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‘I wanted to give hope’: the artists making upbeat murals at a tough time | Art and design

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A mural was recently painted in Santa Monica, California, with the word “Togetherness.”

It covers the front of a homeware store that closed during the pandemic, and is painted in hues of pink, yellow and red. This mural is no random gesture – it’s part of a new campaign called Back to the Streets, which aims to create 1,000 murals by 1,000 artists in 100 cities across the US, on walls owned by business and property owners.

“We’re seeing messages like hope, positivity and community, ideas that will last past Covid-19 as well,” says Evan Meyer, the chief executive of the Santa Monica-based Beautify, who is organizing the murals. “The general values of good deeds and community, more than ever, are important now.”

Beautify launched on 1 May as a sister company of Beautify Earth, which has helped control Santa Monica’s city pollution and litter and has mounted over 100 murals, on everywhere from dumpsters to utility boxes. “We don’t want any ugly walls,” says Meyer. “The goal is to end ugly wall syndrome and to get people to care about their communities, be part of the process.”

Meyer and his team work with local neighborhoods, artists, business improvement districts, real estate developers, landlords and business owners to place murals that benefit the community. “We are the platform that connect people,” says Meyer. “A lot of people have empty white wall space outside their liquor stores and condos, it looks boring and neglected. This is an opportunity to brighten the streets.”

He explains the importance of the Instagram factor, where a bland wall turns into a hashtag-worthy site, drawing more people to it as well as attention to a cause. “You’re creating landmarks,” he says. “Everyone is taking photos of street art because it’s awesome. It’s authentic pieces of culture that represent community. It’s the story of the local community.”

So far, the artworks they’ve mounted range from hearts to messages of hope, unity and togetherness – a far cry from a snarky online world pre-pandemic, where this kind of hippie-like ‘peace and love’ simplicity would often get the eye-roll emoji.

“We need to protect our streets from becoming sad places quickly, when places are abandoned and don’t feel like they have love or life,” he says.

“We want to save our streets today and bring them back tomorrow, get people excited as we start to come out with hope and positive messages. Once we get through this, the world is going to be the best it’s ever been. Stay positive, we’re going to get there. The streets will be beautiful.”

But are they really going to mount 1,000 murals across America? That seems like an astronomical task, especially in a time when spray paint and artist materials are not necessarily easy to obtain for everyone.

“We have sponsors willing to do murals by the dozens,” says Meyer. The Beautify website is a marketplace where business owners can upload photos of their empty walls for artists to see, create their proposals, contact the business owners and complete their collaborative contract, and payment, online.

They have mounted murals already in Pasadena, West Hollywood, Seattle and Oakland, with artworks by artists such as Guerin Swing, Gino Loffredo, Sel Dog, and Corie Mattie, who is so far one of the few female artists of the group.





Corie Mattie with one of her projects for Beautify



Corie Mattie with one of her projects for Beautify. Photograph: Courtesy of the artist

Mattie has created a series of coronavirus-themed murals in yellow, black and white, as a way to uplift passersby, using a cartoon of a person wearing a face mask opening a long coat to reveal hope and prayers. Among the encouraging slogans for her murals, she has written: ‘Cancel plans, not humanity,’ ‘Close your doors, open your mind,’ and ‘Hope is free, give it away.’ One she created in Santa Monica reads: ‘After the plague, came the renaissance.’

“My brother is a doctor in Los Angeles and my mother is a cancer survivor who is an at-risk person and I wanted to find some way to help raise awareness and also give hope,” says Mattie. “A unique opportunity has arisen for artists during Covid-19, a period of strong artistic expression. Sometimes, you can’t describe a situation with words, so that’s where art becomes more relatable and valuable.”

Each paid project for artists comes with a hefty fee, like one mural willing to pay an artist $5,000 in LA to a project in Iowa willing to pay $18,000 to paint a building. Artists are slated to get 78% of the profits through Beautify. According to Meyer, “Our goal is to get them work and get their work out there and to get artists paid.”





Ruben Rojas.



Ruben Rojas. Photograph: Courtesy of the artist

Ruben Rojas is another muralist working with Beautify, who has created the “You Can’t Quarantine Love” mural on a boarded-up cocktail bar in the artist’s neighborhood in Santa Monica.

The goal is to get people thinking about our new world, going forward, he says. “We know ‘quarantine’ as a negative buzz word and this was an opportunity to repurpose it for good Rojas. My motivation stems from action and responsibility to inspire positivity and change.”

