Leilani Chan’s voice fills with enthusiasm as she describes the inspiration behind TeAda Productions upcoming show Delicious Reality: “The stories coming out of these (immigrant) groups are so exciting and raise such important issues.” TeAda partnered with two different groups, ROC-LA (Restaurant Opportunities Center-Los Angeles) and SEACA (Southeast Asian Community Alliance), to create workshops for immigrants. These workshops became a place to share stories and engage in important discussions, including dialogue about work conditions. Delicious Reality portrays these immigrants’ stories in a common immigrant job setting—the kitchen of a restaurant. Delicious Reality’s tagline has become, “who really cooks your food?,” encouraging California locals to attend the play at Miles Playhouse in Santa Monica to learn more about a kitchen culture that is lively and rich with history. The play runs May 10th-19th, and more information can be found at www.teada.org.
Who says we are defined by our life circumstances? Certainly not fifteen-year old artist Inocente. Despite living homeless and undocumented in San Diego since the age of six, Inocente faces the world with bright spirals painted on the corners of her eyes and large flowers adorning the crown of her head. She paints on whatever canvas she can get her hands on—jeans, tennis shoes, sweatshirt, face.
“Out there in the world, usually things aren’t very colorful, so maybe if they were a little bit more colorful, they’d make people just a little bit more happy,” Says Inocente in the recently released documentary of the same name.
Yet despite her relentless effort to make the world just a little bit brighter for all of us, homelessness and lack of legal documentation have pushed her to the darkest margins of society. Thanks to filmmakers Sean and Andrea Nix Fine, whose documentary, Inocente, follows the journey of this young artist, we can enjoy Inocente’s vivid colors and unique shapes. Their documentary paints a portrait of the challenges faced by homeless and undocumented youth living in the U.S., a portrait as vivid, but not nearly so bright, as Inocente’s paintings.
According to the Inocente documentary website, there are 1.5 million homeless youths and 1.8 million undocumented youths living in the U.S. today. Twenty-five percent of homeless youths witness violence within in their families, a statistical category from which Inocente is not exempt.
Although Inocente’s home life has been bleak, her paintings are anything but. The colors she paints reflect her passion for life despite the obstacles that come with waking each day. Her optimism comes from a determination to start the day with what makes her most happy, painting. Each morning she applies her makeup with a paintbrush. Black and red triangles, spirals, or dots accentuate her eyes. Her makeup is a totem of her relentless commitment to pursuing her dreams.
Inocente credits her untamed imagination with the uncanny vibrancy of her art. “I like to look out the window and imagine, what if the trees could talk, or the people had super powers… I have a lot of impossible dreams, but I still dream them.”
Some would have considered Inocente’s appearance on stage at the Oscars last Sunday an impossible dream. Nevertheless, the film her art inspired won the Academy Award for best Documentary Short of 2013. Dressed in an elegant white dress, Inocente entered the stage along with filmmakers Sean and Andrea Nix Fine to receive their Oscar.
While Inocente’s optimism and imagination have prevailed, her success still remains exceptional. Inocente was fortunate enough to belong to A.R.T.S., a program designed to give homeless youths access to the arts. A.R.T.S—an acronym for A Reason To Survive—gave her a place that felt like home and allowed her to fill an otherwise grey world with color. Still, millions of youths endure struggles similar to Inocente’s, and without access to such programs. Funding for public arts education, which gave Inocente a life when she felt she had no other, is often an early target for budget cuts. Even private, non-profit arts programs struggle to find funding needed to provide their services to youths. For Inocente, arts education allowed the beautiful world she dreamed of survive in her imagination when it could not manifest in her life.
My personal favorite of Inocente’s paintings is entitled “The Lost Planet.” In this piece, multicolored stars glimmer behind mountains garnished with glitter. The Lost Planet is meant to represent a land where children’s dreams reside after they are forsaken. When I see this painting I imagine how many dreams wind up there, dreams abandoned by children whose life circumstances forced them to give up dreaming far too early. Most of all I imagine how so many simple dreams, dreams like having a home, could be prevented from ending up on the lost planet in the first place.
To the average citizen, finding the “right” charity and making a donation is a decidedly unglamorous task. In the face of an endless plethora of organizations, the time and effort it takes to donate a small amount to a cause might even seem to outweigh the benefits. How to streamline the search so that people are painlessly exposed to as many charities as possible? Tougher yet, how to make the donation process more appealing, more accessible–or maybe even more fashionable?
Dale Partridge and Aaron Chavez, two Orange County-based entrepeneurs, sought to tackle this “charity dilemma” in 2011. Citing lack of awareness, lack of funding, and lack of following as the three main reasons why thousands of charities fail, they wanted to find a better way to reconcile consumer interests with deserving campaigns. Their solution? Sevenly.org, an online clothing store that seeks to “raise capital and awareness for the world’s greatest causes.” By partnering with a different charity every week, Sevenly uses nearly 30% of its proceeds to benefit a host of campaigns, all while exposing its millions of visitors and customers to causes they might not otherwise be familiar with.
