~The South Florida Mural is Complete~



TADA! The proud participants of the S. Florida mural project.



Progress of our mural from start to finish…




Making progress...

Making progress…



The finished product.


After seven days of painting after school, the underwater mural at Palm Springs Middle School is complete! This was a group effort which started with the nine students selected to paint the mural but in the end, involved much more of the school. Students from Ms. Rubin’s communications and morning announcements class documented the progress of the mural with photo and video, other students interviewed us as we worked and composed a story for the school’s on-line newsletter and a couple of the teachers even helped to paint (thanks Ms. Romeo and Ms. Rubin!).
Many other students comprised the enthusiastic audience, an key role in the success of public art. Their reactions confirmed that the experience of each person who passes through the school will be permanently enhanced and uplifted by the illustrative addition.


Video by the media students:


Stingrays online newspaper, featuring The Mural Project:



Cheers! to the finale of our work and week together.

Cheers! to the finale of our work and week together.


On our final day together, we had a pizza party to celebrate and enjoy the painting. Each student signed their name in their own unique way to the left of the mural.


Signing the wall.


View from the school entrance.

View from the school entrance.

~ Palm Springs Middle School ~ Meet the Rays ~


The Mural Artists of Palm Spring Middle School

The Mural Artists of Palm Spring Middle School


The Mural Project’s USA tour has flown South for the winter. We had a warm and wonderful opportunity to work in the tropics on an underwater fantasy scene at Palm Springs Middle School in W. Palm Beach, Florida.
Initially, thirty students were selected by their teachers, based on merit, interest and participation in class and given an invitation to participate in The Mural Project. The final group of nine painters who responded and committed to the project, stayed after school everyday for a week to make the 7′x10′ mural on a wall at the entrance of their school.


The plans

The plans


The first day, we got to know each other, discussed the mural design and determined the course of the project. We decided on an oceanic theme due to the climate and culture of South Florida but mostly because (sting) ‘Rays’  are the school mascot at Palm Springs Middle and many of the students thought they should be incorporated into the design.





Gabriela on sea grass detail

Gabriela on sea grass detail


We got to painting straight away. In groups of two or three the students began to fill in the wall, starting with big blocks of color for the ocean water and whales, eventually working up to tiny details of fish scales and bubbles on the surface.


Kadesha mixes color for fish

Kadesha mixes color for fish



Our painting post

Our painting post


Our workspace was a tall vertical wall of the 6th grade building and main office, badly beaten by scuff marks and old patches of paint. It is the first sight you see as you come in the main entrance of the school. We situated ourselves at the bottom of the stairs and set up a paint station slightly to the side so it would not get trampled by the herds of kids, racing to beat the bell to their next class.


Kadesha mixes color for fish





It was the first time any of the students had worked on such a large scale, where the graces of instant gratifications are not. It can be challenging to imagine the timeless strokes of blue will ever amount to anything but each day, as more of the painting came to life, their excitement for the creation grew. Positive reactions and words of encouragement from students and faculty passing between classes kept them motivated as well. Especially when 8th graders (elders in the middle school hierarchy) would stop in their tracks to admire the work we were doing, saying, ”hey, that’s pretty awesome.”


A sneak peek at the finished piece!

A sneak peek at the finished piece!

The Santa Barbara Project

The Pomegranate Floor

The Pomegranate Floor



The fruity new kitchen at Youth Interactive in Santa Barbara.



Carrot Cabinets

Carrot Cabinets

We had the unique opportunity to paint a mural in sweet home Santa Barbara, just the two of us. We jazzed up the kitchen with paintings of fruits and veggies, including a giant pomegranate on the floor at Youth Interactive in the heart of Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone. Youth Interactive is a great new hub providing space and resources for kids and teens to learn skills in Art, Entrepreneurship and Technology via local artists and professionals.

It was a perfect project for Fall!

For more information on Youth Interactive, visit:



Mural #3 Complete! Arad, Israel


Our last days in the SOS Children’s Village of Neradim were a whirlwind of color, music, cameras, house dinners…and unfortunately for me, food poisoning which I picked up in Jerusalem on a day trip. This was of course the day when we had the first opportunity to meet both the SOS Director of Funding as well as the National Director of SOS Israel who had come for a special event at the village that day. I managed to stumble out of bed for an introduction, but that was about it. Luckily Marianne was fully on her game.

