Norman Rockwell: One of the most respected artists of the 20th century, known for the strikingly accurate portrayal of mid-1900s American culture in his work. He's most famous for his interpretation of Rosie The Riveter, and several pieces that covered publications during WWII.
Street Art: A lot of people still consider it vandalism -- and by law, it usually is -- but street art has been gaining recognition as a legitimate art form over the past decade or so. It's characterized by visual designs and paintings in public places outside of the context of traditional venues.
So, what is art you'd normally find in a museum doing sharing a space with graffiti that you might see on the side of a building?
According to the Worcester Telegram, it started when the Emeritus Assisted Living group renovated 200 units at their Auburn campus earlier in the year. When the project was completed, a couple hundred framed prints, many by well-known artists including Rockwell, were replaced. Not wanting to simply dispose of them, Emeritus's headquarters in Seattle solicited requests for the prints, YouthBuild New Bedford responded, and was chosen by the organization to receive the art.
At this point, Emeritus could have easily sent a truck to YouthBuild New Bedford filled with art, dumped the prints on their doorstep and said, "Here you are, you're welcome. Take care of these."
But they didn't.
Instead, they organized a lunch and ice cream social, and invited YouthBuilders to spend the day with the seniors at their Auburn location. As if that wasn't enough, they sent a bus to transport students to and from the facility, telling them they could take back as many of the prints as they could fit on the bus. So they graciously took advantage of the offer. Four students and three staff members made the trip to Auburn, sharing lunch, ice cream, and conversation with Emeritus residents that week, and returned with a bus-full of new decorations for their building.
And the donations didn't stop there.
Around the same time students traveled to Auburn, staff at YouthBuild New Bedford coordinated with another local youth program called "Third Eye Unlimited". 3rd Eye's goal: "To unite young people, utilizing Hip Hop, a common cultural art form and voice for the people, to engage and empower youth to positively change themselves and their community." That last part looks familiar, doesn't it? Like it was taken right out of the YouthBuild mission statement. With goals so similar, and offices so close to each other, it would only make sense that these two groups work together, right?
That's why when Third Eye Unlimited approached YouthBuild New Bedford several years ago and asked them to build frames for the murals painted during the street art competition at their Hip Hop festival, they were happy to collaborate. After this year's competition, 3rd Eye donated a mural by a group of street artists known as DBM to YouthBuild New Bedford. With a little sweat, construction know-how, and some creativity, staff and students at the South Shore site were able to use it to completely remodel their meeting room. Only in YouthBuild will you find people with the imagination to see this and the skills to build it.
The mural and prints will go a long way toward improving the atmosphere of the old St. Mary's orphanage, YouthBuild New Bedford's home since January of this year. It was a home that nine months ago had boarded up windows and bare walls, and was in desperate need of redecoration.
Of course, the new decor does seem strange at first -- a combination of prints by famous artists and street art by a local group. But think about it; the program they're decorating takes in youth from all walks of life, from different backgrounds and families, with various interests and goals and tastes. So if YouthBuild programs embrace diversity and encourage expression in their students, why shouldn't their classrooms reflect that?
YouthBuild New Bedford's do. So do the spaces of many other Mass. YouthBuild programs. Do yours?