When I decided to add a blog to our website I knew that I wanted to be a place where I could write about the highs and lows of starting a business. I have to say that this past year has been largely filled with highs. Brian and I are so proud of this little business. I feel incredibly lucky to be able to pursue my dream of making and sharing art. I love meeting and hearing from customers who are excited to paint our kits or to give them as gifts to friends and family. This past weekend we had the honor of being a demonstration artist at the Art on the Avenue show in Alexandria, VA. We lucked out with a beautiful day and big crowds. This was our first show of the fall season and I was excited to share a large scale paint by number that I had designed for children to paint.
The large scale PBN was a big hit and it was so much fun watching it progress throughout the day. Some kids didn't want to stop painting it. Unfortunately the fun came to an end at around 3 PM when a family with teenage daughters came over to our booth. They were a bit pushy and something felt off about them, but I encourage their girls to paint. I had my back to the painting, but they seemed to be enjoying painting while their parents looked on. Suddenly, the mom said it was time to go and they threw their brushes on the ground and ran off. When Brian went to pick up the brushed he said, "we need to take this down." When I got up to look at the painting I was in shock. The girls had not only painted over large areas of the paint by number, but they wrote "TRUMP" all over it. I was devastated. They ruined the painting and the opportunity for other kids to add to it. Brian tried to track them down but couldn't find them. A friend of theirs returned later and tried to confront Brian (while filming him) on why he took it down. They ran off when the amazing show volunteers went to get the police. They could have written "democrats rule" all over it and we still would have been mad. Their actions (that were encouraged by their parents) were vandalism and destroyed the intent of the project.
Now that I have had sometime to think about what happened, I have come to the realization that this wasn't just about promoting a politician. THIS WAS AN ACT OF BULLYING. These people were looking for someone to pick on and pick a fight with. They made me feel small and insignificant, and like my work as an artist didn't matter. No one should ever feel this way. Their behavior was ugly and petty and hurtful.
I want to elevate the conversation beyond politics to a conversation about the need for more kindness in this world. Bullies aren't just on the playground. They are everywhere. They feel empowered by making others feel bad. I am not going to let them make me feel bad. I am going to continue to teach my own children to be kind to others. I talked to them about how sad this made me feel and that we should never make others feel this way. I have also spoken to them about stepping up when they see bullying. I'm going to keep making and sharing art. My work brings me so much joy and a bunch of bullies aren't going to take that away from me.
We encountered so many more kind and friendly people at this show. Random strangers who saw this all take place gave us hugs, bought kits, and simply offered kind words. Their acts of kindness far out weighed the ugliness of a few.
So all this is to say, be kind to each other. Look for opportunities to be a light in the darkness. We are going to keep making kits and spreading positivity. As for the ruined art, in the next couple of weeks we are going to have a paint party with friends and neighbors, and cover it with hearts. I'll post a picture when its done.
Amanda Farnum is the co-owner and creative half of the husband and wife run Wehgo.