Written by Rachel Leonard
Every summer, the Vans Warped Tour takes off across the country, bringing fan-favorite and up-and-coming musicians to fans everywhere. The festival also attracts vendors and non-profit organizations that aim to share their messages with teens in the scene. The Canvas Foundation has been traveling with Warped Tour for multiple summers sharing their message and working to provide funding for art programs in schools around the nation. ATB sat down with Lydia Tavera to talk about the Canvas Foundation, its goals for the summer, and how you can get involved.
How long have you been with the Canvas Foundation?
I started working with Canvas just this summer. Connor, my partner who’s out here with me, has been with them for five or six years. I think they’ve been on Warped Tour for ten years or so. The majority of what Canvas does is with Warped Tour and sometimes they’ll do High School Nation or other events.
Can you explain your mission and what exactly the Canvas Foundation does?
The Canvas Foundation is a non-profit that helps fund art programs in schools that have lost funding. Through donations, we’re able to give back to these schools that have lost funding. We go through and see what each school needs. Kids can submit their schools for funding, too, which is really cool. We also have shirts that we sell and all of the shirts have designs on them that have been submitted by student artists, which is great. Mainly we want people to have a good time and we want people to realize that art is so important and keeping it alive is what really matters.
What differentiates the Canvas Foundation from other organizations?
On Warped Tour at least, a lot of the organizations are about suicide prevention or anti-depression or animal activism. We’re really the only ones out here at least this summer that are really pushing to keep art in schools. Art is our main thing. I know there are other organizations that are doing similar things, but there’s not a lot of them that are well known, and if there was a bigger one we could get a lot more done. Also, just given the current political climate, a lot of funding is being cut for art and people aren’t talking about it, so we’re trying to make people discuss it. We’re trying to get the message out there more than anything.
What is an average day like for you?
We wake up and go to load in. Something I didn’t realize before going on Warped was that the trucks parked in the middle of the field is where everyone’s stuff is, so you have to wait there in the morning with your dolly, haul everything in, wait to get placed, take it to your site, set up, and then we’re out there from the minute doors open to around 6:30 or 7:30 selling paint and calling people in. We’ve been trying to do a lot more work with bands, too. I just kind of wave at them until they come over and then we talk to them about what we’re doing and see if they want to get involved. We’re going to start doing a lot of canvases that the bands will paint. We have Movements doing one. I think The Gospel Youth is going to hop in. We’re trying to get Atilla. We’re going to have them sign the canvases and then we’re going to sell them at the tent. It’s a lot of “Here’s what we’re doing. You should come and help us.” It’s also really fun seeing the kind of people that want to paint themselves because you never know who it is.
What can people expect from your booth this summer?
Stained clothes, but in the most fun way possible. I’m going to be out there doing a lot of the social media stuff, so I’m taking a lot of pictures. I’m going to be doing weekly roundups where any pictures I take get posted on Facebook. Instagram will be going all summer. It’s a lot of fun. It’s crazy and it’s madness, especially if you get unlimited paint because you can come back all day. You’ll get free shade and unconditional love. We’re just out here trying to get kids involved and it’s a lot of fun. You can expect to leave covered in paint and really happy. You’ll probably see some band members stop by because we’re trying to make that a thing, but who knows? Also, bring $20 and buy a t-shirt. It comes with a free bag, a wristband or sunglasses, and unlimited paint all day.
Will you be working with any bands during the summer?
Yeah! Movements today lent us their drills so we could build new canvases. A member of The Gospel Youth is coming to the tent in a bit to build a new canvas with us. We’re pretty close with Carousel Kings right now. We’re trying to get Atilla in on something. It’s crazy! It’s like a big family out here, and the more bands we can get involved the better. A lot of people we talk toare really excited about it, so it’s just a matter of meeting people. But special shout out to Movements. Patrick [from Movements] came up to the tent and was talking to me for half an hour about art, his experiences in high school, and about how his programs got cut, so they have been nothing but helpful. They’ve lent us their tools. They’re absolutely amazing. It’s really awesome being out here. A lot of people on this tour are just like, “Ugh. Their paint stains our stuff.” But at the same time they love what we’re doing, so it works.
What are your biggest goals for the summer?
