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Marketing The Cause ~

The qualities of leadership that are needed to guide change are often the same of a highly involved parent. The kind who knows the friends and parents of all their kids and whether or not homework was assigned over the holiday. The ones who know the slang and aren’t afraid to drop it in opportune times when questioning how did you get that paint? Did you “rack it?” The looks and reactions tell the whole story.

The world that our “kids” live in is colorful, dynamic, active and absolutely normal, while often colliding with dysfunction and horrible parenting. It’s a wonder that they are speaking the same language as other children when they say the wrong word but mean the same thing as the kids educated across town. What’s surprising is to see how similar all of these kids are but they are seen so “not the same” to the outside world. The world where they are not kids, but they are vandals.

As a helicopter parent to vandals, it’s impossible to see the whole picture as we myopically look for ways to keep them elevated and in school and off the streets and in action and educated and motivated. Our nose down, creating events for them to paint at because we know they need to be making art to change their lives. As parents we get our moments of “shock and surprise” good and bad when they declare they will be going to college, or by the way or when someone, not them, but someone “else” tags the building down the street.

It’s then that we can feel the same as the outside world but still on the inside of this world because we know who did the vandalism, we know how to get to them but there’s this force out there to be reconned with and it’s ours to address.

Superhero team shot

It’s the other parents. It’s the administration who sees the bad. It’s our friends who say, “I love what you are doing, don’t get me wrong, but they will never paint my back wall” as though that’s a placation for some truth called – “I don’t love what you are doing. Frankly, I don’t get it at all.” Or worse, it’s the cohort to change you thought understood but instead said, “that whole getting them to paint because it’s keeping them off the street with “graffiti-free” time, I’m not buying it. Don’t care. I hate graffiti and want it painted over immediately.”

They are the barriers to change that we have to manage. We have to find a way to market our cause to them. What will turn their “not on my block” mindset which belies their “trust” in my art direction or my wisdom as a change agent.

And frankly, it’s personal. When did I get so entrenched as a helicopter parent to not see the weather change against me? Why do they see me as someone to not invest in?

There is a distinct difference between those who understand what charity really looks like and those who do not. The Homeboy’s of the community get it. The continuation high school teachers do too. The spiritual god-like patrons of giving know. Endowments and charitable acts work. They save people’s lives and they change others.

But how do we make what we are doing understandable and an automatic open door for those other parents? The ones with fancy contacts or friend lists LA deep? Do we flip the script and say, “We believe that vandals deserve what they get so buff that wall and report it to the police?” Hoping to get their likeminded attention or do we parade our prize fighting artists around their street intimidating their sense of “it’s not our kids doing it” so they can get to know the culprits and feel a connection to them?

Every artist, every movement, every “ism” for history is caused by people who must do what they do, breaking traditions and rules to say something to us. Whether it’s rock n roll or impressionism or the renaissance – these forms of expression and time periods of change were caused by disruption and cognative dissonance to the patterns of the day. They didn’t conform to neighborhood councils or advertising. They became undeniable.

But how do we shove that in your face and have it feel good? How do we alter how you hear it so you know that permanent walls are a solution to reduce graffiti. How do you support that art education should be funded just like sports. What’s the catch phrase that makes you want to do it too?

We believe that when paid attention to and taken seriously, each artist will change the course of our future by being exactly who they are meant to be. But how do we say it?  What would cause you to stop and say yes to us?

“We foster a future of arts education, action and change” Is that more to the point? Should we change the name “Off The Wall Arts and Crafts” Would you like trust it better? What if we said we support a future of accountability and self-expression in otherwise marginalized artists?

Why isn’t “making art and changing lives” enough?