Let’s celebrate our May Volunteer of the Month, Reina Takahashi

It’s hard to walk down Valencia Street without peeking at the beautiful window displays at our Pirate Supply Store. But did you know that those are all created by volunteer artists who generously lend their time and talents to help 826? Same goes for the eye-catching covers of our publications giving our young authors the beautiful vehicles that their voices deserve. This month, we are thrilled to recognize Reina Takahashi, a volunteer designer, window-display curator, and magician-extraordinaire of all things paper, as our May Volunteer of the Month! When Meghan Ryan and Brad Amorosino, our innovative Design team, nominated Reina, they outlined the commitment and creativity that she brings as a volunteer: “Whether she’s creating a large treasure map with erupting volcanoes, a delicate string of presents, or a huge fifteenth-anniversary paper cake, her work exudes the whimsical spirit of 826.”

Reina TakahashiMeghan went on to sing the praises of Reina’s recent work saying that “This month we were fortunate to work with Reina on a publishing project, bringing her multi-dimensional work to the cover of our latest Young Authors’ Book Project publication, The Battle Within: Stories of struggle and strength by the students of Ida B. Wells High School. Through her thoughtful approach, she crafted a unique cover for our publication that invokes the spirit of struggle and growth that our students wrote about. We are so excited about this book cover, our first foray into paper art illustration for publications!”

Check out our interview with Reina to learn more about this amazing volunteer artist.

What is one of your favorite moments (memories, experiences, or anecdotes!) from volunteering with 826 Valencia?

Before working on the 826’s window display in 2014, I had never done a window installation, let alone had any of my work out in public. It was my biggest project to date, and I was terrified. Caroline (826’s Stores Manager) had a lot of trust in me to make it happen, and that translated into having tons of fun in creating the treasure map display. In fact, that display was a huge team effort, as I called on a lot of my friends to help out. I came home one day to find my roommates all gathered around the dining table, building dozens of paper trees, and other friends took it upon themselves to pick up pizzas for those of us installing it. I love all projects I’ve worked on since then, but that window still remains my favorite because it was my first large-scale project and because it brought such a supportive community together. In broader terms, it’s the project I credit with jump-starting my career in paper art.

But I couldn’t pick just one favorite moment! Working on the book cover for the Young Authors’ Book Project was a different kind of rewarding. I have a Graphic Design background, and creating a book cover has been a goal since I was in Design school. It was exciting for me, to be able to combine my love of design with my now full-time job of making art out of paper. There’s something so amazing about seeing your work in print—I can’t wait to see the outcome!

What led you to become part of our volunteer community?

I had initially looked into volunteering in the after-school programs, and in the process, I discovered and filled out a creative volunteer application. I checked off “window display” as a potential area to support, thinking that I could help the Pirate Supply Store’s staff with installing a window display. A few weeks later, I received an email from Caroline, asking if I could design and create the entire window. I was floored.

What would we find you doing when not volunteering at 826?

My full-time gig is creating artwork and illustration out of paper. So I spend a lot of time with paper and blades! I also zoom around (slowly, on the easiest gear) on my old, red Schwinn bike around San Francisco.

Do you prefer pirates or pufferfishes, and why?

Pirates! So wily and sneaky yet snoozy and lazy (at least, those are the pirate stories I tell myself).

What is a piece of advice you would give a new 826 creative volunteer?

For volunteers creating a window display: dive in head first! Take full advantage of the creative freedom you receive from the team to get imaginative and whimsical.

We’re so pleased to honor Reina with our Volunteer of the Month award. Meghan speaks for all of us when saying: “As if her amazing work wasn’t enough, Reina is always such a delight to work with, approaching each project with enthusiasm, professionalism, and dedication. And she ‘gets’ us by using her unique craft to capture the 826’s spirit on paper, in paper, with paper.” Thank you, Reina, for helping our student voices not only be amplified but also visualized!

Read more about our previous Volunteers of the Month.

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