For Canvas, we really just want to raise as much money as possible. I’m working very hard not to rebrand Canvas because it’s goals are already very specific. We know what we’re doing. We know who we are. We’re keeping art alive and we’re all going to have fun doing it together. For me, I just want to make sure people know who we are. When someone walks up to the To Write Love on Her Arms tent, they don’t ask what’s going on. They know what’s going on. They’ll buy a shirt and be stoked about it. I want Canvas to be that but for art, so I’m trying to really build our social media following. I’m trying to keep content flowing and really engage people, more so in a “This is what we’re doing” way and not just a “Hey! Get some paint!” way. So far, it’s been awesome. We’ve had a lot of people come up and say “Oh, I work at a school” or “My school lost funding” and it’s really important for me to communicate with these people and have those talks. I know it’s easier if you’re [an organization] like Can You Hear Me?. With them, you can sit down and have a conversation about “This happened to me and this is why I feel this way.” For Canvas, it’s a little more interesting because you can say “How did art affect your life?” You really have to spark these conversations and I think that’s what’s going to make us memorable and that’s what’s going to make us stand out.
Personally, I want to watch a full Neck Deep set. I have yet to do that. I’m really trying to make friends with as many people as I can on this tour because so many of us are doing such amazing things. It’s like Yeah, we’re not the lead singer of this band, but they’re working to save the oceans or he sets up this entire stage every day and it’s awesome. The coolest people in the world are out here and I’m so blessed to be a part of it. This is my first summer out here and I just want to make the most of it. It’s exhausting and messy and dirty. We have a shower on our bus, thank God, but I just want to have the best summer of my life. I’m out here with my best friend, too, and he makes it very easy.
What are some of the biggest obstacles you encounter while on the road?
Trying to fit everything in your bunk is a lot harder than you’d think it would be. Luckily, I have the coolest bus mates in the world. I think it’s just learning how to adjust to this new lifestyle. Being the new person on tour is kind of difficult because you have to work your ass off to prove yourself. It is incredible what you can lift when someone asks you if you need help. Like, I could not lift an easy-up tent by myself unless someone was like “Do you need help?” and it’s like “No. I can do this. I’m here.” Proving yourself is a big thing. You have work your ass off to get here and you have to work your ass off to stay. As Canvas, I think our biggest obstacle is just making people stop and listen to what we’re about. The second you say it’s donation based they kind of leave, but once you explain what it’s for, people get excited and they get so happy about it. I think it’s also hard trying to avoid stains on our clothes and trying to avoid stains on other people’s tents so they don’t hate us.
How do you attract people to your tent?
Sometimes it’s like “Hey! Want some body paint?” I’ll just wave at people until they come over. That’s how I’ve been getting a lot of the bands to come interact with us. Our volunteers are such a big part of it, too. We’re also giving out free bags all summer if you follow us on Instagram. A lot of it is just bothering people until they come over and if every two out of ten people you ask comes in then you’re still having a good day.
You guys are doing a screen printing class with The Entertainment Institute this summer. What is that like and how did it come about?
My boss Austin Phillips and Chad Long, who runs Choonimals, run a screen printing company called Tour Print in Portland, so this summer they partnered with TEI to do a screen printing class. They’ll screen print things in front of you, too. There’s bandanas, hats, and shirts. It’s really cool because we have this entire collective out here with Canvas, Choonimals, and TEI/Tour Print. We’re all out here busting ass together. Today I went and covered for the Choonimals tent. We’ll go help Chad and we’ll break down together. It’s just really awesome having a collective that stretches across so many things.
What made you want to get involved with The Canvas Foundation?
It’s an awesome message. Like I said, there’s a lot of similar organizations going on at Warped, which is cool, but for me art is so important. I interned with a non-profit dance company last semester doing photography and stuff. Watching the way non-profits organize themselves and start doing things and get their mission across is so incredible. I kind of knew that was the route I wanted to take. It’s a lot of hard work, but Canvas is so busy and so fun. It’s maybe one of the hardest tents to run all summer because people don’t want to give you money to paint. It’s also really difficult if it’s just you setting up. We have fifteen huge boxes, two dollies, three tents. It’s crazy. But at the end of the day you can sit down in your paint-stained clothes and just think that you had the coolest day in the world and it’s awesome. I love my job. I’m also working with my best friend in the world, Connor Amsden. He is the absolute best and I could not be on this tour without him.
What kind of things do you do during the rest of the year?
Canvas does different pop up events. We do a lot of stuff in Portland because that’s where we’re based. We did Chain Fest down in Santa Ana last year. I know we’re thinking about setting up at some other festivals. If anyone has any festivals they’d like us to get involved in, please let us know. Personally, I go to school at Northeastern [University] in Boston. I absolutely love it. I study Music Industry. I’m there during the week and on weekends I travel a lot and do merch at different festivals, which is absolutely amazing.
How can people get involved with you during the summer and throughout the rest of the year?
We actually have volunteers every date of Warped Tour. Spots may or may not be filled for upcoming dates this year, but we still have openings for a lot of them. You can send us an email or we have a link up on Facebook. You can also get involved throughout the year if you send us an email. Austin, the CEO of Canvas, organizes everything and we take volunteers from everywhere.