The front page of Sevenly is almost indistinguishable from the website of a stylish, youth-oriented boutique. Models brandish fitted, colorful shirts replete with eye-catching typography and artistic graphics, a far cry from the “tackiness” people have come to associate with charity awareness. Yet, these fashionable designs and pithy mottos carry a deeper meaning: a trendy “Love the Lost” shirt advocates the care and support of foster children, a kaleidoscopic “I’ll Fight for Beauty” sweater alludes to funding mammograms for underprivileged women, and a poetic illustration of a bird in flight accompanies a shirt proclaiming “Live Life”—an artistic response to China’s One-Child policy. Sevenly’s team of graphic designers unveils fresh illustrations every week, designing each batch of shirts to correspond with a new cause. This marriage of fashion and global awareness explains Sevenly’s popularity in social media: with roughly 126,000 “Likes” on Facebook and over 4 million shares on the Internet since 2011, it’s a good guess that Sevenly’s campaign reaches not only “traditional” charity donors but also fashion-conscious, tech-savvy youth.
Best of all, Sevenly donates $7 to its weekly charity for every item purchased on its website (and sometimes even double that amount, depending on the occasion). Weekly goal tickers measure the amount of donations received and the target total for the entire week, letting consumers see exactly how much progress is being made towards a cause. Visitors can also learn more about the charities they’re supporting with the help of interactive videos and links to partner websites. A weekly “Story behind the art” column even explains the creative process of the Sevenly designers, explaining how they used the core values of their sponsored charity to make the graphic tees featured on the front page.
At its core, Sevenly is a website dedicated to highlighting and funding organizations all over the world. By using fashionable designs and an innovative social media platform to highlight its partner causes, Sevenly is able to reach millions of young and old donors—a stylish and simple way to bring charity into mainstream culture.
It’s time for the age of introspection to come to a close, according to philosopher and author Roman Krznaric. In this beautifully animated speech, “The Power of Outrospection,” Krizaric challenges the utility of any kind of soul searching that consists of reading self help books. Rather, he argues, the most worthwhile experiences come from engaging with the world around us.
If Krznaric’s arguments do not convince you to leave the television set, illustrations by artist Andrew Park will certainly do the trick. Trekkies will enjoy a short segment where Park likens the outrospective explorer to Star Trek character Spock. Park’s drawings of teleporting to new worlds and poking alien creatures illustrate Krznaric’s point to a “t”, not to mention make his arguments especially enticing.
To learn about the world is to cultivate an empathetic understanding. Empathy is the fundamental reason Krznaric believes it so important we begin to explore outside of ourselves in the first place.To Krznaric, empathy is an art form and an impressive feat of the imagination. Empathy can grasp our hearts across continents or even decades. Without an empathetic imagination, it would be impossible to consider the labor conditions of the individual who made the t-shirt you are wearing. It would be equally impossible to imagine the effects our Co2 emissions will have on future generations. Empathy, Krznaric sums up, not only allows us to better understand ourselves, but also inspires us to change the world we live in for the better.
The Power of Outrospection was released by a British charity organization, The Royal Society for the encouragement of the arts (RSA), in December 2012. The RSA has released fourteen animated shorts on topics ranging from the secrets of time to the truth about dishonesty. Their entire body of work is available online at http://www.thersa.org/events/rsaanimate.
A woman contracts malaria. A man suffers his first stroke. A war robs a family of their lives. As much as we lament these misfortunes, we still feel detached from them—keen on viewing disasters as hypothetical scenarios rather than as distinct daily possibilities. How differently would we react to these events if we could fathom their yearly impact? Daily impact? If we could pinpoint the escalating rates of births, deaths, and disasters by the minute?
Spreading awareness of global trends is the aim of the Live World Clock. A counter developed by Poodwaddle, this embeddable widget illustrates the scope of global events by projecting their quantitative impact in real time. Users are able to toggle between durations—years, months, weeks, days, and even time from the present moment on—and scroll through live statistics, including those measuring global population, death rates, the spread of illnesses, and human environmental impact. Among the most striking of these findings are the death tolls from disease, the staggering amount of carbon dioxide emissions, and our multiplying national debt: numbers that continue to escalate tremendously, even as our lives seem to continue independently of rapidly evolving global factors. Though the Live World Clock functions merely as a mathematical, research-based projection of these statistics, it serves as a staggering illustration of misfortunes, deaths, and harmful human trends that continue without a foreseeable end—numbers that will only continue to rise if we fail to offer immediate aid.
Interfaces like the Live World Clock emphasize the need for quick collective action. The old maxim states that time stops for nobody—but when it comes to the global problems we have the power to control, it’s now easier than ever to inform ourselves about these trends, take a stand against escalating issues, and stop the clock on war, disease, and other calamities in our world.
The Live World Clock is also available here.