Random Acts of Art
How one man’s paintings are inspiring an entire city.
Bren Bataclan has a habit of leaving things in public places—parks, train stations, sidewalks. People always end up taking his stuff. And that's just how Bren likes it. An artist whose wide-eyed, happy-faced characters have been catching people's attention since he was a child, Bren moved from Ohio, where he studied computer animation, to Boston in 1995. He noticed that the Midwestern friendliness he'd grown accustomed to was sadly lacking. "People didn't smile, they didn't look each other in the eye," he says. "I wanted to change that."
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So Bren resurrected the whimsical characters he had created as a kid and began leaving colorful paintings of them on park benches around Boston, with a note affixed to each reading, This painting is yours if you promise to smile at random people more often.
The joy spread quickly. Not only were his free paintings snatched up, Bren's art nearly sold out at his first gallery show. Demand has been high ever since. "I had a woman come all the way from Greece to see me," Bren recalls. "She'd found a painting during a trip to Boston and she wanted another. It turned out she found it on her first day of chemotherapy."
Smile Boston, as Bren calls it, has traveled all over the world. So far, he has given away his paintings in 10 states in the U.S., as well as in Ireland, Guatemala and Southeast Asia, including his native Philippines. "The project is all about giving," says Bren. "Sometimes people don't keep the paintings—they just pass them around."
These days, Bren does commissioned paintings for hospitals and other public spaces and has recently completed a book about his art. "My favorite new project is the MRI center in Boston," he says. "They work with a lot of children, and the machines can be daunting. So they had me paint a mural. It makes the kids smile." And, as Bren knows, a little smile can go a long way.
1. Find passion and fun in what you do.
If you're not enjoying what you do, try something else.
2. Don't give up!
There is always a way to make your dream happen. It might take a few years, but it's worth the effort.
3. Smile at random!
It makes everybody happier, especially you!
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To find out more about Bren Bataclan and his Smile Boston Project, visit his website, Bataclan.com.