Written by : Transcript – Happy Activist Nancy Giammarco: Brightening Lives with Art 

Transcript – Happy Activist Nancy Giammarco: Brightening Lives with Art

Follow along with the transcript below for episode: Happy Activist Nancy Giammarco: Brightening Lives with Art



[00:00:02] PF: Thank you for joining us for Episode 431 of Live Happy Now. This week, we’re going to tell you how one happy activist is brightening the lives of children and their parents, one piece of art at a time.


I’m your host, Paula Felps. And this week I’m talking with Nancy Giammarco, a musician who rediscovered her love of art during the pandemic. As you’re about to hear, she started enhancing children’s simple drawings just for fun, and that led to her creating the Joanne Project, which she named after her late mother. She’s here to tell us what it is, what she does, and why it’s so important to celebrate the artwork of children. Let’s have a listen.




[00:00:42] PF: Nancy, thank you for being on Live Happy Now.


[00:00:46] NG: Thank you for having me. I’m thrilled to be here.


[00:00:48] PF: This is great. This is part of our happy activist segments. We really enjoy being able to share with our audience who other people are doing to kind of bring light into the world. And I love what you’re doing with the Joanne Project. So, before we talk about, I guess I should have you explain what the Joanne Project is?


[00:01:07] NG: Well, it is a program where I kind of tricked into it by accident. I take children’s line art, and I enhance it, and add to the drawings, and color it and then send it back to the parent or grandparent and it all happened weirdly with a Facebook post by a friend of mine, and I saw her little kid’s artwork. I said, “Can I do something with that?” She said, “Of course.” So, that little girl ended up being my two-year art friend. From there – yes, we were doing art for over two years together, and then it spread out to some other families. That’s kind of what it is. It’s just a project where I tried to make little kids and their parents happy, by taking their little drawings and making them happier.


[00:01:54] PF: Then, from your standpoint, where did you – what made you look at that piece of art and say, “Oh, hey, I could make this kid’s day by doing something with it.”


[00:02:06] NG: I think because I kind of saw something in it where I thought, “Hey, if I add a little texture here or a little color there, or add some birds there, or a bunny, and I send it back to the little kid, but it’s still there drawing. The essence of it is still theirs.” So, I didn’t take it and twist it up where it wasn’t theirs anymore. Actually, it has that effect, the intended effect I wanted. Now, on the other hand, if you get the blanket color wrong –


[00:02:32] PF: You’re going to hear about it?


[00:02:34] NG: Yes, my little art buddy, she let me know. That blanket is way too pink. I had to redo the blanket color and send it back to her. So, it’s fun. It’s just so much fun, because you ended up kind of inadvertently interacting with the kids too, through their parents most of the time. It’s pretty hilarious.


[00:02:52] PF: Once you started, how did that then grow? Because like you said, you were just doing it for one person, one friend’s child. Then, how did that become a thing? Because now you’ve got a website with it, and people from anywhere can send you their children’s art. Tell me how that unfolded?


[00:03:08] NG: I think because I use social media. I use Instagram and I use mainly Facebook. People started seeing it and I was posting, this is still my favorite thing to do, and I would post the kids line art and then me enhancing it. People are like, “Hey, that’s interesting. How do I get on in that?” But a lot of it was actually me going out and seeing my friend’s kids or grandkids, and openly soliciting them to come be part of the program.


I’m pretty active about, “Hey, let me do this.” The one that got yielded from social media, though, just out of the blue, I never expected was, a lady from the Netherlands contacted me and goes, “Can you enhance my grandson’s art?” I said, “Well, of course.” I did that and send it back and put it on a blanket for him for Christmas.


[00:03:57] PF: That’s adorable.


[00:03:58] NG: Yes. It organically just slowly growing. It’s not huge yet by any stretch of the imagination, but I really want it to be bigger than me.


[00:04:10] PF: t seems like you get a lot of joy out of it. I know you’re not getting rich off of this. So, it really is something you’re doing, you love to do it, and I find it so interesting that you created a pay what you can model for this. You’re not saying, “Hey, this is worth X amount.” Can you tell me why that was important to set it up that way?


[00:04:31] NG: I wanted people to have the ability to choose, and I also wanted the people that are struggling to be able to participate. So, there are times where I’ve charged absolutely nothing, because I still want the kid to be happy, I want the parent be happy, and everybody should be able to just pay, as far as I’m concerned. Interestingly enough, if you say pay what you want, a lot of times they are very generous. Let’s put it that way. So, it’s crazy.


[00:04:57] PF: Yes. I think when you give people that option, and they know that you’re doing it from a really good place, it’s not something that you’re trying to mark it as something that’s not. I think that really makes a difference in how they respond to you.


[00:05:12] NG: I agree. I’m just trying to spread a little kindness and a little bit of joy. It’s so fun when the parent gets back with me or the grandparent, they loved it. I mean, it makes my whole week when they say the little child liked it. That’s really great.


