IT BEGAN WITH QUESTIONS
Can the simple act of spontaneously participating on a community collaborative canvas galvanize a domino effect of positive change, an increase of collective creative confidence? Do we really have an accurate understanding of communities or are we getting a biased perception from those in power positions? Does an emphasis on creating an intended social impact in fact undermine or ignore the creative process that drives impact inherently? If this is the case, then we must instead place emphasis on activities that nudge community members towards embracing their individual power of agency, while allowing us accurate insight into community needs.
AND CONTINUED WITH PROVEN VALUE
The intrinsic value of creative expression is neither well-understood or studied enough. It is imperative for activities to exist that create evidence of real community needs (related & unrelated to creativity) to generate momentum and interest, appropriately allocate funding, and inform decision-making. Michelangelo said:
“A man paints with his brains and not with his hands.”
There is proven value in what we can learn as a society from facilitating artistic experiences on a collective level. Paint the World has the core (now-evidenced) belief that a blank canvas has the power to unlock dormant creativity, can tap into a community’s collective consciousness, enhance innovative problem-solving skills and provide a unique vantage point into the heart of the world. Facilitating low-stake, inhibition-lifting, accessible artistic experiences in communities that lack access to arts programming/funding is vital in the fight towards equality and justice for all. These creative practices directly impact critical thinking ability, which feeds into how we solve problems and envision innovative ideas into reality. Our current system is designed to instill conformity and linear, non-creative thinking. The removal or reduction of creative programs available is detrimental to a community’s ability to prosper. Another serious issue that we are solving for is the fact that in many small communities across the United States, elected officials do not accurately embody/represent the citizens they serve (sometimes it’s intentional, sometimes it’s a lack of awareness). Therefore, true community needs, values, and relevant stories often remain hidden to decision-makers.
ENTER PAINT THE WORLD
Paint the World (PTW) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring creative expression in individuals, organizations, and communities by providing collaborative artistic experiences that enable participants to spontaneously engage their creative minds. We do this by facilitating blank canvas installations that encourage walk-by collaborative art that is cohesive, symbolic, and always tells a story.
The organization is aimed at strategically working to build the creative capacity of and understanding between communities around the world because we strongly believe that creative confidence empowers social progress.
Our programs have two primary objectives:
1. To increase creative confidence and collaborative problem solving capacity of the collective
2. To provide a visual window of understanding into the community of participants.
We work with local centers, establishments, schools, hospitals, etc, to strategically locate blank canvas set ups (with art supplies) in community spaces. The blank canvas installation is purposefully secured without attached directions and attracts participants of all ages and demographics; the majority of participants have never painted before, and usually initially perceive their contribution as an experiment, but ultimately experience a significant increase in creative confidence. The resulting collaborative paintings are analyzed by a committee of Jungian analysts and local community advisors. We utilize the insight collected from the paintings to formulate a better understanding of the communities that spontaneously gathered to create them. Finished collaborative paintings are then auctioned at community story-telling events and funds raised support a continuous cycle of blank canvas installations within the same community.
THE UNIQUENESS OF PAINT THE WORLD
Paint the World does not fall neatly underneath the category of an arts program or arts installation; it is both. It’s mission is ambitious, but if impact from it’s simple core activity (securing blank canvases / art supplies in underserved communities) is properly expanded by it’s peripheral activities (Jungian art analysis and programming), the potential systems-change is significant. There are initiatives focusing on ways communities benefit from participating in arts activities, but none focusing directly on using the resulting collaborative art from these activities to inform high-level critical decision-making. Our core activity is simple, but it is intentionally designed to be raw and unstructured, creating the space for a community’s accurate state of being to be elegantly uncovered. There are academic papers describing how street-art can help us understand that community’s trajectory and, therefore, respond more accurately to a community’s needs, more productively collaborating to solve critical challenges. When a blank canvas is secured in a central location, and passerbyers contribute (from all walks, mostly people who have never held a paint brush in their lives!), creating a cohesive collaborative work (usually if a canvas is left for ~8-24 hours, there are ~50-100 participants), symbols begin to appear that are academically proven to be incredibly indicative of that community’s state of being (including needs, wants, etc). This particular cross-disciplinary approach is not only unique to any arts-based organization, but - if executed successfully - will critically change the way impact from the arts sector is perceived, creating urgency around investing in the arts.
MEASURING OUR IMPACT
Projects within the arts arena are largely underfunded because, often the impact is more visible in the longer term. Also, it is ultimately within the nuance that the impact begins to materialize, which makes potential measurables difficult to define in the tangible. We intend to change this, as we understand the immense importance of identifying tangible indicators within the sector. We use something called a “Log Frame” to measure the impact we are making within each of the 11 problem spaces we have identified. For each problem space, we have an outcome theme, an outcome statement, a description of how we address the issue, and possible indicators of success. Indicator examples include # of partnerships (incl. who initiated), # of canvases sent to schools/hospitals/prisons, # of images sent back, which symbols and colors were more prevalent on each community’s canvas (there are many other additional indicators that the team of Jungian and local analysts use to analyze the collaborative paintings including indicators of character and resiliency). We focus on outputs that are not only indicators of the volume of participation, but rather an emphasis on understanding the character (resiliency/strength levels, creative capacity levels, etc) of the collectives that participate.
If Paint the World is successful, we will live in a world where every individual in underserved communities feels free to express themselves creatively and embraces their own power of agency to inspire and enact positive change in their communities. Public spaces that spontaneously incite creative thinking would be common; the world would be sprinkled with blank canvases and we will have re-prioritized the intrinsic value of creativity. It’s a world where decision-makers would look beyond the wealthiest members of a community to understand community needs and desires, and they seek to utilize the community’s collaborative creations to drive important community decisions. This is a world wherein we have cultivated a new channel of understanding communities through the language of art, exposing and accepting true, unfiltered community narratives; wherein governing bodies would see the immense value in creative communities to influence a community’s economic and holistic prosperity.