrated. I will be Columbus-promoting forever.”

For more information visit theamazinggiants.com.

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Big Macs and Bowl Games: Enter McDonalds sweepstakes for college football getaway

614now Staff

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Now that Ohio State has secured its bid to play in the 2019 College Football Playoffs, every fan across Columbus is vying for tickets to the Bowl Game. Lucky for you, McDonald’s has the answer.

Today, McDonald’s launches their Buckeye Bowl Game Sweepstakes in partnership with Ohio State Athletics, where one lucky winner will win a trip for two to the 2019 Fiesta Bowl Game on Saturday, Dec. 28, including prime tickets to the game, transportation to and from, plus hotel and travel accommodations.

Fans can enter the Buckeye Bowl Game Sweepstakes by purchasing a Quarter Pounder or Quarter Pounder with cheese from any McDonald’s in the greater Columbus area, either in restaurants or through their favorite delivery service. With each order, customers will receive a golden ticket with entry details, leading them to the sweepstakes website.

And the best part is for every submission placed, McDonald’s Owner/Operators of Columbus will donate $1 to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio, helping them meet their annual fundraising goal.

“For McDonald’s, and for those of us as local business owners, it’s about more than selling burgers. It’s about creating a lasting impact in our community,” said Mike Telich, Columbus McDonald’s Owner/Operator in a statement. “Supporting RMHC is more than just a donation, its ensuring families with ill or injured children get the emotional and physical support they need, as well an alternative to the financial burden of staying at a hotel and going out for meals."

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