[00:05:27] PF: So how do you enhance it? What kind of – are you doing this by hand? Are you doing a computer program? What exactly, if I were to send you a crudely drawn picture, which is the only kind of picture I can draw, and you were to return it. What would my expectation be? How do you do this? And then how does it change it?


[00:05:49] NG: Typically, you would scan that into your phone, your badly drawn drawing, right? You would send it to me as a JPEG. I would scan in that thing that you sent me, and from there, a lot of times, I’ll trace over that badly drawn art, and then use different layering techniques and put in the color and the textures. A lot of times, I get tempted, and I’ll put in little birdies or bunnies, or little enhancements that I think might be fun for the kid for me to add. Then, I send it back to the parent or grandparent as a JPEG for the little kiddo to look over.


[00:06:23] PF: Oh, that’s terrific. Then, does the child get to be the editor if they’re like, because I’ve worked with art directors for 30 years, and we know what that’s like. How do kids compare as art directors? Are they pretty demanding? Are they pretty easy to work with?


[00:06:38] NG: I would say they’re not demanding, but they are very honest, like I told you about that example. So, if there’s something they don’t like, they definitely let me know. I do edits. I will go back and edit that drawing and send it back.


[00:06:51] PF: That is funny.


[00:06:53] NG: It’s hilarious. I laugh so hard. Because my ultimate goal is to make them happy. So, of course, I’m going to do rounds if they want them.


[00:07:02] PF: Yes, that’s hilarious. I just think it like a seven-year-old telling you to like do it over.


[00:07:08] NG: Yes, it’s happened.


[00:07:10] PF: That’s great. Well, I want to talk about your art for a minute, because I think it’s really important to know that you come from the music industry. That’s how I know you. I’ve known you, interviewed you before, as a musician. So, when did you make the switch? Why did this happen? Because you’ve really embraced the world of art. I’m not saying you forsake the music industry. But that’s not where you are now.


[00:07:35] NG: No, I’m not. When you knew me, back in the nineties, I was playing in bands. Incidentally, I did do a couple of our album covers.


[00:07:43] PF: Oh, yes, that’s right.


[00:07:46] NG: I did art back in junior high and high school. Then, for some odd reason, when I got to college, and then beyond, I just dropped it. So, up until COVID hit, I was a live sound engineer. Basically, when the world shut down, I didn’t have anything to do. So, I was like, “Oh, let’s pick up the art pen again.” Like I said, I dove into those digital apps, Procreate, and started drawing, and I have never looked back. I don’t know why they’ve gone for 42 years, to tell you the truth. It was crazy.


[00:08:18] PF: That’s really interesting, because I’ve watched you online as it’s really evolved. It went from, you have your doodles section, you have all these different areas of art that you’ve explored. I think you got to deal with Chewy, out of doing that. How did that unfold? What was that like for you, especially through the lens of the pandemic? This came about during the pandemic, and it was a time where everything was shut down, and you use this time to start creating. A lot of people had nothing to do. So, what was that like to return to art? How did that kind of help you guide you through the pandemic? What was it giving you?


[00:08:58] NG: It basically saved my sanity, because I was not going to sit around this house with nothing to do. I mean, you could only walk the dogs so many times.


[00:09:07] PF: I don’t know. If you ask the dog, they’re going to say, “Yes, we can go again.”


[00:09:11] NG: So, I had always had on my bucket list that I wanted to do a children’s book. So, the first, I want to say six months of the pandemic, I just started making these drawings and wrote a little story, and got one of those out, and then did another one with a friend of mine. We’re self-published on amazon.com, and I just, I had to find some creative, productive way not to go insane with being locked down. It’s interesting because a lot of the artists in my communities that I’m with, the same thing happened. They picked their art up again during lockdown, because they were like –


[00:09:49] PF: Really?


[00:09:51] NG: Oh, yes. So many of us have a common story about that.


[00:09:55] PF: Talk to me about what creating art does for you, for your soul, and how it’s saved you, how it’s saved other people? What is it that it provides?


[00:10:06] NG: I guess just peace and joy, and you got to look in and say, “I got to put this thought down. But I’m going to try not to be so self-critical, and I’m just going to go with the flow and it’s almost meditative.” Kind of like when you play a guitar or something, and you’re just writing for yourself or just playing for yourself, when you’re drawing for yourself, and just creating for creation’s sake, it brings you peace, and joy. It’s very simple. I mean, it’s the reason all artists, create art, I think.


[00:10:46] PF: Right. Originally, when you started doing this, you were just doing it for yourself. You didn’t think you were really going to do anything with it, did you?


[00:10:53] NG: No, not really. Other than wanting to do the self-published children’s book, I mean, and I didn’t expect great sales on that or anything. It was just something I had always wanted to do, and then I suddenly had time to do it. Yes, no great ambitions. I just did it for me. I started posting a piece of art almost every day there before I really started building out my website again. I started getting some responses from people saying, “I was really feeling pretty cruddy today, and these little drawings, I look forward to when you’re going to do them, so please keep doing them.”


