How painting can transform communities

In this TED talk, Jeroen Koolhaas and Dre Urhahn talk about their community art which involves working with local communities to paint entire neighbourhoods. It is a wonderful example of a bottom-up approach to community development.

I found their description of trying to obtain funding interesting.

We started looking for funding, but instead, we just ran into questions, like, how many houses are you going to paint? How many square meters is that? How much paint are you going to use, and how many people are you going to employ? And we did try for years to write plans for the funding and answer all those questions, but then we thought, in order to answer all those questions, you have to know exactly what you’re going to do before you actually get there and start. And maybe it’s a mistake to think like that. It would lose some of the magic that we had learned about that if you go somewhere and you spend time there, you can let the project grow organically and have a life of its own. (8:00)

In the current neo-liberal context there is managerialist focus on quick, tangible and measurable outputs which doesn’t always sit easily with the longer-term, social transformations of bottom-up approaches to community development. When we focus on relationships and process, our approach needs to be organic and flexible and so it’s not always possible to have a clear plan with timelines, outcomes and detailed strategies.

Like in asset-based community-driven development, their approach is reliant on building relationships. When starting a new project, they move into the community and throw BBQs. They essentially start as guests of the community, but, as they say, “When you throw a barbecue, it turns you from a guest into a host” (5:08).  Their initiatives sometimes start as a top-down initiative – when they are asked to work in a marginalised community –  but by moving into the neighbourhood, building relationships and taking it slowly, they can adopt a bottom-up approach.

If you liked this post you might want to follow my blog (towards the top right-hand corner of the blog), and you might like to look at:

  1. Take a street and build a community
  2. What is the Transition Streets Challenge?
  3. 10 things I’ve learnt about strengths-based community engagement
  4. What is asset-based community-driven development (ABCD)?
  5. What is community capacity building?

About Graeme Stuart

Lecturer (Family Action Centre, Newcastle Uni), blogger (Sustaining Community), Alternatives to Violence Project facilitator, environmentalist, father. Passionate about families, community development, peace, sustainability.
This entry was posted in Strengths-based approaches & ABCD, Working with communities and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to How painting can transform communities

  1. Your work & approach & opinions resonate with me Graeme. Love coming across other fellow Community development fanatics!! Melinda

    Liked by 1 person

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