We spent the last week working on final touches and details with the kids. The mural seemed to become larger the closer we got to finishing it; there was always some further detail left undone, an adjustment here, touch-up there. Luckily, by that point we had a devoted crew of kids who would return every day to see if there was anything they could do. This was helpful because we knew by then who was best for each particular job. Often we also needed help from the older kids with translation, as many of the younger ones spoke little English (and our Hebrew hadn’t quite caught on as well as basic Amharic or Swahili had.)  With the bulk of the mural completed, people in the village were getting more and more excited to see the finished product and we had definitely built a confidence amongst the kids demonstrating that their hard work was all coming to fruition.




The Mural Project also received some good press while in Arad; Israeli chanel 10 did a two part interview on the project and made a wonderful video which includes interviews with a few of the kids as well as a few shots of the mural’s progression from start to finish. Additionally a piece in the local paper appeared in one or two additions.



The final week was a festive for the entire village time because the upcoming Jewish holiday of Shavuot approached and took place coincidentally on our last night in the village. We didn’t know much about the significance of the holiday but we had heard that it involved a lot of food, and vegetarian food at that (much to Marianne’s delight.) So instead of all the meat, there was just tons and tons of cheese in every dish. Thus we dubbed it “the cheese holiday”. The house moms had been preparing for a few days so we knew it was going to be a feast. Indeed it was, and accompanied by live music, that is, a talent show in which many of the kids had prepared songs and dance routines. We saw some great talent and even the youngest toddler of the village got on stage and made loud long noises into the microphone. Fantastic. A good last night all around…It was awesome to end on a high note.





We had a great experience with SOS Children’s Village in Israel and already have an invitation to return to work with their northern location. Thus, although his first phase of The Mural Project has come to a close, it is only the beginning and the seeds have been planted. Already new doors have opened for the future of the project. Thank you to all of you who have taken interest in the project and supported us in your many varied ways. What an adventure and a blessing the project has been to all involved. Thank YOU!

More news coming soon..



Shalom! Mural #3 in the village of Neradim, Israel






 They say it takes a village; and in Neradim, it does.  SOS Israel Neradim in the town of Arad, our home for the month of May, is a living, breathing organism in its own right. The village consists of 14 houses (three outside of the village) in which four to eight children live with one of the ‘house mothers’ – a colorful bunch of women with kind hearts, strong will and even stronger voices. As we quickly discovered, everything is louder in Israel; if you are going to have a conversation or play/make music you do it loudly if you want to be taken seriously…or heard at all. I think we are beginning to catch on..

While working on this mural, we have become a part of the village, sharing all of our meals with different houses each day and spending much of our free time on the grounds of Neradim where the children play freely. There is a large age range here; the smallest being around six years old and the oldest 18 (all Israeli citizens are required to join the army at the age of 18). Additionally, there are always a handful of volunteers, either Israeli citizens who commit to one year of service or Americans in a sort of extended Birth-Rite program who volunteer here for three months. Needless to say, there are always people around, activities in flux and music can be heard at almost any hour of the day.


As to the project itself, the biggest challenge of this mural is not only the total square footage but also the height to which the wall reaches. The space is 4.5 meters high and 12 meters long. We are using two-tier wheeled scaffolding so that we can reach every part of the mural with the kids. There are also a few ladders which we let some of the oldest kids climb up to work on particular sections of the mural. This means we not only have to be organized about which specific areas of the image can be worked on by whom but also that our colors and their qualities are properly mixed beforehand, in order that we can be giving our attention to the children as much as possible during their 1.5-hour  sessions with us. Since the mural is visually multifaceted, we have chosen to mix all of our own colors. We bought the three primary colors (red, yellow and blue) as well as white. Being that we live on site and also have the benefit of a storage area, we are able to do a lot of mixing, bringing a new dynamic to our final mural of the project.



 The mural is separated into two parts by an entryway. The left side (approximately seven meters long) is slightly wider than the right (five meters). The design is thus split into two parts, an outdoor nature scene and an indoor home life scene.  Our idea was to keep the outdoor scene more lyrical and simple, while the indoor has a warmer, more intricate feel. There have been suggestions made by some of the kids and the staff as to various elements of the image, most of which we have been able to incorporate into the design (for example: turning the winding river into a road since Arad is most definitely a desert area).



