Portraits of Hope, and Inspiration

Brothers Ed and Bernie Massey, along with thousands of volunteers (and the blessing of L.A.County), have engineered a massive art installation along the famous Southern California Coast: Summer of Color. Every lifeguard tower for thirty miles, from Palos Verdes to Malibu, has been transformed into a canvas of brilliant colored flowers and fish, bringing art to beach-goers this summer.

The artists who painted these colorful masterpieces were children–some healthy, some sick in hospitals, others disabled, but all able to paint, some for the first time, thanks to creative tools the Masseys created. These young artists were the inspiration for the project, one in a series of massive public art installations created by the Masseys’ non-profit, Portraits of Hope. (You can see more, including NYC taxis covered in colorful flowers, on their website www.portraitsofhope.org).

Back to these lifeguard towers. You must see them. Any way you can. Go to the beach. Stand above them on the cliffs on Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica. Go to their website. Drive PCH. Last week, driving from Pacific Palisades to Malibu, I was overwhelmed by the sheer size of this project. It goes on and on and on. I wondered, how did these guys get the chutzpah to think they could pull it off? And how did they have the talent and expertise to achieve it? They must be superheroes.

The lifeguard towers will be painted until September 21, when “The Summer of Color” officially ends. Then the panels will be removed (volunteers needed). What will become of them? Many will go to Haiti, to add a dose of beauty to reconstruction projects there. Others will be donated to the schools and hospitals whose children helped create them. Thinking about the logistics of deconstructing Summer of Color is almost (perhaps more?) overwhelming than the creation of it, and I marvel again at the genius, passion and plain old hard work of the Massey brothers.

As I’m forced to consider again, what can I contribute, what passion can I share with others, even if it’s just the kids on my block, I realize, that the real genius of Portraits of Hope may be in making people ask themselves that question, and in the millions of small acts they inspire, the ripple of their art going on and on and on . . .

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