Portraits of Hope

For four  weeks this summer, MacArthur Park in central Los Angeles will be enjoying a spectacular visual transformation, as thousands of large, colorful spheres can be seen floating on the vast lake. These vibrantly-hued spheres, as large as 4, 5, and 6 ft., are spread throughout the lake as part of a major public revitalization project.

Part of the program Portraits of Hope(POH) founded by brothers Ed Massey and Bernie Massey in 1995, it seeks to enrich the lives of children and adults who may be coping with serious illness, disabilities, adversity, or socioeconomic challenges thru creative therapy. Traditionally, POH selects iconic public settings and symbols for its visual makeovers that people take for granted and gives kids a chance to transform them into major public artworks. Collaborating with schools, hospitals, senior centers, and various programs throughout the nation, they have already transformed NYC taxi fleets, airships, planes, buildings, lifeguard towers, NASCAR race cars, and rescue vehicles among many others.

Between 2—3000 spheres (painted by children and adults themselves!) will float on the lake on a rotating basis—continually changing the look of the park and lake. Traditional to POH, most of the art is floral themed—as flower is the universal symbol of beauty, joy, life, nature, and renewal.  Saturated with vibrant, eye-popping hues, the spheres will spread throughout the lake, creating a majestic view of spheres interacting with water with optimal spatial dynamics and reflections.Apart from the fact this provides a fun, educational opportunity for participants to express themselves, it duals as creative therapy instilling pride and self-confidence in children.

“The fact that POH projects are high-profile, ambitious, and one-of-a-kind makes the participation and enthusiasm even more special for the children. It provides them with an opportunity to say “I did that!” often on the national and world stage,  and feel that they were part of creating something very special,” said Bernie Massey, in a Q&A session.

POH seeks to include children and adults from all kinds of backgrounds and circumstances. Over 7000 participants from more than 1,000 hospitals, schools, and social service agencies across the country have directly participated in these projects. Special brushes and methodologies have been developed for children and adults with illnesses and physical disabilities, including telescope brushes for those in wheelchairs, shoe brushes for people unable to use their hands, and fruit-flavored mouth brushes for kids and adults with limited or no movement in their limbs.

– By Joanne K

(Full article available in print)

“Chasing Neon”

Chasing Neon

Four months, three vehicles, my sister, her dog Buster and I, that was the Chasing Neon project. Together, with the support of 179 Kickstarter backers, we zigzagged across the United States for nearly 28,000 miles in search of vintage neon signs. The goal was simple: document more signs than I could count in various stages of restoration or disrepair, in hopes of promoting awareness, appreciation and preservation.

We started in a Winnebago I’d affectionately named Mini Winnie. By the time we’d traversed Nevada and driven into Utah, it became clear Winnie wasn’t fast enough to trek the mountainous terrain of the Pacific Northwest. We rented a car, and proceeded to put more than 5,000 miles on it over the next ten days. Let’s just say Wyoming is big, Montana is even bigger, and then there was Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

After returning the car rental… and spending more than an hour and $30 in quarters furiously vacuuming blonde dog hair from its black fabric interior… we drove Winnie home to California for her television debut with Good Day Sacramento. . When Cody walked out sporting a bow tie, I knew we were in good hands. After our TV spot the three of us set out again, this time in my sister’s car. Traveling in Winnie was a wonderfully romantic idea, but we needed speed, so we adapted. Our travels took us south, to Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. More signs to love and ogle, and skies that photographers dream about.

Texas was our first experience with adverse weather, and we were tied up in Dallas longer than expected waiting for the rain to pass. Thank heavens for gracious friends who don’t mind you staying a few days more. To avoid an incoming hurricane we went north to Maryland, and traveled the Northeast before heading south, and  through parts of the Midwest. We spent a day in a hotel in North Bend, Indiana waiting again for rains and flash flooding to pass, before heading back south. The American Sign Museum in Cincinnati was a must, and after we arrived my sister joked she had to clean my drool off the floor. Charming, isn’t it. Somewhere in there was Florida and Georgia and Alabama, then Tennessee and Kentucky.. We finished with Route 66, a road I’ve dreamt about traveling in its entirety for years.

Four months wasn’t enough time to cover the country, but we certainly tried; my external hard drives bear the 15,000 photographs as proof. Months later, I’m still working my way through the images and finishing a book for my Kickstarter backers. Every photo I find is a memory, to share. People often ask me what is my favorite sign, or what was my favorite place to visit. It’s an impossible question, you can’t see 28,000 miles of our countryside and choose just one place.