Thus far, most of the 110 children with whom we are working throughout the duration of our time here have been enthused by the project, many of them returning day after day wanting to help. Most of the children are at school during the day and get to paint with us in the late afternoons up until dinner time. As always there are certain kids who are very artistically talented or just simply interested in the project as a novelty who we have naturally formed friendships with. Yesterday was Shabat (Saturday, the day of rest) so the village was quiet, but one eight year old boy -who had no intention of resting- spent the day next to us while we did some detail work, rapping on and on in Hebrew until he realized that I didn’t speak a lick, at which point he ran back to his house and returned with and English/Hebrew translation book, complete with audio cassettes, and proceeded to give me a half hour lesson, correcting my accent and methodically going through the book, page by page. They say he is ADHD, but I’m pretty sure I’ve never had a teacher as attentive as he.

The children here have come from some difficult situations and have endured all sorts of hardships. Despite all of this, we have met so many special, talented and intelligent children here and they are for us beacons of light and strength.  We are grateful to have the opportunity to share the joy of art with the children of Neradim and hope that this venue of expression will continue to grow far beyond the village walls.







Welcome to the Jungle.

The final mural at Awassa Children’s Center was like a rite of passage for us and those involved, it sealed out commitment to covering the entire outer front fence, a space measuring around 250 feet long and six feet high. We divided the whole space into three separate but related murals pieces consisting of the entrance gate, the flower garden and the jungle scene, the pictures of which you see in this posting. We had only a few days in which to complete the final portion of the extensive outer gate and decided to work primarily with the older kids. Time was short and the sun hot as we first primed the glaring metal fence and then decorated its reflective white surface with giant jungle plants in brown paint. Marianne and I got cooked by the sun but it was a welcomed sacrifice. There was a LOT of space to cover; the final portion of the gate was about 60 feet long and we worked exclusively in oil paint (we usually avoid it because of the messy clean up but with the older kids it was manageable.) The shapes were working with were large and often repetitive and required a lot of patience of everyone’s part. Needless to say, the jungle is no place for the faint of heart…!

After almost a month working with the center, we felt right at home and were familiar to all of the kids and the staff, which is of course the point at which new ideas begin to emerge and the desire to delve deeper surfaces. We are very interested in working with Awassa Children’s Center in the future; the children have so much to teach us and we were beginning to establish a flow with the few art classes we gave which we envisions growing into more regular and in-depth exercises. And, well, there are plenty more walls to paint at the center. We endeavor to establish a program that is even more collaborative in terms of the actual mural design. After the first phase of the Mural Project we of course have many new ideas and also see the ways in which it can grow and be strengthened in terms of the foundational goals of the project. There is so much wonderful work to be done!


In fact, the Mural Project intends to return to Ethiopia within the year. One of the projects we are looking into is developing a three-month long program with Awassa Youth Campus, an organization that was initiated under the same umbrella and the Children’s Center but has since separated and become its own organization. Our work with them will be the first step toward a new more concentrated arts empowerment program in which we will be able to teach a variety of artistic skills and get to know the community much more intimately and with a deeper sense of co-creation in all facets of the project.

The spirit of Awassa is LIVE and we are excited to return. There are not words enough to express the brilliance of the children and the kindness of their hearts – indeed the hearts of most everyone we worked with there. We are very grateful for our time in Awassa and look forward to seeing all of our new friends again soon.


.FloWeR PoWeR.

When we arrived at the grounds of Awassa Children’s Project the first thing we did was take a tour around, impressed by the brightly colored, well-made buildings, the healthy garden and the general cheeriness of the place. Then we began measuring. Our plan had been to paint one or two of the inner walls (of which there were many to choose from) as well as some of the outer gate, which, in comparison to the inside of the center, was just begging for beautification.  Little did we know that the long outer gate made of corrugated metal which reflected the glaring heat of the sun for most of the day would take on a life of its own; it begged our attention and we gave it (with our hesitation or the ability to say no). In the end, we painted the entire outer front wall – a space about 300 feet long, in addition to the front gate, another 15 feet or so.  The concept for the bulk of the mural was a giant life-size flower garden in which each child was given an equal portion of the wall and asked to create a flower from their imagination; the only requirement was that its proportions must be equal to their own.  Each kid had a space about 1.5 meters wide and we would measure them before they began painting to ensure that the height of the flower was similar to their own.

