Human Diaries is pleased to present Bonnie MacAllister. Just a brief mention of her many experiences and talents: a bilingual world traveler, writer, artist, humanitarian, and businesswoman, with a huge smile and a huge heart. We think her story is fascinating!
Q: Please tell us a little about yourself.
A: I was born in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. I did my bachelor’s degree at Albright College, spent my junior year at the Sorbonne in Paris, and afterward I worked for several years at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in the Information Systems, Audio Visual, and Telecom departments where I was fortunate to work on museum films and learn production. After several years, I went back to school to study education, and received a Master’s in Education from Temple University, followed by a Teach for America Fellowship and a Fulbright-Hays to Ethiopia. All along I was writing creatively and as an arts journalist. My work was in several publications, including the Philadelphia Daily News and Tom Tom Magazine (the specialty is women’s drummers.) I live in West Philadelphia, and I have been with my husband for 11 years. We have two tortoiseshell cats.
Q: How long have you been an artist, and what inspired you to become one? Do you enjoy being one?
A: Being an artist was not something I aspired to become—it just happened. I found I could make things out of nothing. Like many children, I was drawn to color and expressing myself with stories, songs, and plays. My art teachers and later my reading teaching in junior high, Patricia Goodrich (now an award winning international artist and writer) encouraged me to write my own poems and texts. And in high school, I was fortunate to study with Marie Kane, Bucks County Laureate and distinguished writer, in regular old English class. She challenged me to overcome predictable language and trace my own words and frameworks.
Q: What are the unique aspects of your business?
A: My business Bonnie MacAllister Consulting, run out of the Greater Philadelphia CultureWorks, has published Certain Circuits, two print volumes of curated art and writing from international contributors. Some of the work from these artists has been shown on the jumbo screen at Philadelphia’s Center City Sips, at Commerce Square’s outdoor site. Also, I curated several performances, Live Score! where bands performed live soundtracks to films they had created and area authors performed their work. Venues for this included the Flying Carpet Café, Imperfect Gallery, Eris Temple Arts, and the Rotunda at the University of Pennsylvania.
My business, Français Mille Fois offers French-English translations for individuals, corporations, medical, and legal. I have recently translated transcripts from Rwanda, medical procedures for international adoption, and coordinated ticketing for travelers. I have done live simultaneous translation for the Toyota Corporation and for government clients. Français Mille Fois offers an education component, staffed by Groupon for group and individual education in survival (travel), beginning, intermediate, and advanced modules.
My arts consulting offers grant writing, social media development, and advice for artists. Clients can schedule a one-on-one to brainstorm grant opportunities.
I also offer my own art for rental and purchase for gallery, museum, and home décor. I have also created fiber poles and outdoor sculptures for several communities and businesses, including the Germantown corridor and the Tasting Room in Ardmore.
Q: Are you satisfied with what you have accomplished thus far? What are some of your biggest accomplishments?
A: I am always dreaming of new projects and opportunities. I have worked so far in sound, fiber, film, painting, 3D photography, and texts. I create and curate community collaborative art pieces, several of which have taken place in my neighborhood: on Lancaster Avenue for the Night Market, for a residency through Flying Kite (a community based newspaper), and for the Look! on Lancaster Avenue exhibition that spotlighted my neighborhood.
I am really proud of the work I have done with my friend, Joanna Fulginiti and a group of artists on the Ragdoll Project, using fiber art to create social change with trafficked communities. Because of this project, we were called “Heroes in the Fight for Human Trafficking” for the A21 Campaign, and I was an alternate for a Philly Do Gooder award and screened my ragdoll film in Los Angeles. I was involved in the creation of a collaborative quilt with Afghan women, fundraise through several exhibitions benefiting Girls Gotta Run (members of whom I met in Ethiopia), and perform at a portrait show benefiting a local women’s shelter.
Q: What plans do you have for the future?
A: I would like to do more international outreach work and serve foreign communities. I would love to spend more time in Africa, working on community projects or in the foreign service. It is important to note, that I aspire to serve my own community of Philadelphia as well with more public art and community art opportunities.
