In our current era of division, our communities are in dire need of creative, unifying activities that celebrate our collective humanity and explore the issues affecting us with nuance and tolerance. I’ve had the opportunity to live and work in many communities across this vast nation, and I always find myself surprised and inspired by the people I meet and paint with along the way, from street artists to small children, inmates in correctional facilities to asylum seekers, all with a story to tell and hungry to envision a better future for themselves and their families.
In the East Village of New York City, teens who had recently fled from violence in Central America created the world’s first first youth-led Augmented Reality mural, as well as an inspired public performance. Women in prison in Maryland explored healthy eating and healthy living through public art. In a small town in California’s Central Valley, an immigrant community created murals that took a stand against hatred and xenophobia, expressing their strength, resilience and culture. And in public housing in Harlem, residents of all ages came together to create massive ground murals that encouraged peace and respect in their community.
From these and many other projects, I’ve explored how best to provide the creative structure in which participants can feel free to express their visions, their stories, and even create their own fantastical characters and creatures, all manifestations of the innate creativity that we all have. Out of dozens – even hundreds– of small works of art, one cohesive work is created, a poignant symbol for the way in which we can each express our individual spirits while simultaneously working in harmony with those around us.
Thanks to all partners who made these projects possible: Artolution, Paul Hastings Law Firm, University of California Merced, Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), Mayor’s Office of New York City, NYC Department of Transportation, and many more.