Friday, February 26, 2016

Season IV: The Freedom to Express One's Self - a Love Story

Alex: Free thought
(#Québec) 10.25.14
Quik. Name the first organization you can think of that exists solely to encourage, freedom of expression. 

Not so easy is it? And in America, a country who's founders felt so strongly about the idea that it became the First Amendment to our constitution, we now find ourselves not teaching it in schools - as arts and music programs disappear facing budget shortfalls - leaving the concept an obtuse philosophical theory with little no practical application. And whilst the United Nations and NGOs like George Soros' Open Society Foundation expound at length on this fundamental human right, through any number of societal and diplomatic channels, these programs are aimed primarily at developing countries and nations under siege from oppressive dictatorships or worse, mired in armed conflicts with the right to speak freely becoming a matter of life or death. 

David Everitt- Carlson at Occupy Wall Street 10.07.11
Photo: Bryan Derballa for 
The Wall Street Journal
But here, in America at least, with frightening billions of dollars spent on defense of our supposed freedoms, we seem to have conveniently forgotten about this one. As free as air, or water should be - now relegated to the basement of first world consciousness because - maybe we don't need it. Or maybe we need it more than we ever have since it was written into our national psyche, our raison d'être.

Towers of Gold 09.16.14
That's where #iThinkOutsideMyBox came in, as a protest communication vehicle at Occupy Wall Street, standing (or sitting in my case) in the line of fire as thousands of armed police, police in tactical riot gear, even police on horseback arrested over 3500 of us, many violently, for exercising our human rights, our constitutional rights, to speak our peace to what we believed was becoming a tyrannical government. It was an electric time and in the midst of all that, a simple cardboard box became a metaphor for me, in one sense a shelter and in another, a kind of soapbox for me to graphically air our collective grievances by painting slogans on a box. "The phrase "I Think Outside My Box" symbolized the thought of trying to come up with better ideas for a society that had become systematically disenfranchised from the bailing out of financial institutions without regard to human cost.

"It needs to be, just so" 01.31.16
As a casualty, but not wanting to play the victim, I put words and art into action and next, I was in the Wall Street Journal. First, for calling out Wall Street, and second, for being a very interesting photo, a guy who looks like he could be working on Wall Street, sitting in that box. Activist performance art. But after becoming an Internet meme for a week, a funny thing started to happen; people began to ask me if they could paint too. An there, the public studio was born. A place where anyone could paint and express themselves in public - something defiantly peaceful and fun.

Katie 10.19.14
Fast forward to the High Line park one year later in the fall of 2012 and fun had become the operative term. The offer of Feel free to paint℠ was attractive to many in a place where birds chirped high above the bustling streets of one of the most exciting cities in the world. Who wouldn't? And paint they did. "I stumbled upon a great thing. A man is letting people of all ages paint what they feel and either let the world see it or keep it. Magic." By the fall of 2015, three years later, our collection numbers over 20,000 from visitors from over 100 countries  and this collectivist collection of expressions has become not only my full-time work but my passion and creative love. In short, my job.

Michael Moore's, "Where to Invade Next?"
In Michael' Moore's new film, "Where to Invade Next?" he invades Finland to capture an idea that made their public education system the best in the world.

"Let the students express themselves. Cut the hours, eliminate homework, re-introduce music and the arts and do away with standardized tests - an effort to grow better people instead of just better students. Let them be kids. And it was found, that having the arts in their curriculum, increased their scores in math and science - not to mention expanding their entire worldview.

Schools: that's one way I see us interacting with the community - as a plug in creative module for school festivals, summer camps or regular class sessions. 
Cartoon: Hugh MacLeod @

We're currently booked for two educational sessions this season, a three day college creative festival in New Jersey in June and one day on the High Line in April with a large High School group.

Contact me to add #iThinkOutsideMyBox to your school program this coming season.

"I was just passing through then saw a man painting, and that he was definitely enjoying what he was doing caught my eye. David: 'Wanna paint?' Me: 'How do you know what you want to paint?' David: 'It doesn't have to be an apple'. So here we are." 

"Create a Life You Love"
#iTOMB welcomes Season IV: This winter has proven to be most unusual with temperatures in the 50s and 60s, often enough, that we've maintained a presence in the park and it's caused people to remark, that if I didn't love what I do, I wouldn't be out there in the middle of February. And it's true. This is the winter I found the work I was meant to do.

In the beginning I thought it was something to keep me busy and bring in a little income as I looked to find my way back to the advertising business. But now I realize that it is much more than that. It is a chance to do what artist Hugh MacLeod of laments above might not ever be a possibility for anyone working in corporate America. It's a chance to change the world, for the better, just a little each day. By letting you change the world, just a little each day, with a new idea, remembered as a painting.

Me and Tia 07.15.15
One supporter, Diane, says this,"I think of David as the Pied Piper of the High Line! Facilitating and adorning the High Line with the creative self-expressions of thousands of people." And that to me, sounds as much like a real job as anything. Following are a number of extensions of the concept currently in process:

Grants: I am actively applying for arts and community grants for the project. If you are aware of any I should be applying to, please let me know.

Media: Please pass us along to your favorite media contact for stories.

Book: I have a proposal for a book that would be a cube of printed cardboard paintings, with descriptions on the back of each one,  3"X3"X3" called "#iThinkOutsideMyBox - Every Picture Tells a Story".  Please talk to me if you know publishers or agents who might be interested in it.

#iThinkOutsideMyBox #TheNewWhitney 10.15.15

Museums: Our sculptural display of paintings, 2014 - 2016 is now available as a museum exhibit, along with supporting artwork from the project, and the ability to execute live interactive performance. If you are a curator or educator with museums involved in design, sustainability, art or social change, or know someone who is, please introduce yourself. We'd love to collaborate.

Galleries: This season I am actively soliciting galleries to mount a summer fundraising benefit to encourage, protect, promote and practice freedom of speech. With over 20,000 paintings to choose from we have the ability to fill a gallery and offer on-demand prints of any works in an interactive, press worthy exhibition. Please talk to us if you are or know a gallery or gallerist who might be interested.

Corporate: I am always available for corporate presentations, retreats, team building and creative motivational exercises. Contact me to discuss adaptations of the activity and scheduling.

Fundraising: Later this year I'll be mounting a fundraising campaign for financing our 501(c)3 application, book publishing, website redesign, mobile app and other growth opportunities. Should you like to support us otherwise, prints of anything on the website may be ordered at any time. $100, framed on acid-free paper and perfect for gifts or souvenirs.

Thank You: I thank you all for your support of #iThinkOutsideMyBox and look forward to the coming year. I feel fortunate to be able to do something I love, and see that it is loved and nurtured by all of you in return.


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