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.