A sixty-nine year old woman sits in her late husband’s favorite easy chair.
The only sound is the crackling of the dry wood in the stone fireplace.
The flames provide her only light in the early winter morning.
Her trusted hound snuggles against her feet.
She isn’t sad, she’d grown accustomed to living alone years ago. She smiles and lays her head back in the wingback chair. A conscious reverie segues into a rare morning nap–and a dream.
Luger’s bark at the mail carrier awakens her and she pats him on the head, “Let’s go check the mail.”
She didn’t have to go far.
Tony left her mail on the front porch.
Three boxes, each a bit larger than shoe boxes, all full of mail, and one package.
She called out for him, “Tony!” but he was gone. “Surely this can’t all be for me.”
But it was.
She was the victim of another “art ambush.”
Cards, letters, small photographs, and one original oil painting had arrived to show her she wasn’t forgotten.
Anonymous expressions of care from artists (and friends of artists) all over the world.
If she had known who to thank, it would have been Lisa Brandel.
We caught up with Lisa last week for a brief telephone interview.
Welcome, Lisa! We’re excited to find out more about Art Ambush. Once our readers are familiar with your project, the name will be obvious and quite descriptive. Tell us how the project was born and how the name was chosen.
Well, I am an insomniac and one night when I couldn’t sleep I was searching for
Art Ambush founder, Lisa Brandel
inspirational quotes to use in the Widow Lady-to write about- and I found a picture of a man who I thought I needed to paint him. I started doing the painting and someone asked me what I planned on doing with the painting. I said I was going to send it to the man (who happens to be a stage actor) as like an ambush of art he didn’t expect. Then my friend, who was also an artist, sent me some art and I sent him some art all out of the blue and we ended up putting together the page and decided that we’d give this gift of giving to other people. That was three years and 1500 ambushes ago.
How has Art Ambush been promoted and how many active participants are there worldwide?
We have a stable of about 40 regular artists and then we have closer to 100 people who jump in when they see something that pulls at them. I opened up the ability to ambush to ‘non-artists’ or people who don’t want to be listed but want to give and it’s been incredible the response. It is now growing all the time and we have artists and non-artists in England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Australia, Canada, and all over the U.S.
How are recipients of Art Ambush’s attention chosen?
People nominate them to me. They send me an email on FB or in my private email telling me the story of the person and why they feel they should get a bit of ambushed love. Sometimes we’ll catch a story on the news about someone going through a hard time, or being a hero and the group kind of just calls for the want to give to someone. So it’s varied.
Other than the price of a stamp and perhaps a greeting card, what expenses might a new participant expect?
It’s really up to the giver. I’ve sent thousand dollar oil paintings at random to people and I know others who have done the same. We have jewelry artists who send pieces that I know are expensive, but we don’t talk cost really none of us ever have. So, it’s really at your own comfort level. If you want to send a card and that’s where you are good, then by all means it is as priceless as what I might send. I see no distinction. We’ve had some non-artist send art supplies to people, CD…even some of our writer friends have sent autographed copies of their books. The things sent are as varied as the people we send them to.
Brandel at work in her Ohio studio.
Some well meaning, caring types out there who won’t or can’t take the time to send a card, would take the easy way out and say, “Just let me throw some money at the problem.” Does Art Ambush accept donations and if so how might a philanthropist contribute?
We actually have only ever gotten one cash donation and the person just sent it to me. I used it to help us buy our ambush cards and mailing labels for those who send out packages. We’ve not asked for donations really even when we’ve sent large boxes of things to groups for the shipping. I just absorb the expense and that’s fine with me.
We suspect there must be associations of artists of all media who could get involved. Which art groups have supported your efforts?
We have supporters all over the place and all over Facebook, but we as a group have kept in the shadows. We aren’t trying to go viral, nor do we expect or want spotlight for what we do. That kind of defeats the purpose in some ways. We like the whole ninja aspect of what we do…we slide out from the shadows, dump some happy on people, and then retreat back to the shadows again. Our giving is an act of faith. You don’t see what happens or how it helps people you just do it and hope.
What are your future plans for Art Ambush? How big can this become? Do you have any celebrity endorsements or participants?
The Ambush has been gaining ground since it was founded, and honestly keeping it small has been harder than growing it. People want to do good things and this just kind of gives a direction for it, a focus. I would like to see in the future a home base for the group, a physical location, things to be more organized on a bigger scale without losing the personal touch, and to be able to employ some people so people can work in something they love, but that is all down the road. As far as celebrity endorsements, well…We have ambushed some famous people both here and in England, but we don’t advertise that nor do we want to really…it’s a personal experience made person to person without care of status, age, religious leanings, anything really. No one person and no one ambush is more important than another. We keep the names to ourselves and just do the work. The work, the art, the giving, that is what we celebrate.
Want to participate in the next ambush? Check with Lisa via Facebook for two current Art Ambushes.
To visit the Art Ambush page on Facebook, click HERE.
To see Lisa Brandel’s art, click HERE.