Spreading Good Will on Earth Through Art
Painter Franck de Las Mercedes, of New York City, has combined a pair of hopeful concepts—world peace and free art for all—in a quickly broadening art initiative inspired by an “Aha!” moment at the local post office.
“I had always painted on the boxes I shipped my paintings in,” relates the native Nicaraguan. “One day, a postal clerk commented that my boxes were like works of art. I thought about how I had prompted the worker to pause in her everyday routine and wondered, ‘What if I shared my painting on the outside of a box, rather than the inside, and what if it carried a message of peace?’”
Since that pivotal 2006 encounter, the artist has sent more than 10,600 abstractly painted, pre-paid boxes, labeled with messages like, “Handle with Care: Contains Peace,” to individuals in 70 countries, as part of his Priority Boxes Art Project. Each empty box is symbolically “full” of meaning, engaging the thought of the recipient as well as the sender, plus the interpretation of all those handling it throughout its postal journey.
De Las Mercedes hopes that his painted-message boxes will stimulate new ways of communicating through art. He maintains, “We shouldn’t have to wait for world leaders to take a stand or create peace; it can begin through interpersonal dialogue.”
While many people write to the artist requesting boxes for themselves, others order them for loved ones. Requests vary widely, from a death row inmate that asked for a box for his daughter and a mom that wanted to give one to her son to a leukemia sufferer whose daily highlight was a trip to the family mailbox. The brightly painted boxes also have helped reconcile feuding friends and family members, serving as a peace offering from one to the other. It all helps to bring feelings of greater peace and understanding to the human race, one person at a time.
More than 100 schools across the United States have adopted the project, with students creating their own versions of the peace box in the classroom. School-sponsored peace boxes reach patients in hospitals and military personnel overseas and have been used in interschool box exchanges to support anti-bullying campaigns. It would be difficult to find a group that couldn’t benefit from such fresh inspiration.
To request a box, make a donation or start a local peace art project, visit fdlmStudio.com/PriorityBoxes.html.
April Thompson is a freelance writer in Washington, D.C. Connect at AprilWrites.com.