By Mitch Cohen
The Faris Foundation, a Houston-based nonprofit focusing on childhood cancer research, creative arts programs at children’s cancer centers and public engagement and awareness around childhood cancer, celebrated National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month with a variety of virtual art programs throughout the month of September.
The organization’s mission is inspired by Faris D. Virani, who was diagnosed with a rare bone cancer when he was 6 years old. He succumbed to the disease at age 9. The work of The Faris Foundation is held to the high standards that Faris embodied in his journey with cancer: to be bold, original and transformative in all areas of life.
Aligned with The Faris Foundation’s core belief that every child should have access to art as a part of their treatment plan, this month’s public art initiatives include “Art is GOLD,” a series of free online art workshops each Saturday in September; and a virtual gallery of entries from the organization’s inaugural “Art is HOPE” juried art competition.
This past weekend, a pop-up installation by famed Houston muralist Anat Ronen was the highlight. And though it was scheduled out for two days, Ronen rushed to completion ahead of Sunday’s rainstorm.
Ronen is known internationally for her colorful, realistic murals and amazingly realistic 3D street art or anamorphic work. The distorted, slanted chalk art makes little sense to the passerby unless standing directly in front of the art — and then it comes to life. The art then appears to lift off the pavement in 3D or dips below the pavement.
The “pop-up” installation was a 14-foot by 22-foot 3D rendering in tempera of a child’s dump truck, teddy and panda bears, basketball, a golden heart and a child angel.
Fortunately, Ronen took a time-lapse video of the process as Sunday rain washed it all away. She captured the progress of the temporary art getting washed out, too.
Asha Virani, founder of The Faris Foundation, had this to say about the rain this weekend:
“The mural and the weather this weekend reminds us that while all is fleeting and ephemeral, the only thing that truly lasts is love. Love endures and love abides through all of life’s storms. We are so thankful to Anat Ronen for the love poured into this work. Washed away by the rain, but etched in our hearts forever.”
I spoke with Ronen by phone for a few minutes instead of visiting.
Ronen said she decided in 2019 to take a break in 2020 from her extensive travel for work, including festivals that feature street art, although she took three out-of-state jobs for mural work. I wondered if her decision to limit travel worked in her favor.
“I wouldn’t say worked in my favor … just an ironic nod from the universe … having everything canceled eliminated the dilemma of choosing which events I want to be a part of and which I’d skip,” Ronen said.
Ronen has been fortunate, she said, in that her work has not slowed noticeably in 2020, perhaps creating an opening for this pop-up with The Faris Foundation. She said the cause resonates with her.
“First, I know several families and friends who have lost their children to cancer, a disease we mostly see as something older people get,” Ronen said. “When it hits children the impact is immense and the pain never goes away.”
The September events are on the internet. The “Art is GOLD” series of virtual art workshops are artist-led episodes, each featuring a unique gold theme and project. Viewers are invited to share their artwork with the hashtag #LetThereBeGOLD.
The Art Is Hope Art Competition, featuring more than 60 original artworks selected through an international open call, is an amazing virtual tour in itself, so don’t miss that.
A time-lapse of Ronen’s work in progress and the rains washing away the work will be available on the website this week. Watch for future projects of Ronen with the charity at www.thefarisfoundation.org/artpass/.
To learn more about The Faris Foundation, visit www.thefarisfoundation.org. To become involved with the “Let There Be GOLD” campaign, visit www.lettherebegold.org.
Ronen is definitely someone you want to follow, too. She’s available for commissions also at http://www.anatronen.com.
Cohen is an artist and founder of the First Saturday Arts Market and the Market at Sawyer Yards. Find him at ArtValet.com for additional highlights and artist’s stories.