We worked again with primary colors for the fence portion of this project; each young artist selected two colors with which to work, so that there was both variety and coherence in the design. We had a flower drawing lesson a few days prior with about half of the kids, so many of them drew from that experience in a more realistic reflection, but in general the flowers (“ababas” in Amharic) were unique and imaginative. We worked with groups of 5 – 10 children at a time, and spent at least four days working on this portion of the mural, trying to ensure that every child had a chance to paint.

The metal wall faces a small mountain, a road which is frequented by many locals, making for an almost constant audience. The kids were all eager to participate, working into the heat of that day and putting in great effort. As you can see from the photos, the flowers turned out wonderfully and made for a bright entrance to Awassa Children’s Center.


After the “ababas” were painted we had a few days before we could work with the kids for extended periods of time again (the weekdays were limited because of school and study program) so Marianne and I decided to paint the entrance gate, a two-part brown metal gate. We had had an idea for it all along, but weren’t sure if we would have to time. So we sat down one afternoon and drew it out, bought white paint the next day, and spent the following two days painting it, with a little help from a few of the older kids and one small girl named Meskarm, one of the two HIV-positive kids at the center who was home sick from school.  We wanted the design to stay simple and be easily incorporated with the flower wall. We went for a more intricate and stylized jungle scene – with large leaves and flowers. The gate was not an easy surface to paint, with its ripples and chipping paint patches. In the end, however, we were quite happy with it and it definitely jazzed up what was formerly a rather sterile front gate.
The first half of the Mural Project in Awassa was fairly seamless and really fun. We got to work with all of the children and were delighted to let them have full reign with their design, while still keeping in with a concept and color pallet that was cohesive.  The final portion of the gate (about 60 feet) was painted with the older kids. Look for the final product in our upcoming blog post and to see pictures from the Awassa mural(s) in their entirety. We plan to return to Awassa in the near future and work again with the incredible community that we tapped into. Awassa Children’s Project opened our eyes to a whole new world. To be continued..



Awassa Children’s Project

Awassa Children’s Project, located in the southern Ethiopian city of Awassa is home to approximately 100 orphaned children. The nonprofit also supports a group of older kids living off site by paying their school fees (including some in university) as well as living expenses.

The center is very well maintained; we were surprised and delighted by the quality of care and of the facilities. The grounds are well kept, with many trees (a novelty for the area) with brightly painted exterior walls complemented by numerous blooming hibiscus trees.  This Children’s Center is revolutionary in its own right: the entire center is solar powered and large plots of earth are dedicated to robust vegetable gardens.  These children are well nourished, well dressed and increasingly well educated.  In addition to strong study habits we have met many kids with quite the artistic affinity.

Our first lesson was life drawing; each child drew a freshly -picked hibiscus flower with the instruction to draw, to the best of their ability, exactly what they saw. Our instructions were to look frequently at the flower and to follow the line with their eyes while the pencil followed.  The result was impressive. Many of them drew quite accurately and with some flair.  We then asked them to draw a flower from their imagination – a made up flower of their own invention. All of this was prep for the mural: human-sized flowers that they would all be painting on the outer fence of the center the flowing two days.  Stay tuned for the next blog to see their botanic creations…



Wapi WiLd THinGs?




The final days in Isiolo and with the Fursa kids were celebratory.  Those days were spent putting the final touches on the mural and preparing for the party. For this, we invited all the kids out to Maile Tatu, the location of the mural for a party day and to say some goodbyes and thank you’s. The whole celebration went by like one long extended moment. Rosanna brought  bags of clothes and shoes for prizes for the games and we ordered 100 home-made mandazis (doughnuts)  and mixed up some sweet juice in a giant yellow jerrycan. We also gave each child a small sketch pad, pen and animal masks (see video!) Our friends, Austin and Anni of Village Beat, brought their 1970-something land rover named Elvis and rigged some speakers and an ipod up to the car battery to provide fuel to the dance competition’s fire.






