We got an A!
This lovely co-ed chose to write her paper about our non-profit at the University of Oregon. We are proud, we are seen, we will continue to strive to hit the marks that she sees as areas to improve and we couldn’t be more proud.
February 4, 2017
Off The Wall Graffiti
Idea/Purpose/Outcome Guiding the Program & What the Program Is/Does:
The program is a non-profit organization culminated upon the idea of fostering a legal space for youths, ages 10-25, to express themselves creatively through, mainly, graffiti. They provide walls for the artists so they are further tempted to participate rather than trying to find an opportune spot out in the streets. Regardless, the artists are going to paint, so they might as well paint somewhere that won’t have any negative consequences and, furthermore, where their art form is celebrated rather than denounced. They also offer more art forms than exclusively graffiti, such as painting on canvas and painting murals. Looking at the program’s website, one of their main purposes of creating this safe space for artists is to “harness their energy, direct it toward self-expression that can be seen and heard in a safe and cogent way by collaborating with them, and seeing them as vital contributors to the creative problem-solving community of artists [they] are mentoring.” They also present another aspect to their programming where they provide students with housing to improve their home life and give them the ability to focus on their art education. On the website, it is stated, “Since 2014, we have had students live with us to further their education, be it to get out of high school or into college. We offer this because often their home lives are very chaotic and cause for distraction.” In the end, their goal is to unify artists globally through fostering this self-expression.
Who the Program Serves and Why They are Identified as the Audience:
The non-profit program is aimed at providing its services to underserved youth, but they “strive to reach all levels of student—those who are afflicted by conflict, violence, social barriers, and poverty as well as those whose talent is nurtured because we know that talent rises when urged along with a little heavy competition.”
Background/History of Program’s Conceptualization:
The program was created by co-founders Maura Patrice McCarthy and Paul Andrew Nassar and based out of Sherman Oaks, California. The program was founded in 2013 and the inspiration for the conception of this program is the fact that they believed that talent of these artists often goes unacknowledged because of the ambiguous nature behind the action. There are several stigmas and taboos surrounding the notion of graffiti, and the founders of this program realized that, so they decided to take a step towards solving the problem by providing sanctioned areas for these artists to express themselves. The founders feel that most of the time, these misunderstood youths resort to more rebellious forms of art is purely for the reasons of self-expression, acceptance, and acknowledgement. More information on the founders is that Ms. McCarthy has a BFA from the University of Michigan and has worked as a creative director with Warner Bros. Records, Disney and Mattel, and has also worked closely with organizations, such as the Do Lab, which is an artist collective consisting of art installations, musicians, and performance artists. She also worked for Nestle USA for several years. Mr. Nassar studied economics in Scotland and has shown his work across the nation in more than 50 curated shows and created multiple events to serve the creative community in New York City. Together, one of the outcomes they hope to have out of all of this is that, “Off the Wall becomes a phrase synonymous with daring, self-expressed outrageousness in any medium and that their work in the street art community generates a groundswell of artists for the future unlike anything we have ever witnessed.”
Initially Observed Benefits Gained Through Participation/Experience:
The program increases confidence and also encourages these marginalized youths to “leave their mark on society” rather than private property by harnessing a sense of community and understanding amongst like-minded individuals. It also provides a balance of leisurely entertainment with the rigor of challenge and friendly competition, promoting a proactive approach to artistic expression. Furthermore, after they have spray-painted their walls or painted their murals on certain public properties, they ultimately end up making the space more beautiful with the addition of their artistic images. In regards to the residence program, one of the most obvious benefits is giving the artist the opportunity to escape whatever toxic environment they have had to endure to further their talents and get their footing in the right direction towards a fruitful and satisfying future.
Initially Observed Constraints/Obstacles to Participation/Experience:
The organization is still relatively small for the goal it is trying to reach, which is on a worldwide scale, so most of their participants have been based out of the Sherman Oaks area with some contributions from Miami artists when they recently traveled there and will most likely get contributions from Cuban artists since their next travel destination is Cuba. Other than that, their influence has not been as widespread as they would like or as it needs to be, frankly. I think this is largely due to the fact that they are relatively small and unheard of and are not strongly marketed or funded.
Organizations to Which the Program is Connected & Mission Statement/Goals:
The non-profit program is partnered with LAWorks/Americorps to keep track of volunteer/intern hours and it is also connected with GuideStar for philanthropic and informative purposes. Other than that, they are not related to any other organizations that don’t help them with funding. Their Mission Statement is: “To help foster the self-expression of these [marginalized] artists by engaging them in constant creativity and collaboration, harnessing their energy and elevating their self-esteem towards higher education and the sport of creative competition.” The goal that they explicitly stated below the Mission Statement is: “To generate an educated, global, unified body of artists who are fully self-expressed and on point to change the world through their creativity.”
