Only through art can we emerge from ourselves and know what another person sees.
As Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of this award-winning global media digest, CEO/ReImaginator for 360° Nation, and Chief Encouragement Officer for GoodWorks 360°, I was delighted to have the opportunity to get better acquainted with Karin vonKrenner, Founder & Executive Director of Project–Ask (registered nonprofit) —with a mission to inspire communication, shared visions and positive action to empower healing in communities and people through the platform of art. As a journalist and photographer, Karin has worked globally highlighting the human condition in times of peace and conflict. Karin directs her camera and pen to observe and document interconnected human experiences. Learn more as you enjoy our inspiring discussion below ⤵︎
We’d like to hear about your professional journey before PROJECT–ASK.
I am a writer. When I was a child, and people asked me “what do you want to be when you grow up” my answer was, “ I already am. I’m a writer”. I had my first poems published in an anthology at 15, wrote my first local news story at 16, and studied journalism at the University of Montana. After my boys were born, I needed to adjust my nomadic lifestyle. I adapted and moved my skills into the corporate arena where I worked for many years in international marketing and technical/legal writing.
Tell us more about PROJECT–ASK and the inspiration behind it.
Project-ASK is a product of the pandemic and my love for seeking “common ground” in critical areas of conflict. I literally lost my job the day the Oregon State governor declared the “pandemic” as official, causing the immediate closure of all office work. At the time, I was working in a Portland law office and my boss simply said,” we won’t support an at-home office, so we are letting you go”. I was devastated and like so many others, suddenly- unemployed. Shortly after, one of my oldest friends, a trauma nurse at Seattle HarborView hospital (one of the first hit by Covid) died from Covid. He had volunteered to be in the Covid unit and, in saving lives, died. My world fell apart. Demonstrations and violence were rocking Portland and, the rest of the US. Social media was screaming at us and it was hard to really know what was going on.
It was a moment of revelation for me. Art was a place/topic bridge where people could meet and talk about life and their experiences. Art created a “safe place” to ask questions and muse on the answers with others.
Feeling lost and grieving, I packed up my car and started driving across the entire US, in the midst of all the demonstrations and pandemic chaos, seeking. Answers, something… At that point, I didn’t really know. I was just fleeing my grief and confusion. I drove, alone, from one end of the US to the other, 3 times, observing, seeking, and, writing. One day, sitting on the beach in San Diego, I was watching a man make mandelas in the sand. I walked over to him and we started speaking. It was a moment of revelation for me. Art was a place/topic bridge where people could meet and talk about life and their experiences. Art created a “safe place” to ask questions and muse on the answers with others. It was a powerful moment for me and, Project-Ask as an idea was born.
What’s unique about PROJECT–ASK?
Project-Ask is unique in its approach for uniting art/artist to public with powerful questions. Project-Ask invites our visitors to view the “galleries/events” and share their questions on life in a safe space centered in the art. And, our artists share, with the visitors, their own questions and social passions. Banksy has been a personal inspiration for me.
When did your launch and what’s been your biggest challenge?
We launched in late 2020. The biggest challenge has been (and still is), funding and the challenges of social media promotion. We started as a team of 3, during the pandemic and it was a big challenge. We have immense interest from around the world but are still in the “start-up” phase.
Any noteworthy surprises or ‘A-ha’ Moments along the way?
Yes, so many! While the central “idea” of Project-ASK remains, it has mutated as we listen to what our visitors want and need. Originally, it was a “stand-alone” project, but now we are open to partnerships and sponsorship as a way to expand our platform for both the artist and visitors. Additionally, we “discovered” the concept of a “circular economy” business model which was the biggest “aha” moment. A way to “spread the good” that appealed to us on all levels, as practical, empathetic, and in line with our social and environmental concerns.
How would you describe your typical day presiding over PROJECT–ASK?
Up and down! Somedays I feel such gratitude and inspiration and on other days, I wonder what kind of mad person am I! I try to spend my mornings with the “hard stuff”. Reaching out to find artists, partnerships, and sources of funding to keep it all going. I rely on my team so much, for filling the skill gaps and being so supportive and enthusiastic. They have become the heart of Project-ASK.
What about your “social impact/outcomes?”
As a “start-up” we are still assessing long-term goals and results. So far, Project-ASK has, as a platform, been used to discuss social issues such as; homelessness, political division, Covid, and recently, the war in Ukraine. Our goal is to support these difficult conversations and create positive actions through the medium of art.
What’s the next big thing/challenge for PROJECT–ASK?
Funding always! But currently, we are upgrading our website and seeking new artists to collaborate with. We are hoping to start, via partnerships, some “live” events and workshops as the pandemic eases.
As an entrepreneur, what’s non-negotiable for you?
The “soul” of the team members and the project. We are aiming to change the world (nothing less!) and it’s so important that we each feel valued and supported. I don’t believe in a 9-5 world. There is no “9-5” model of a human. We all operate at our best, as we know best. I cannot accept anyone being “molded” into what an “old” work/social concept demands. Current events have proven, that we don’t need or, want this anymore.
How can our global audience learn more about/help PROJECT–ASK?
Visit our WEBSITE (a new one in process), join our subscribers’ list, or become a Supporting Member. We aim to have an informative blog and special VIP early events notices for members, along with regular social media alerts (in process!).
BONUS QUESTION: What’s something interesting that most people wouldn’t know about you?
LOL, well, I was an “international fugitive” at one point. I challenged international law, in 3 countries on behalf of my children and the legal case made international news when it was finally heard in the US Federal Court. It also changed how the law viewed and treated survivors of domestic violence. For me, it was about fundamental freedoms and the right to choose your own path in life. It was a very frightening time for me and my boys, but in our small way, we did change the world for the better, a little. I have written a book about it; “The Empty Swing” and am currently looking for a publisher.