So, I put it on that platform, then I finally built out an Instagram account with my consistent lilmonsto handle. Then I went to Pinterest and started doing some things out there. I haven’t got a huge following by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s slowly growing. The thing that matters to me the most is, if it’s helping somebody. Because I’ve had people tell me, “I really, really, I’m struggling, my brother’s very sick. Would you send him a little something?” So, there’s one guy that was in the hospital, and I started putting cat drawings on his wall every day.


[00:12:08] PF: Oh, that’s great.


[00:12:10] NG: Yes, and we started – we even chatted on the phone, this man, and he passed away. His sister was like, “You made a difference in my brother’s life.” And I was like, “Oh, my gosh.” I so miss doing that, just going out there and flunking something on his wall, because he was a big cat fan. So, it’s social media, when you use it, I think in a good way, it can be a good thing. It can be a really good thing.


[00:12:36] PF: Yes, originally, it was meant to be a connector, and we’ve managed to turn it into a divider. But there are ways you really can use it to connect and to provide a sense of good into the world. Really, that’s what I see that you’re doing with it.


[00:12:53] NG: I’m trying.


[00:12:55] PF: It’s an uphill battle. I know that you had some other things, other avenues that you wanted to explore, to kind of give back and really help children. Can you talk about that, and some of the things that you’re wanting to do next with the Joanne Project?


[00:13:09] NG: I have a friend that works at Children’s Hospital here in Dallas, in information technology, and I thought it would drill through her, to try to get to the right person that can maybe connect me with parents that have a child that’s maybe down, not feeling well, because they’re in the hospital, and that I can maybe push a little project or two or three to some patients to cheer them up. I thought exploring children’s hospitals might be a really good avenue to consider.


[00:13:41] PF: That’s a great way to give back, because oh, my gosh, children’s hospitals are so – it’s so sad. There’s so much pain and uncertainty from the child, from the parents. I have a young child. She’s a young teenager now, that I know who has gone through like this four-year cancer battle. And watching not just what she went through, but what her parents went through with her, it just is an unbelievable, painful experience. I love the idea that you’re thinking of just delivering a little bit of light in a situation that is often bleak and uncertain.


Then, what would you hope the child receives? When you’ve got a sick child or a down child, just someone who needs lifted up in some way, what is your intention and your hope when they receive artwork?


[00:14:34] NG: Oh, man, just to make them happy for a minute. I have always loved kid art. So, just to see their creations and they’re just so imaginative and stuff, so it’s thrilling for me to take something and add to it. They’re great artists, these little ones. What if through this process, one of them decides, “Oh, I want to be an artist when I grew up.”


[00:14:56] PF: Exactly.


[00:14:58] NG: Wouldn’t that be great?


[00:14:59] PF: Yes, you could be opening doors. I know that you talked about you’d really like this to grow and be able to involve other artists, what would you really most love to see happen with Joanne Project? What is your number one goal?


[00:15:16] NG: I guess to continue in the vein of making people happy, and that’s what I love about what you do. Because, oh, Lord, this Live Happy, when I’m feeling down, when I’m feeling down a lot of times, I’ll just whip up one of your podcasts and it really helps. So, if I could just continue to make people bring them a little bit of joy, and then maybe grow the project so that it spreads, because we need to spread a lot of kindness and a lot of joy these days. There’s just –


[00:15:45] PF: There’s a shortage.


[00:15:46] NG: There’s a shortage of it. Everybody’s focusing, or there’s too much focus on bad stuff. I want the focus to be on good stuff, at least, for a little while.


[00:15:55] PF: Yes, I like it, and you’re bringing the good stuff. I think that’s fantastic. But I love what you’re doing. I think it’s innovative and it really, like you said, it’s not on a grand scale. You’re changing people one drawing at a time, and I think sometimes that’s the most meaningful way to do it. It’s just like that one on one, one person at a time. You are bringing some great good into the world, and I appreciate what you’re doing. I just wanted to share it with our listeners, and I appreciate you sitting down with me today and talking about it.


[00:16:23] NG: I appreciate the opportunity. I cannot tell you how thrilling it is for me to talk to you like this. It’s fun.




[00:16:33] PF: That was Nancy Giammarco, founder of the Joanne Project. If you’d like to learn more about Nancy, check out her website, follow her on social media, or register to win a drawing from her, visit us at livehappy.com and click on the podcast tab.


If you have a happy activist in your life that you’d like to tell us about, be sure to email us at editor@livehappy.com, and you might hear them on a future episode. That’s editor@livehappy.com. That is all we have time for today. We’ll meet you back here again next week for an all new episode. Until then, this is Paula Felps, reminding you to make every day a happy one.



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