As we inch toward another national election, it may seem that bridging social, economic and political division is insurmountable. But one artist has spent years bringing people together with a message of reconciliation.
Rich Alapack is the founder of “We All Live Here”, a project that aims to build unity through community partnerships and public art installations.
For the last five years, he’s been spreading his message of positivity and inclusiveness through interactive murals.
He’s brought together students, educators and businesses to spread the message that “we all live here.”
“Income equality, gender equality, racial equality, sexual equality, the environment, all fall under the umbrella of these four really simple words,” explained Alapack.
When he first began his work, he was surprised at how much the phrase resonated.
“I started getting messages from people all over the world encouraging me to keep spreading this message,” he said.
He created a program for schools called ACT, which stands for art, community and technology. So far, he’s worked with 110 different schools and shared the message of positive inclusiveness with almost 40,000 kids.
“With this division that's happening in our society these days, you can't tell someone that they're wrong and expect them to change their mind,” said Alapack. “So, this phrase ‘we all live here’ as a phrase to respond when they hear something hateful.”
Seven thousand colorful magnetic panels outside one school mural he installed will eventually have messages scribbled on the underside by eighth-graders.
“Believe in yourself, and you can do it,” read Alapack from one panel.
A two-year study released this past summer by Beyond Conflict, tapped brain and behavioral scientists to look at toxic polarization in the U.S. What they found suggests that the divide is more a function of perception than reality.
It’s something Alapack believes we can change.
“It's indisputable. We do all live here, and so, from there you can find other common grounds and repair maybe some of this divide,” he said.
And whether through chalk, paint or magnetic panels, Alapack says he hopes creativity and engagement will inspire others to look beyond differences to find understanding.
“Creativity is this unique superpower that humans have, and if you can get someone to do something that they don't think they can, then all of a sudden that opens their horizons to what other things they might be able to do that they don’t think they can do.”