Artists for Puerto Rico Project
After a trip to Puerto Rico in April 2018, local Philadelphia artist Sherry Michelle decided to start a project to help fund rebuilding efforts following the devastating destruction left by hurricane Maria.
“I have decided to start a project with local artists that will entail creating one of a kind artwork to be auctioned online to help support the island of Puerto Rico. 100% of the proceeds from this project will help with relief efforts after the devastating destruction left by hurricane Maria last September.
The controversy currently surrounding the actual death tolls in Puerto Rico as a result of the hurricanes is astonishing. A recent Harvard University study states well over 4,600 and climbing. This comes as a stark contrast to the number of 64. Parts of the island are still without power and people are in desperate need of help and assistance. When you personally witness devastation to that scale and hear the stories from local people of Puerto Rico, you can’t help but want to do something. I am only one person, but I know people want to help. This project gives artists the opportunity to help in their own way by doing what they do best.”
For more information on this project, or if you are interested in supporting please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Last month, I had the privilege of visiting the beautiful island of Puerto Rico for the first time. I have two incredible friends who held their wedding there and it was one of the most beautiful experiences I have been a part of for many reasons. Traveling can offer the opportunity to readjust your mindset and in this case it did more than that for me.
I was unsure of what to expect at first. When we arrived, the electric had just gone out across the whole island due to (from what I had heard) a truck hitting a power line. The electric was restored the next day, however, the area where we were staying had electric restored only a few weeks before we arrived and did you know parts of the island are still without power... roughly 8 months now post hurricane?
--> Think about that for a moment.
Most of the island have been without power for months. And many parts of the island still haven’t had it restored yet particularly the mountains and the East coast. You would think, with all they have gone through from the massive destruction of their beautiful island, the loss of their loved ones, the loss of their homes and everything they own, to the disappointing and disheartening lack of help from our current government, you would think that they would be jaded, angry, and resentful toward visitors from the states. That was not the case. Everyone that I spoke to, every one that I had encountered during my visit was kind, HUMBLE, welcoming and embracing in ways I couldn’t have ever imagined. I mean Every. Single. Person. From the taxi drivers, Uber drivers, locals, local business owners... every one. Each person I encountered had a story to tell of their own experience and how the hurricanes have effected them and their family. They willingly shared stories with me and my friends without pride and unlaced with anger or resentment. Stories of families forced apart, wife and children in the states husbands staying in PR helping to rebuild. I watched three men working together to fix the exterior of the building across from ours from my balcony one day. While I listened to their stories, not one of the people telling them spoke with frustration. Surprisingly, the tone was informative but always ended with humor in some way like “the only thing I worry about is running out of cerveza!” it lightened the mood, but I could see through the attempt and I was amazed by their spirit. In listening to them I can not describe how my heart ached. Every part of my soul just wanted to help them.
As I drove around the island my mind raced with different ideas of what I could do in the short time I was there. I texted my girlfriend Amberella and said “they need your hearts here” and I kept thinking if there was one word to describe the people of Puerto Rico it was RESILIENCE. Through it all, they didn’t let their spirit break. They have been and still are working to put things back together. There is such a long way to go still but I am humbled by their tenacity. Puerto Rico is a beautiful example of strength and resilience. I kept thinking, if I could write a message to everyone there it would be this:
Dear Puerto Rico,
You have a light inside you that shines brighter than the sun. Your spirit shines through the darkness. I hope one day the light of the world could shine as bright as the light in you. May God bless you.
“NOTHING CAN DIM THE LIGHT THAT SHINES FROM WITHIN”. - Maya Angelou
We can learn a lot from Puerto Rico. I have. When I return, I want to paint a mural with this quote because I want the beautiful people of Puerto Rico to know that someone cares. I think of them often and I keep praying for them to receive help, and to keep their strength. I want them to know that I see them. They are the light. I want them to feel encouraged not to give up. But mostly I want to help. I need to do something to help.
While sitting at breakfast one day in the cutest little bistro a few blocks from where we stayed called Playa Papaya, I asked if I could paint a mural on the wall. After discussing different ideas with the owner we decided on two pineapples with a papaya in the center. Although this wasn’t my initial grand idea of an outdoor mural with the quote, it couldn’t have been more perfect in the short time that I had there. Pineapples symbolize warmth, welcome, friendship, and hospitality. This encompassed much of my experience there and the papaya in the center of it all turned out to be quite fitting.
You see, after I had completed this mural, I had about an hour to pack and rush to the airport to fly home. While at the airport, I heard a story about that little bistro where I had painted that mural -Playa Papaya. After the devastation of the hurricanes, the local businesses closed but this tiny little bistro got a generator and the employees found a way to get to work despite their own hardships. Playa Papaya remained open to serve the community and provide food, water, and electric. They were the center for the community. So the papaya in the center of my mural was perfect. Hearing this story warmed my heart. Everything happens for a reason and I could not have been happier to have painted on their wall. It was the perfect mural in the most perfect place. I have to thank God for that.
I plan to return to Puerto Rico soon. Maybe find time to paint that giant mural. However, I have some ideas and plans to help those still in need. In speaking with friends and other artists, people want to help but aren't sure how. I have decided to start a project for those interested in helping.
If you are interested in helping, donating, supporting, if you are an artist interested in participating please connect with me. If you can help in any way, have any ideas, or connections, or if you know of people who are doing things to help and can connect me with them please reach out to me via email email@example.com
Stay tuned for updates on this project. Your support is beyond appreciated.
from left to right: Amberella, Chris Sciarra of Kona Surf Co, Sherry Michelle, and Alloyius Mcilwaine for Artists of Puerto Rico Project.
Local Philadelphia artists come together to raise money in support of relief efforts for Puerto Rico.
Kona Surf Co. have generously donated surfboards for the project! Amberella, Alloyius Mcilwaine and Sherry Michelle are three of the participating artists who will be creating one of a kind artwork on surfboards that will be auctioned online this August. 100% of the proceeds will help with relief efforts after the devastating destruction left by hurricane Maria last September.