A colorful interview with Joel Bergner
As our Adding Color to Lives program gets going once more, we talked to the renowned artist Joel Bergner to find out how he came to collaborate with Park Inn by Radisson, and why he sees community projects as vital to his work.
Joel is a mural artist and educator who works with communities all over the world to organize social action projects that combine public art with education and various social issues. And he is excited to be working alongside us on Adding Color to Lives again this year.
How did you get going with community art projects?
I was always really interested in community-based work, and I loved to draw and paint. However, for many years, I didn’t bring the two together. I spent my spare time drawing; while, for jobs, I worked with the homeless and people who suffer from mental health issues. I was also a counselor for a number of years, and over time I experimented with ways to bring my two passions together.
What community groups have you worked with before on your art projects?
I focus on working with communities that are marginalized or excluded from mainstream society. That includes refugees (I’ve worked in a refugee camp in Syria), people who are incarcerated, and young people who struggle for a variety of reasons – whether that’s due to poverty, difficult home lives or because they’ve just moved to the country.
These are people who we often think of as not contributing to society, but engaging them through the arts is my way to get them thinking differently about themselves and feeling like they’re creating social change through their work.
How did the collaboration with Park Inn by Radisson start?
Park Inn Radisson approached me to do Adding Color to Lives, and I thought it was a perfect fit for me. What Park Inn by Radisson was looking to do was exactly what I do with my projects – engage young people in difficult situations by creating public artworks and run workshops with them. It was amazing that we had the exact same vision, and we’ve had a great time so far.
How have you found working with the different Park Inn Radisson employees?
Working with Park Inn by Radisson is an amazing experience – all of the people are so supportive, from head office to the different hotels. The goal of this has been to help the people who work for Park Inn by Radisson get involved with local community groups. And everyone’s been coming by to help, from managers to kitchen staff, working with the youth in the neighborhood on this unique project.
What do you aim to get out of the Adding Color to Lives project?
Well, it’s great that we’re doing art, but it’s not all about the art – that isn’t the main goal. The main goal is human connection, and bringing together people from a variety of backgrounds to share the experience of creating something. The murals that go up on the walls come from the workshops that we run with the youth – so the messages and the ideas come from them, and they get to share that with the world.
How would you like the project to be remembered?
I’d hope that it’s remembered less about me being involved and more about the experience. I want people to remember the feeling of interacting with people they don’t usually interact with, and I want them to see where they can take that. I ultimately want this project to be the spark for something else amazing in people’s lives.
We are looking forward to the workshops and murals Joel will soon be working to create with communities in cities across Europe. Discover more about the cities we will Adding Color to Lives.