By Dan Bratman
I’ve never worn flip-flops in my life. I haven’t worn a pair of shorts since my last gym class in 1984. But for some reason I find myself walking down a street I can’t pronounce in Rio, my pale legs glowing in the tropical sun and my minimalist sandals slapping the sidewalk. Through my squinting New York eyes, I see the statue of Christ the redeemer look down on me with his arms out like he’s just about to shrug his shoulders in dismay. To the right is the Quadrado with its fishing boats lapping in the square harbor, my friends stand smiling, paint covered. There is nowhere on this entire earth I would rather be.
I came down here despite the fact that it seemed a bit crazy. A month away from my jobs in Brooklyn, just some magazine work and savings to keep me afloat, I came here for one reason. The best reason. This project is something that I believe in more than just about anything I have ever done in my life. What started as some Skype meetings and one painted boat has turned into a movement. As fisherman after fishermen, some who were initially unwilling, ask us to paint their boats, we are all starting to see that we have created something that has taken on a momentum of its own. People who have had perhaps no previous exposure to art are beginning to take pride in participating in the creation and ownership of a public art project. I sit on the concrete edge of the harbor listening to street crew artists talk to sun-browned fishermen about their dreams and collaborating on that will be painted on the tops of their boats. Through the vision and skill of some incredibly talented painters, the fishermen form what’s inside them into color and shape. Volunteers prime and paint borders as music wafts in the hot sun. This is how art can change the world. Not by a violent revolution but by two people sitting down and trying to understand what is in the other’s hearts. How could I stay home. My black suit stays in my suitcase. My minds slows to a tropical pace. My dreams at night are of Rio and the next day of building a new community of people who can see each other as the same. Tomorrow I will pull on my shorts, my legs a little tanner, my flip-flops now part of me and make the world a little bit more how I think it could be.