Guerrilla Art and a Fistfull of Love

So you guys!

We’ve just kicked off this brand new contest through Ride To Learn – a guerrilla art contest! Skip ahead to the bottom of the post to find out more, or visit our Facebook event page

First things first! Let’s get excited about this crazy wonderful idea of guerrilla art.

Never heard of it before? Here’s a good place to start!

Two things to clear up before we continue:

  1. It has nothing to do with anybody in the primate family, nor dressing up in any big, hairy costumes (but I guess you could if you wanted – there are no rules here my friend.)

  2. There’s no armed combat! (…you don’t say!)

There is a military idea that comes into play here though – the idea of individuals coming together to perform ambushes and sabotage of a sort (all in good fun). This combines with the element of surprise, and the useful mobility and innovation of small groups or individuals working against a larger, more static entity, like say – a bare dirt traffic median, some sign poles, a neglected park, or a sidewalk where passersby rush along, without pausing to notice each other or some forgotten beauty around them.

The answer? Combine those military tactics and ideas with ART (and that’s art in a casual, friendly, no experience necessary kind of art, the all-inclusive kind).

Another key part is that this all takes place in a public space. It’s a little more than graffiti, in so far as it’s often entrenched with a hope of igniting a little something in the viewer, often, a feeling of being connected to something bigger.

There are lots of different sub-genres to guerrilla art. There’s guerrilla gardening, like planting in that empty concrete box on your street corner so that it’s bursting with fresh vegetables, or dispersing native flower seed bombs in that vacant lot you pass on your way to work. There’s yarn bombing, making knitted coverings for stop sign poles, fences, scarves for statues. There’s also culture jamming, a form of activism where people use existing advertisements, like billboards, and use their existing message as a way of communicating something new.

The most important thing about guerrilla art is that it can be whatever you want or need it to be. You may feel politically motivated, and want to get across a specific message. You could want to share an idea, or make someone happy, or brighten up your neighbourhood.

Guerrilla art has always been something close to my heart. What really does it for me is that idea of making people feel connected.

When I was little, I always thought it funny that people were so much more likely to say hello and smile if you passed them on the sidewalk if it was raining like crazy, or snowing like there was no tomorrow. It took me a while to figure out why.

I think it’s because that as soon as we have something in common, be it soaked to the bone and fighting with our rebellious umbrellas, or peering out from underneath that knit hat our grandmothers made us last Christmas that we just found in the back of a drawer, we see something of ourselves in whoever is passing by. It’s like that summer power outage that gets us out of our houses, and has us standing in the street with the kid we just met up the road, checking out all those stars we’ve never seen before. We all want to feel like we share something with our neighbours, or with strangers. And the amazing thing is that it takes only the smallest things to help us make that leap to making a connection.

I do guerrilla art to be a part of making that connection happen. With the help of fellow secret agents, I’ve covered the roofs of bus stops with dozens of hanging paper cranes, hung ornaments along snowy forest trails, filled downtown trees with peanut butter and seed covered pinecones for the birds that stuck around for the winter, left anonymous love notes and little pieces of art in mason jars on the sidewalk, filled holes in old walls with flowers and small statues.

I hope that when someone walks by and notices something that I’ve done – please permit some moonstruck rambling here – that they will take a second, and feel a connection to that loveliness, that they aren’t alone, that we’re all here, all doing our thing, and all doing it together.

If there’s a me, a somebody out there who takes some time to try and grow some roses out of the tired soil of their soul, that this stranger knows they’re worth my effort to make them happy, well, I hope that means something to them.

I know that probably sounds sappy – but you know what? It’s a tough world out there, and sometimes some loveliness, some sap, is worth everyone’s time.

Just go, be courageous, start something. Let’s make something happen!

What do you think?

Want to give it a try?

How about taking a first step with our new global contest. We’re calling everyone, young and old, to take a stab at guerrilla art with us. We have an activity in our Ride To Learn program in our first unit, Shoes and Sustainability. This contest is based on that activity, which you can check out in our Virtual Classroom.

To participate, we’d like you to try something simple – 1) Find a worn out shoe that no one is using anymore. 2) Decorate it however you want! 3) Fill it with soil and a plant – flowered and native is best! (If it’s winter where you are – how about a little spruce tree?) (Worried about a plant not living in the cold? Be creative! Fill the shoe with something else.) 4) Place your shoe (secretly if you can) in a public place. 5) Leave a note with your shoe asking passersby where they think their shoes come from, and where they think their shoes go when they throw them away. 6) Now you’re a secret agent of catalytic change – Welcome to the club!

To participate, check out our Facebook event page for more details. It’s easy, it’s fun, anyone and everyone, everywhere, can participate.

You’ll be changing the world in no time flat. What a thing to do with your day!