Q: Where do you see your business 5 years from today?
A: As for my goals, I would love to have met more clients interested in French and to serve their needs and guide them in their French education. My clients have been many ages and backgrounds, and I hope to bring French to more minds. Additionally, it would be rewarding to share art with a larger group, through more international exhibitions and through more community art collaborations.
Q: Why do you think people should buy your art?
A: I think that people should support artists whose work reaches them and who work with the community to create change, foster self-esteem and development in girls, and whose work is meant to fundraise for those in need. My art has very affordable components, two dollar cards and fifteen dollar archival prints, meant to keep the art at accessible price points for all to enjoy. Not everyone can afford an original, but it does not mean that they should be denied a chance to have the same beauty in the form of a print.
Q: Have you been in any shows yet? Where else have you been featured?
A: I was recently featured at the International Museum of Women in San Francisco in the interactive exhibition “Imagining Equality.” I have shown in Trenton, Camden, Virginia, DC, UK, Australia, Uruguay, Italy, Norway, Mexico, New York (Riverside Library Lincoln Center, Boricua College, Et Al Projects), and the 2013 Grammy Awards where I created a “swag bag” contribution on behalf of Girls Gotta Run to create awareness for the charity. I will show in May in Philadelphia at Nice Things Handmade, in South Philly, and I will do Philadelphia Open Studio Tours in October at CultureWorks Greater Philadelphia, my co-working space. I share studio space at NextFab, a gym for innovators.
Q: Where have you traveled and what are some of your experiences?
A: In my life, I have traveled mostly on the East Coast of the United States through hiking and showing my art, but I have made it to Northern California and Los Angeles. I enjoy Montréal and Québec because I can speak French freely there. In France, I have lived in Paris and Lyon, for school and for an internship as an adult. I was able to see silk made while in Lyon. I visited London a few times, but I really love Scotland, and as a young girl I always wanted to go there and see the ancestral lands. I got to see the Macintosh architecture on the Glasgow School of Art, (somewhere I would have loved to study) and I was so saddened by the fire last year where students lost work and the building was damaged. The Isle of Skye and Edinburgh will always be with me, and I hope to return someday to see the Shetland region. Recently I traveled to Berlin, and it was impossible to see all of the art I wanted to see during the short time I was there. The most haunting for me was my travel in Norway, and I am still writing about my time there, including two songs and videos. While in Ethiopia, I visited eight cities: Addis Ababa, Harar, Bahir Dar, Gondar, Lalibela, Shoshomene, Awassa, and Aksum where I wrote the national curriculum on Ethiopia with other American and Ethiopian educators. My favorite parts were learning about textile creation and working directly in classrooms. I wrote extensively in the poetic form on my time there, and this is the curriculum that we created: (http://www.africa.upenn.edu/gpa-eth/Teaching_the_Human_Experience.html)
I have also traveled to Italy, the Dominican Republic, and to Martinique.
Q: Any humorous stories you want to share with our readers?
A: Most of my craziest stories happen while hiking with my husband who insists on choosing the most scenic drive which may take considerably longer than a highway or GPS’s quickest route. One night we were in rural Virginia, trying to find our way to the Peaks of Otter resort, which actually resembled more of a barracks, but overlooking impressive vistas in the Blue Ridge Mountains. He chose to take a road, barely a cleared path, in the darkness of night and in a snowstorm. We made it out of a long stretch of blinding forest, where I felt as if the tree branches were constantly smacking the windshield, only to become stuck in a snow bank on the main road. We had clearly made a wrong turn, but we could see the Peaks of Otter resort below us from the mountain. Fortunately a kind driver pulled over and not only gave us a hand but directions to our shelter.
Q: What do you think of Human Diaries?
A: Human Diaries is a unique news source, about real people and the true stories that they tell. I love the delicious recipes and the chance to hear poetry from real children. How much of a boost to see your words out there showcased for all to see!