NORTH HOLLYWOOD, Calif. – For artists like Chad Robinson, mixing different paints to get the perfect shade of yellow is not an exact science. It's an art.
“Almost like a mustard yellow” Robinson says to 7-year-old Eleanor Levy who he is teaching techniques he mastered as an artist for the organization Muralism. “And the best thing about paint is if you make a mistake, you can just get it out later by painting over. Despite what your art teacher told you!” Both he and Eleanor laugh at that one.
Muralism is a nonprofit organization that helps beautify the city of Los Angeles and surrounding areas. The nonprofit also provides a safe place for artists with special needs to connect with other people in the community.
For Robinson, who was diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum at a young age, working on these murals allows him to teach people about the art of autism.
“This is another way of channeling the creative aspects of myself. I need to do something with my hands or with my body. So like just with my hands right now just working on this. This artwork here is just it pays off on its own,” Robinson says as he touches up one of the many a multi-colored birds he painted on the wall.
Ernie Merlan is a digital mural artist for Disney and the founder of Muralism. He started the nonprofit a year and a half ago to create art for the community by the community.
“Muralism is an organization where we connect people with special needs to the community through art. We come into areas that just need beautification, need picking up,” said Merlan.
Ten uniquely abled painters - as Merlan calls them - work with Muralism on a regular basis. Various organizations and city services hire them to paint in public spaces, and the members of the community are invited to join them in the process.
“By working right next to people with special needs you get to value them for who they are. You get to learn about them and they get to learn about you,” said Merlan.
City Councilman Paul Krekorian’s office hired Muralism to beautify a parking lot pony wall in North Hollywood. Robinson goes with Eleanor to take a look at the bird she just finished.
“Wow, that's gorgeous. Did you work on this section here too,” asked Robinson.
“Yeah, my mom helped me,” Eleanor said.
“That's gorgeous. I love it,” said Robinson.
“I enjoyed it because he's a really good artist, along with all of the other artists. It was a really fun time. I love it. It was amazing,” said Eleanor.
Learning how to celebrate the things we have in common, and uniting neighbors in the process, is the ultimate goal of this kind of community collaboration.
Learn more about Muralism here.