If you’ve felt a bit more pep in your step while running around New York City these days, you might want to toss some credit over to the art world. And no, we’re not talking about the stuff hanging in Chelsea galleries or museums.
Artists on a mission to spread the love have taken to the streets, armed with spray paint, paintbrushes—and awesome messages of hope and positivity (plus hashtags that let viewers track what they’re up to and connect with them personally). Think street art meets spirituality.
We tracked down the “positivity vandals” behind this cool movement—hint they’re all women—to get the background on their inspiring projects. Look up, New Yorkers, and take it all in! —Jennifer Kass
(Photo: In Pursuit of Magic)
Who they are: Co-founders Betty Kay Kendrick (an artist) and Chloe Crespi (a photographer) met at a photo shoot for Elena Brower’s yoga-slash-meditation book, Art of Attention, and felt an instant connection. They quick combined forces to “elevate consciousness and amplify meaning in the world” through a mission of “magic.”
Why they do it: The duo are self-proclaimed “positivity vandals” who look to spread optimism with their signature “IN PURSUIT OF MAGIC” stencil.
The message: The phrase is purposely open-ended so anyone can draw their own meaning from it. The relatively simple sign or love note “inspires a shift in perception—a new trajectory in people’s lives,” says Kendrick. “The magical part are the countless stories that have come out of seeing the art on the streets, and how it has changed someone’s day or even their life.”
Where to see it: It will find you. Though the project originated on the streets of New York, there are now positivity vandals all over the world (you can even buy stencils for use in your own home on their website, or at ABC Home). Or, for the big version, go to Greenwich Street at the corner Leroy—and look up!
(Photos: Left: In Pursuit of Magic, Right: Sarah Sarway for Well+Good)
Who she is: Standing on her San Francisco rooftop with a champagne flute in her hand five years ago, Amber Rae got a whisper from somewhere that this was not her life—and abruptly left her six-figure tech start-up job, sold her designer wardrobe and everything else, and eventually settled in Brooklyn. One of her many projects is “The World We Want”—huge, interactive chalkboards that let anyone add their dreams and aspirations.
Why she does it: “I want to live in a world where we create the space to listen to the truth within and allow ourselves to dance, create, and make magic from that place,” Rae says. “To listen to the quiet pull from within.”
The message: The World We Want is a public art movement that inspires people to connect with themselves and each other, Rae says, and reminds everyone that we can create the world we want to live in.
Where to see it: Her project in Dumbo, New York, just closed, and Boulder and Chicago are next up. Rae’s vision is for it to spread to all major cities, as well as small towns, war zones, and eventually every community in the world where people don’t think their voice matters. (She’s even issued a call to action to “build your own wall.”)
(Photo: Tanya Malott )
Who she is: Kelsey Montague has been drawing since she was five years old, and is a big believer in angels. Recently, she’s taken her intricate depictions of hearts and wings filled in with beautiful patterns and objects (kind of like the doodles you used to do in school notebooks, times a million) onto the streets of New York, where they’ve become a mega photo opp.
Why she does it: “I love to make art an extension of who I am,” she says. “It’s fun to create interactive art [that] people can step into, and then carry it into social media where they can further connect with each other.”
What the message is: Empowerment. Montague’s all about finding what uplifts and inspires, then sharing it with the world, connecting with others, and creating a positive, supportive community.
Where to see it: While the piece was on Kenmare Street, in NoLita, it’s now in a handful of cities around the United States and abroad. But you can also see it via Instagram, where thousands have snapped photos of themselves (#whatliftsyou) standing in front of her wings, including Taylor Swift.
(Photo: Kelsey Montague Art)
(Photo: Will Letter For Lunch)