TLA x Ninos Latinos Unidos


As an artist, I’m constantly seeking opportunities that fall into that special space where cool projects, creative freedom and adequate compensation meet. For the longest time, sealing a deal that covered even two out of three felt pretty damn good. 


But lately, my creative conscience has been making it harder for me to feel fulfilled by gigs that simply affirm my ability to attract projects that align w/ where I’m at professionally. It’s clear that it’s time to make work that addresses who I am personally, and I’ve been spending a great deal of time thinking and talking about how to bridge the gap. 


When I was recently approached to paint a large donation mural at a children’s home, my first response was hesitant, to say the least. I’d convinced myself that my sole focus needed to be MY art, MY way, and that I was maxed out on projects for others, especially of the probono variety. But it didn’t take long to hear my own voice echoing from the not so distant past saying that I was ready to give back with some solid volunteer work. I decided that I could consider it if I had some help, so I enlisted the support of fellow TLA members Thomas and Hector. 


When Hector and I went to the space for a walkthrough we realized that we were a part of a pretty incredible undertaking that would involve the hands of hundreds of volunteers, committed to completely rehabbing this facility in just over a week's time. The non-profit Ninos Latinos Unidos has been around for decades, training foster parents and placing children in their homes. It also serves as a safe place for visitations between families that have been separated due to unsafe environments. Needless to say, the space carried some heavy energy — plenty of which was due to drab colors, and the windowless, creepy hospital vibe left over from the facility's previous use. 




It was clear that the space needed some serious love, so we set to work coming up with a plan that would create a bright, fun, imaginative space for the kids. We chose elements that are just recognizable enough to feel safe, but abstracted enough to leave room for each child’s interpretation.


We opted for a non-plan, giving us room to spontaneously play and freestyle design in the moment, which was good medicine for my hyper-planning tendencies. We also built-in ways to push our creative boundaries, and try things that we were all a bit unfamiliar with.


We rode the massive creative energy of the renovation team all weekend, and stepped away spent, but smiling at what we had created. Our hallway is the first thing kids will encounter when they enter NLU, and hopefully, it will soften their experience in a scary time.  


I also walked away from the experience realizing that I had updated my creative Venn diagram by replacing 'good money' with 'good people’. I’ve been trying to solve my search for creative purpose in a vacuum, focused on myself. It’s beautiful to be reminded that I am here to meaningfully connect with others through my expression - and what better way to do that than by choosing collaborators, and giving a gift to the world. 


MY TLA Challenge:

I’m curious what gifts we’re ready to offer as a collective. If you have a project that you’d like to donate, send us a description, along with a list of what you need to make it happen (human power, resources, supplies). Let’s start a Gift List.


Every Friday this year I've opened up my home for my creative friends to come co-work. The idea was that most of us work for ourselves, out of our house or little studios, and that it would be nice to get a change of scenery and a chance to connect with other creatives.



Friday turn-out has varied from 5-20 people with 10 probably being the average. Most people come with a specific project that they are working on —book, jewelry, painting, magazine, branding, presentation, photography, business-plan, illustration. Others swing by to get advice or share their latest creative pursuits. 

One time we had a pizza party.

Another time Sean led us all in a yoga class after work. 

A couple of times we've done a show-and-tell in the afternoon, where we go around the circle to catch up with everyone's projects and progress. This is also normally when the beers start appearing (if not earlier).



So far its been a great experiment. People are coming back on a regular basis and working on projects together. Friday has become my favorite day of the week. Its a time where I make up for all those hours of creative solitude and allow myself the office chit-chat that most people have on a daily basis. Its made me realize that engaging with other creatives is essential to my growth, and that while it may not be an easy line item on a spead-sheet, its something I need to always incorporate into my work-life. There's no substitute for the energy that amazing people can create when they come together.

I'm already excited for next Friday.


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Here is what it looks like in 4 minutes.

The First Year of TLA

The Life Aesthetic was born out of a collection of thoughts I was having about my freelance existence. It had been over a year since I had closed down my design company (Polychrome) and I was settling in to my new found freedom. Most things were positive; I had more time, I could pick and choose my projects, I didn’t have to manage employees or maintain an office… but the thing I missed was the connection and collaboration with other people. 

As a creative person, one of my favorite things is approaching a problem with other smart creatives and seeing what solutions we can come up with together. Seeing how people bring their own experiences and skills to bear on a problem in a way that I would not have imagined. That to me is exciting and helps me grow as a person and as an artist. It was my favorite part of studio life and it was now missing from my life. It made me think that it was maybe missing from other people’s lives as well. After all a lot of us are either freelance or work in small companies. Exposure to a wide variety of new creative people isn’t necessarily built into our daily experience. 

So I thought of bringing a few people together to share my thinking and see what we could come up with together. That was 11 months ago. 

Since then we’ve come together six times for various reasons – ranging from mini-retreats to salons to workshops. Each one a creative experiment to see how we work and play together.

Its now been almost a year and a lot of ideas and plans for the future have been brought up. Most (if not all) of that was probably pre-mature. Talks of membership fees and organizational structures instead of focusing on the real value of The Life Aesthetic - creative people coming together. 

So with re-newed focus on what works, and what is important, The Life Aesthetic will enter its second year of existence. Over time we will see what naturally emerges through this experiment, and when we run into issues we will collectively invent structures to tackle them. We'll learn as we go, and adjust along the way. 

Thanks for going on this journey with me.