Thoughts. Words. Action.

Using Art to Transform Communities

Art is most often used as an instrument for personal fulfillment.  It is the material expression of one’s deepest thoughts and feelings.  It is an outlet for that which must be voiced in one’s unique way, through poems, essays, paintings, sculptures.  A little less often, while still resting on the personal expression of its creator, art goes beyond the individual, expanding and engulfing entire communities in its embrace.

Three such projects have been featured in the media.  Manya A. Braechar’s article in the Los Angeles Times (,0,224336.story) covers the ‘Ten Thousand Ripples’ project, in which one hundred of artist Indira Johnson’s emerging Buddha heads have been placed, in parts of Chicago where one would expect to see anything but that.   I have not personally seen them, but looking at the images, I can imagine the unexpected smiles of bemusement and involuntary oohs and aahs when people see these sculptures during the daily bustle of a metropolis like Chicago.

Teo Kermeliotis’ piece in CNN ( describes how a metal works founder, among others, in Liberia is collecting scraps of the killing machines that devastated the country, and recreating them into useable art – think tables and candle holders with machine gun legs, trees and furniture using bazookas and rocket launchers.

But my personal favorite is the wind-propelled rolling ball sculptures, made out of bamboo and biodegradable plastics, created by afghan brothers, Mahmud and Massood Hassani.  ( This combination of art and industrial engineering design, which is still to be fully tested, is intended to be set loose on terrain filled with land mines, which lay hidden, ready to tear apart human flesh.  As the ball sculpture rolls around, directed by the wind on random paths, it detonates the land mines, clearing the land and rendering is safer for humans.

How can you not feel invigorated and inspired by this, when art is used as the vehicle to transform a community, even if it is a person at a time.  In my view, this is practical art helping humanity remember who we are.  Creators.  With a little spice.

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