Joel has been traveling to the land of samba and futebol since 2005 to organize arts-based social action projects in collaboration with local institutions and community groups, immersing himself in the language and culture of this beautiful but complex nation. He leads an ongoing youth arts initiative in Rio de Janeiro’s Cidade de Deus (City of God) community, organized a project with homeless youth called Street Art with Street Kids, and has spent time in Salvador, Brasilia and São Paulo, where he collaborated with local graffiti artists and participated in their community projects in economically marginalized neighborhoods.
Ignored by society and considered nothing more than thieves and drug addicts, street children and teens are a common sight in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Through street poetry and painting, the Street Art With Street Kids project aims to give these youth the opportunity to express their thoughts, dreams, and their humanity to their fellow citizens, defying the stereotypes against them. In late 2011 Joel organized a series of 8 workshops with street youth as well as teens from nearby favelas (slums) in Rio’s northern zone, where the project took place. They wrote poetry relating to their lives, expressed themselves through drawing and painting, and had discussions about a variety of social topics, culminating in the creation of 3 works of public art. Joel partnered with 2 local poets and the organization São Martinho. This was a pilot project, intended to lead to a much larger project in size and scope, including a full length documentary that will explore the world of street children in Rio as they work with Joel and local musicians, poets, artists, actors and filmmakers.
The City of God– Cidade de Deus– is a poor community on Rio de Janeiro’s west side that was made famous around the world for crime, extreme violence and poverty by the 2002 hit film by the same name. Having returned repeatedly since 2008 to live and work in this community, Joel says he has experienced much more of the positive side than the negative: the warmth of the people, the vibrant culture and the dedication of local institutions in the face of decades of neglect by the State. Joel partners with a local Anglican church and the community youth organization ASVI to lead workshops exploring a variety of social topics relevant to the community and create a series of public murals. The artwork has told the story of the City of God from the residents’ perspective and has combined familiar biblical stories with imagery of local people and history. Special thanks to Padre Nicholas and everyone at ASVI!