With an overwhelming response through social media, he has learned the power of public art through the pandemic. “Every time we paint a mural, we are creating culture and history,” says Rojas. “Humans have been painting on walls since the dawn of time, and I don’t see it stopping any time soon. If anything, I see us painting the entire world in color.”


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What You Can Do to Combat Racism

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The devastating current events—most recently the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor—are a much-needed wake-up call for many …

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Inside The New Economy Where People ‘Buy Nothing’ and Give Everything

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Lorie Gassie misses the library. Since the pandemic shut down her local branch, the Queens resident has a pile of overdue books in her apartment that she cannot return.

That’s what brought Gassie to my stoop last week. I met her on Facebook, where we are both members of a Buy Nothing group aimed to create a little gift economy among its roughly 1300 members.  

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Where To Buy The Best Second-Hand Designer Bags

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All products are independently selected by our editors. If you buy something, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The pull of a designer bag is legendary. There have been totes we’ve yearned for more than our sixth form crush. It’s totally legitimate to fall in love with an inanimate object, right? But even if you’re not about to pledge allegiance to a handbag, you’ve got to admit there is magic in a designer bag in the way that clothes can’t quite incite.

If you’re searching for a little something to treat yourself to, post lockdown (or even as something to make your house-bound hours more exciting) there’s nothing better than a new bag to beat the blues. Except it doesn’t have to be new. Resale sites are one of the fashion industry’s fastest growing categories and a second-hand bag is a brilliant way to save money. As we all try to shop more consciously, its also a brilliant way to shop sustainably. There is nothing more sustainable that something already in existence.

Some vintage bags are also proving to be safer investments than stocks and shares because bags are the accessory that appreciate fastest. Vintage preloved handbags have risen in value by an average of 8% per year over the last decade and also outperformed the price of gold. Kerching.

Despite those figures, if you’re looking to get involved with your favourite brand, preloved is still the way you can do so, at a bargain price. Designer bags play on the brand’s style signatures, which can make them easy to fake but on closer inspection you’ll be able to see what is real or not. Check the hardware, leather, stitching, authenticity cards and serial numbers and ask the seller to provide more pictures or more detailed history.

Charlotte Staerck is co-founder and retail director of Handbag Clinic, which restores worn bags (everything from styles chewed by dogs or burned in fires) and also runs a resale platform. She advises, “Ask the year they bought their handbag and check the digits in the serial number correspond to the production year.

If it’s outside of that, it’s definitely a fake. The hardware colour should match the logo colour on the inside of the handbag. Also, quilted Chanel handbags have 10 stitches per inch. It can sometimes be ever so slightly outside of that, but never by much, so if you count seven stitches, you know it’s not authentic.”

These are our favourite sites to browse designer bag bargains:

vestiairecollective.com – The biggest hitter in the preloved market with thousands of new items listed every week. Charlie Collins, founder of creativewardrobe.co.uk has tips to get the best bargains, “Use the app to set up an alert on your favourite bag and try the offer system to float up to 30% off with the seller. The longer items are on the site, the more you will benefit from reductions so create a wishlist to track your favourite items.”

VC arrange pick ups and anonymous listings for the French Vogue team, apparently, and offer thorough authentication services before your purchases are sent to you.

handbagclinic.co.uk – All of the bags here will have had a vigorous zhuzh at the in-house restoration clinic before going on sale to ensure they completely pristine. You could find bargains with up to 83% off. Charlotte Staerck also revealed that the original Prada Nylon bags are in demand. “We sell vintage 90’s small nylon Prada bags for around £150 – £350.” We’ll race you…

xupes.com – Founded almost a decade ago, and originally specialising in watches and jewellery, xupes.com have been selling bags since 2015 and date them all to the year of manufacture. At the time of writing there was a denim Dior saddle bag on the site for £299…

farfetch.com – As well as collating the coolest independent boutiques around the world, FarFetch.com also launched a resale channel last year, where verified designer bags from a handful of major names are up for sale online. Sellers get store credit and you get to save a bag from landfill. Win win.

bagista.co.uk – Specialising in designer bags, this is the site to browse if you’re a bargain bagaholic. In season finds are listed with their current selling price point, so you can see how much of a discount you could score.

uk.designerexchange.com – With discounts of up to 85% this site has over 100 designer brands and more than 5000 items for sale but they also have bricks and mortar stores around the UK (although currently closed die to Covid-19) which you can visit for an IRL encounter with any potential purchase.

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