Making a Mark, Making a Difference in Your Town

“There is no limit on the amount of good one turned-on person can do.” If there is a nugget of inspiration in this blog post for you, then seize it, turn-on and turn it into something good for your community and yourself.

We’ve all seen or heard of the “Day in the Life” type series where hundreds of photographers spread out around a city or area to capture its essence on film. Arguably, the most famous and ambitious would be the Day in the Life of Africa project. An offshoot of such an idea comes from conceptual artist Carl Pope with his The Mind of Cleveland project where he asked people to share their inner voices in 10 words or less to become part of a poster-mural artwork for Case-Western University’s Humanities Week. It also will become an art exhibit at the Cleveland Institute of Art.

Projects like these are worthy on multiple levels. They raise awareness for cities or countries, they raise money for needy causes, they raise awareness for the artists who participate in them. The question then becomes what can a single visual artist, or perhaps an art league or art school do to create such a worthy project for their town or region? I think plenty could be done. One of the things they have in common is one person had the idea and energy to make something happen, to make a difference.

Depending on how fast one works, as with Carl Pope, it could be a solo project. Or, depending on how well one plays with others and exudes leadership qualities, it could be a marvelous collaboration. The project doesn’t have to be a day in the life. It could be a year, a week, a month or have no time frame at all.

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For example, my hometown is Alton, Illinois. It is a picturesque hilly river town situated on the 003bluff_lgMississippi just east of St. Louis. If local artists there decided to paint whatever about it they find special the results could be produced into a book to be sold online, in local gift shops and visitor bureaus. Individual prints could be sold via A Web site could be created. It could become an annual project. The proceeds could be used to fund an existing charity or a new one if that were more appropriate. The sky is the limit on what and how such a project could be used and how much good it would do.

What might you personally get out of starting such a project? Notoriety, new customers, new galleries, a wider circle of influence, sense of accomplishment, benefit of doing something worthwhile for others and your hometown.

If you have read my book, How to Profit from the Art Print Market, (click on the cover top right of this page for more details of this shameless bit of self-promotion, which is something I hope each of you practice regularly), you know Stephen Covey is someone I greatly admire. I paraphrase one of the things he says here, “There is no limit on the amount of good one turned-on person can do.”

It is easy to fall prey to the false notion and think our individual contributions can’t make a dent or difference. Stephen Covey and I would disagree. If there is a nugget of inspiration in this blog post for you, then seize it, turn-on and turn it into something good for your community and yourself. You’ll never regret you did.

Happy New Year!

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P.S. An excellent tool to help you conceptualize and manage such a project is The Brain touted in my previous post.

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  1. Hi Barnes,
    a very Happy New Year to you.
    Regarding your “project” suggestion I really don’t know yet whether the follwing would fit into, nor do I know whether there will be any official interest involved, nor do I know where this will lead to.
    I live in the Olympic Village in Munich. Maybe you know the facts that in 1966 Munich was awarded the Olympic Games for 1972. The Oberwiesenfeld, an undevelopped district of the city, became the Olympia Park and developed later into a famous touristic attraction because of its futuristic roofs.
    Part of the Olympia Park was a conglomeration of tiny, 2-story bungalows which first served as appartments for the athletes and after the games became part of the student housing of the Ludwig-Maximilian University and connected institutes, mostly for foreign students.
    In 2002 part of those bungalows were renovated for the EM (European Athletics Championship) and again became part of the housing of the athletes during the contest.

    A famous characteristic feature of the the Student Village were the murals and paintings on the bungalows, expressing the European spirit of the times with graffiti and bright colours, motifs from comics and other subjects, a very colourful collection of images.
    The bungalows are in a desolate condition after 35 years. The city decided to tear them down and rebuild them with new units rather than renovating them. The new bungalows will be even a bit smaller but providing more appartments for future students. The sad thing is, that all the paintings will be lost, as well as the charming green jungle, that grew up in the past 35 years including some smashing wonderful cherry trees, which were a feast for the eye each spring.

    Therefore I decided to put up a little “memorial” by creating a last photo documentation and turning these photos into a series of paintings. In August last year I started that photo documentation – part of it can be seen on my photo blog: under “Doomsday for the Olympic Student Vilage”.
    In December I shot a second series with new images.
    Currently I am working on a new series of paintings “Reminiscences”, which depict motifs and colours from the photos, to be seen on my painter blog under – post from Jan 02, 2008.
    So far I have seen no report of someone else doing this, i.e. giving this part of architectural history a “memorial”. I don’t know whether there will be an official interest for this ever. For me at least it will be part of my own memories, especially as I am affiliated to this area, having spent my student life in the Olympic Village and earned my university degree here at the LMU and currently still living near to it.

  2. I really enjoyed reading, “Making a Mark, Making a Difference in Your Town.” I would like to try this, but I just don’t know what Arlington, Texas has to offer artistically. I would really need to become extremely creative to pull this off. I think that it could be possible, though.

  3. Dear Sue, Painter of Blue, Petra and Joyce:

    Thanks for your kind comments. It is gratifying to know these blog posts are read and have an impact.

    Petra, no worries, some friend actually call me Barnes sometimes. 🙂 I love your dedication to preserving a unique piece of history and applaud your efforts to retain what you can of it.

    Joyce, if you begin to research, I’m confident you’ll find all manner of great ideas to pursue. One off the top comes to me. If you have elderly locals who have lived there all there lives, you might consider doing an illustrated oral history of their recollections of Arlington way back then. A counterpoint could be the perceptions of local children, perhaps the descendants of the elders. That’s just one example of something that could be powerful, fun and historic. I bet it wouldn’t take much to enlist some powerful locals to get behind such an idea.

    All the best,


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