How the Program Fulfills Vision/Mission/Goals:
The non-profit program fulfills one of its vision and goals by slowly expanding in order to act as a nationwide influence—initiating projects in New York City, Miami, Boston, Detroit, Austin, and Pittsburgh. Furthermore, it focuses its attentions on youths ages 10-25 who are expressing themselves through graffiti in the streets and allowing them to practice their socially-denounced art form in sanctioned places where they can be exposed to other global artists and learn about history. Many of their murals tend to focus on a certain influential artist exposing these underserved youths to art education that they may not have had access to, otherwise. Furthermore, they tend to place a special importance on having their artists pursue higher education through their Arts in Residence aspect of the organization. They foster a safe space for these artists to further their education by placing them in a more nurturing environment. This directly segues into how their mission statement is achieved, which is, once again, by educating the artists, expanding to become a global network, and creating a sense of community amongst the artists by providing a safe space for like-minded individuals and thus making them feel influential enough to actually make an impact on society, and the world at large.
The non-profit program is funded by Modern Masters, according to their website. Other than that, I have not really found any other marketing strategies. They have gone to art festivals in order to gain more recognition, but their marketing is, frankly, rather weak for the type of impact they are attempting to achieve. I personally heard of them through a friend because my friend’s mother is Maura, one of the co-founders. Other than that, I had never heard of Off The Wall Graffiti, which is an issue given the fact that I am from Los Angeles and had never heard of the organization prior to meeting my friend. I learned most of the information from their website after hearing about the organization in person from someone who is directly related to one of the founders. In this day and age, word-of-mouth is not generally how organizations gain popularity in a society dominated by the Internet and social media.
Importance/Relevance to Society:
This non-profit program is crucial, especially in the wake of this past election, to foster a sense of community and provide a safe space for these marginalized youths to express themselves as well as their political opinions in these oppressive times. Also, with mass incarceration going strong, it is important to provide sanctioned walls for these minorities that are extremely at-risk of being taken advantage of by the police force. This program provides more than just murals and art education, it gives the artists a sense of agency to make a change in the world, and thus creating a stronger, more productive, more creative functioning member of society than would have originally been attributed to that person given the disorderly art form in which they express themselves. It is also extremely admirable that this organization that is primarily focused on self-expression is simultaneously a strong advocate for higher education and encourages all of the artists to pursue that. Given that most of these children probably come from families that have no higher than a high school education, it is especially crucial to acknowledge the importance of following a path to college.
Significance as a Model Pertinent to our Course Work:
This non-profit program encompasses several aspects of arts and cultural programming that is discussed through several of our readings. It promotes a sense of community, which we have discussed in class is crucial to the success of a program. It also functions on a principle of inclusivity inviting members of every ethnic, socio-economic, LGBTQ, and learning/sensory-impaired communities. In Entering Cultural Communities, the author identifies “five crucial goals for mainstream organizations intent on building and sustaining a multicultural audience: (1) Listening to the needs of the target community, then institutionalizing the idea of engaging diverse participation as part of the organizational mission, through the involvement and empowerment of staff, and through programs that reflect an interest in creating new audiences. (2) Creating a presence that helps broaden the organization’s reach into a targeted community, and cultivating the audience as a long-term strategy. (3) Reaching new communities through personal relationships, rather than necessarily through the content of the art, since it is personal relationships that can build trust and bring in new audiences. (4) Choosing new marketing strategies, such as selling blocks of tickets to groups, offering ways that new audience members can sample the cultural offerings before committing to a ticket sale, and developing a task force of community volunteers to help with the marketing effort. (5) Building bridges to audiences through forms of dialogue about arts and culture that allow new participants to explore how the art relates to their own life. (Kuhne interview 2004)” (p. 148). I feel that Off The Wall Graffiti fulfills every one of these goals and a lot of the ways in which they achieve them intersect with each other. For example, goals 1, 3, and 5 are all achieved through the priority that the organization places on being more than just artists, but a family of artists. By going out of their way to house artists that are in treacherous situations, they enforce a sense of family that the artist may have not otherwise experienced. They also achieve these goals by providing multiple mediums of art and having all of these mediums be of interest to their targeted audience. They directly listen to all of the volunteers and staff involved to make sure that everybody is satisfied and to further evolve to continue to promote social cohesion among these artists and bring the love of art to everyone worldwide.
 Off The Wall Graffiti. Off The Wall Graffiti. “Student Artists in Residence”. http://www.offthewallgraffiti.org/student-artists-residence/. Accessed February 4, 2017.
 Grams, Diane, and Betty Farrell. Entering Cultural Communities: Diversity and Change in the Nonprofit Arts. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers UP, 2008. Print.
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