Has Heart: a veterans non-profit and its inspiring journey
Here at Alpha Industries, we’re committed to giving back to the veteran and military community in any way we can. Our charity of choice for this winter season is [HAS HEART], a nonprofit organization based in Michigan that unites veterans and artists to create unique designs that tell stories of heroism and bravery. Each of the 50 States: Veterans + Artists United designs are produced in limited quantities (Made in USA) with 25% of proceeds directly benefiting each Veteran and their family.
Founded in 2011 by US Navy veteran Michael Hyacinthe and designer Tyler Way, [HAS HEART] began with the idea that art has the power to bring people together and tell meaningful stories. After first meeting Tyler through a mutual contact, Michael helped him team up with a local US Marine veteran to create a T-shirt design based on the veteran’s story and lessons learned. After only a few days of diligent collaboration and research, the T-shirt was designed, printed, and sold, and its proceeds were used to help build the veteran’s handicap-accessible home. This project marked the launch of the HERO[series], an ongoing venture that has since helped pair talented designers with veterans around the country.
The HERO[series] has spent the past six years fulfilling the [HAS HEART] mission of bridging the gap between the veteran and artist communities by fostering meaningful collaborations. Using Tyler’s first project as a guide, [HAS HEART] pairs each artist with a veteran and facilitates an in-depth process through which the artist gets acquainted with the veteran and their story and, together, they spend two days creating a design that truly reflects the veteran’s life, values, and heroism. The design is then transferred onto a variety of American-made consumer goods, such as T-shirts, patches, shoes, and framed art. Every year, [HAS HEART] would then unveil a collection of brand new designs to be featured as an exhibit at ArtPrize, the annual art competition and festival in Grand Rapids, Michigan that originally inspired Michael to harness the power of art to tell stories.
Over the years, the project has grown to include regional artistic talent as well as top-selling artists from across the country, paired up with veterans brought and flown in from various locations. In 2015, [HAS HEART] established an ongoing partnership with AIGA, the oldest and largest professional design organization in the country. This enabled them to expand the HERO[series] to Detroit for the first time, successfully completing five projects and even opening a pop-up shop in downtown Detroit that holiday season.
As the scope of the projects grew, so did [HAS HEART]’s partnerships with other organizations, businesses, and brands. Alpha Industries, as a passionate supporter of charities and organizations benefiting the veteran community, signed on to work with [HAS HEART] on its most ambitious venture yet: an 18-month traveling art project that will take the series across the country, partnering one veteran and one artist in each state. The “50 States: Artists + Veterans United” campaign started in July 2017 in Burlington, Vermont; since then, Tyler Way and communications director Kendra Clapp have traveled over 35,000 miles to cities in 31 states, documenting the journey and projects in detail along the way.
As a result of their partnership, Alpha now exclusively distributes a limited number of over 40 products, a collection of both patches and T-shirts that feature designs from the “50 States” campaign as well as several [HAS HEART] branded items. Alpha also promotes the stories behind some of the designs on its site, including “Chase,” a collaboration between US Navy veteran Bob Williams and graphic designer Andrew Barton in South Carolina that was created to capture Bob’s daring and adventurous personality. In Virginia, Alpha Industries designer Stan Lee worked with US Army vet Steven Dean to create “Two Tales,” a design that illustrates Steven’s inner struggle to reconcile and connect his identity overseas with his life at home. A portion of the proceeds from any [HAS HEART] collection item go back to the veteran who helped with the design.
The theme for this holiday season is Operation Give Joy, which encapsulates Alpha’s dedication to helping [HAS HEART] spread its mission to veterans, artists, and civilians nationwide. As the organization pushes on in its endeavor, Alpha will continue to provide its committed partnership and support. The “50 States” project, which is scheduled to run through May 2019, has been made possible through the support of multiple companies, foundations, and associations; any individual or group who wishes to make a contribution can view the “50 States” tour schedule and find the best way to donate, raise funds, or sponsor.
Written by: Aiya Madarang