“There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.”
It was such a lovely afternoon last Sunday that we rode our bikes downtown and stopped to see the “coloring books” in front of the Zappos Campus at the corner of Las Vegas Blvd. and Stewart Avenue. We met three of the student artists and got to chat with them a bit as they finished up their painting for the day.
These students are participating in the Painting Cities to Life 2019 project sponsored by Zappos, with the paint supplies provided by Dunn Edwards. They paint after school and on weekends. One student each month will qualify as a finalist and receive two tickets for Life is Beautiful 2019 and will be invited to paint live during the festival to compete for the title of “Best Downtown Student Artist”. Enthusiastic and happy to be painting, each student told me a snippet of their story. Art is all about conversation and connection.
Berenice, working on a piece inspired by Roy Lichenstein and Andy Warhol, is the first artist in her family. Her siblings are in the military. She told me she’s pleased her mom is proud of her painting. We talked about how painting is therapeutic for her; it’s a time for her to focus completely on her work and forget the troubles of the day. I shared with her information about the upcoming Artful Yoga class at the new Downtown Yoga and Wellness Co-op in which participants will “paint” a piece using their bodies and paint upon a canvas laid out on their yoga mat as they practice a meditational movement. She was very excited about the concept.
Airius, whose piece was boasting bold primary colors, will be working to create a “Pop Art” feel on the face sketched out on her canvas, but with a realistic hand reaching out from the painting. She has her own clothing line with a name derived from “altruism”. She wants to help people – her ultimate goal is to become a doctor.
Genesis, who started her art path with ceramics, told me she’s enjoying painting with the project. Extremely detailed with her own makeup, she took great care with the eyelashes of the face she was painting. It was such a pleasure to interact with these young people about the project; it was clear they are all very grateful for the opportunity to paint in such a big way and in a public space. Not only does this event allow them to express themselves with color and design, it helps propel them forward with their social skills, i.e. talking to the public as they paint.
Painting Cities to Life 2019 is just one of many art projects spearheaded by the Guerrilla Artz Foundation. The foundation was formed in 2015 by Ruzo Logic, a resident of Las Vegas for the last 25 years, and Kim Johnson, a Las Vegas native who earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Studio Art from UNLV. Ruzo and Kim created the concept for Guerilla Artz, and have done numerous projects over the past four years bringing art to our community. A “coloring book” is a tri-sided canvas structure, measuring 6′ x 8′ made of recycled materials salvaged from pallets used to ship solar reflectors to Nevada. It is a way to bring artists local attention and for art to exist anywhere, without expense to the public or business owners. The coloring books, whose official moniker is “Guerrilla Kages”, are set up at various locations throughout the city, and depending upon the event, emerging artists are allowed to create their own ideas; or at other times, the public might be invited to participate as painters. The concept allows the public to experience the art being created, combining art and community. Partnering with Zappos, the County, Downtown Projects and other local groups allows Guerrilla Artz to bring art in the form of Kages to locations around Las Vegas, including the community recreation centers for children to paint. By year’s end, Guerrilla Artz will have brought coloring books to all the Las Vegas recreation centers.
Kim put it this way: “There’s so much to say about all the things that happen here, but mostly it’s just life sharing life. I am a better person because of them. This is the dream life.”