The sun was hot but this never seems to bother anybody and so we partied like that into the afternoon. At the end of the day, the kids walked back to town together and Marianne and I stayed at Maile Tatu with a few of the older boys to put the final coat of sealant on the wall. We let he boys Dj while we painted which could have consumed them for days. Finally, we all hopped in a taxi back to town with the remainder of the supplies and said a final good bye to the mural. For its first run, The Mural Project has been a great success and we are continuing on now to Ethiopia with confidence an inspiration for our second mural in Awassa, Ethiopia… Stay tuned in and turn up the volume too.
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Maji Mingi




To the surprise of everyone involved, The Mural Project’s first mural was painted almost entirely in one full weekend. By the end of the day on Sunday, we had only the final touch- ups and minor details to attend before the whole piece was done. The kids came out in groups throughout the weekend; ten in the mornings and another ten in the afternoons. We then divided them into groups of five and let half paint while the others played games and music. On Sunday, one of the older boys, Samuel, brought a four-string guitar (a six-string missing two) and was able, remarkably, to hold a tune to at least a handful of songs that the rest of the children sang beautifully. Throughout the day we would rotate between a chorus of swahili lyrics and Special Herbs on Marianne’s ipod, the sound from it blasting through the headphones loud enough to create decent background beats. Music has a way of complementing color.

The first group of five nearly finished the blue wash for the sky. They worked fast but also carefully. The only instructions we gave were about brush care and how to work with very watery paint (“maji mingi!”) There are a few children  who work with a particular level of diligence and care that comes from pure enjoyment of the process – these are the ones we ask to work on areas of the mural which require more detail and a steady hand. It is always facinating to watch a group of humans work together creatively – chaos tends to organize itself easily by virtue of each one’s default tendecies. We also asked each of the kids to put their handprint and name on the wall when he/she was finished.

Each morning, as the first groups arrived, we would watch their faces appear above the brush, having just made the hour-long trek from town and we would just become so elated – they’d run toward the mural and greeting would begin.  Although one month is not much more than an introductory friendship basis, we have been able to form some very sweet friendships. Our bond however, was thoroughly strengthened/solidified on Sunday afternoon when we decided to walk home with the last group of kids…a journey that quickly became a bit of an adventure. We decided last minute to walk home with them, although we were quite tired, the walk had a way of loosening up the whole body. So we began – we took the short cut to the road through the open brush land. We walk together single file or two by two down a narrow footpath. Feet patter in rythm on dry corn husks and the sun beams strong. “The kids are so unphased by the elements,” Marianne and I comment to one another.  But as we learned a few minutes later, they are children of the sun…they take the heat well – the cold is less familiar and far less welcome…

At first we were all happy when a few sprinkles began to fall on our warm faces; the breeze picked up and the sun was shaded by large thick clouds. We thought the clouds would pass or simply hang heavily as they had all day. But the sprinkles turned into large loud droplets and within minutes there were 15 children scurrying along the side of the road in soaking wet clothing. Since all we could do was keep walking, I initiated a round of “the Ants Go Marching..”  -we made it to ten- but by that time the kids were beginning to get quite cold, shivering and trying to angle themselves next to us so as the sheild themselves from what was turning into a proper downpour.  Marianne had her camera bag in hand which was getting soaked, so we bean to considering hailing a taxi. One of the small girls walking next to me who had been dragging along a broken sandal on her laeft foot, finally abandoned both shoes altogether on the side of the road and began to run, her little arms out to her sides, stiff with cold. This seemed to be appealing to the rest of the girls and before I knew it we were all running down the side of the road in this sorry state, laughing and laughing.

To every car that passed I signaled, but no one seemed willing to stop for two white girls and a posse of dripping wet children.  I realized that the girls were running to meet the rest of the group who had pasted themselves against a flat wall which was positioned somewhat perpedicular to the angle at which the rain fell.  just as we all finally came together, a car finally stopped. My original idea had been to flag down two separate cars…but as soon as the rest of the group saw the five girls we had been walking with climb into the car, they all ran hysterically for the car as if it were last chance sanctuary. The kids have been fairly even keel all along, but this was a moments at which we saw them transform.  There was nothing we could do to stop it; all fifteen children piled into the car – a vehicale which we later learned was not in fact a taxi but was just the personal car of a very kind many who decided to rescue us that day. Two of the older boys and I were going to tough it out at the wall and wait for another ride but at the last miute we all decided to pile in and magically, the inner dimensions of the car expanded to include three more adult bodies.

This drenched car ride was by far one of the most enjoyable and intimate experiences that we shared wit the Fursa kids. It was a moment where we were suddenly like a big family, bound together in an unpredictable moment of necessity. I wanted to wrap us all up in one big blanket in front a massive fire and all remain there huddled…to prevent the heat of the flame from returning us to normalcy. The children ended up eventually home and dry – the moment passed. And yet the metaphorical family bond persists.