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#AddingColorToLives interview with Joel Bergner

Our #AddingColorToLives campaign has seen leading street artist Joel Bergner travel the world to create a series of murals in collaboration with local Youth at Risk charities. Joel has been engaging young people to create colorful art on the walls of the cities in which they live. As an integral part of the projects in Malmö, London and Brussels, Joel has been hosting workshops to find out more about the various problems facing disadvantaged young people, and it is the feelings and ideas from these discussions that are portrayed on the murals. that  We caught up with Joel at Park Inn by Radisson Brussels Midi to uncover what motivates him, his experience of #AddingColortoLives so far and what the future holds.

How has painting the #AddingColorToLives murals gone so far?

When I was approached about #AddingColorToLives, I thought it was a perfect fit. What Park Inn by Radisson wanted to do was exactly what I do with my own projects, engaging young people in difficult circumstances by creating public murals and doing workshops with them. It’s amazing that we have a similar vision and it’s been great so far.

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Everyone who I’ve encountered, from Head Office to the kitchen staff, has offered so much support to the campaign, and it’s been great to see people so eager to make a positive contribution to the local community. People who would not usually meet in day-to-day life are coming together, making the sense of collaboration really strong.

We have this giant group of people and everyone is going for it together, which makes for a really unique experience as I don’t think these groups of people usually mix. The overarching goal is to lay the foundations for an ongoing relationship between the Park Inn hotels and their local communities.

You’ve met lots of young people from many different cities over the past few weeks. Do you have any inspiring stories to share?

There have been many, but one here in Brussels really struck me. Saïd, an immigrant from Morocco (as many as our participants are), wasn’t one of the original participants in the project but he saw us painting and wanted to get involved. He’s had a difficult life, suffering with alcohol abuse and family issues, but things are slowly getting better for him. I think this project has been a real turning point, since he’s been here every day and engages really positively with everyone else. He has impressed everyone so much that Park Inn is looking to see if it’s possible to match his skills to a role within their organisation.

Are you sometimes surprised by the untapped creative skills of the young people you meet?

Always! Well, the first thing I hear here is “we don’t know how to paint, we don’t know what to do”, but actually, this isn’t the point, it doesn’t matter. We do lots of activities and workshops and these provide the ideas for the murals. The young people I meet come up with ideas that I couldn’t even dream of!

What do you think people can do to add a little color to lives around the world?

What I think that people can do is engage with the young people in their community. Some people might do it through music, some through sports, gardening, agriculture or environmental work. There are so many different ways to contribute, and I think it’s just up to the individual and how much they can offer. The important thing is working with young people and communities, and starting valuable projects.

What other projects do you have coming up?

Koln and Cape Town are the next (and final) stops on the #AddingColorToLives tour. I’ll be sad to finish the project, but hopefully it will develop into something even bigger in the future. After #AddingColorToLives I’ll return to the USA, where I really want to continue working with incarcerated people and young people who’ve just got out of jail. This is a big part of my life. Early next year, I’m heading to India where I’ll be doing similar projects, engaging young people from slum communities. I’ll be getting them involved in creating public art on some big issues happening in the country, violence against women for example.

Thanks for speaking to us, Joel! We can’t wait to hear stories from the final two murals. Keep up to date with #AddingColorToLives on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

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