Years ago, there was a man living in my neighborhood and we often heard him screaming outside of my downtown apartment window. In my household, we describe him as “the screaming man”. At the time, I was reading a book about putting love into action and loving our neighbors, friends, coworkers and family. I felt a burning in my heart to get to know my neighbor’s name, and hear his story.
Two days later, on a regular commute home from work, I made a decision to look for this “screaming man”. I found him nearby sitting on a sidewalk, so I sat down and had a casual conversation with him.
In this first meeting, I saw beauty beneath the homelessness.
I asked if I could paint a portrait of my newfound neighbor and friend, Matthew. He said yes and this was the start of Faces of Santa Ana.
I begin my process by getting to know my subjects, photographing them and then painting colored versions of their portraits on canvas. I believe that every painting is an act of worship and an exercise of seeing with the eyes of my heart. I believe not only in painting meaningful portraits to create awareness, but also connecting with each of these people on a very personal level.
Vibrant colors, dynamic compositions and focus on the eyes help others see their invisible neighbors in a different light, imbuing a perspective of honor and dignity.
I believe deeply in overcoming fear in our own lives. With every new step and new relationship that I build with my neighbors, there are walls of fear before me that I must overcome. During these last three years, I have experienced many moments where fear could have held me back. By overcoming my own fears, I experienced a profound breakthrough that revealed my destiny and purpose.
Since its inception five years ago, I have dreamed of Faces of Santa Ana existing in other cities. I asked myself, “What if other artists would carry the same idea into their own communities?”
Today, I also founded Faces of Mankind to carry on this very idea. My mission has now spread to Faces of Detroit, Faces of Riverside and Faces of Anaheim. Artists and their communities are being transformed by bright colors and hearts to match.
“What if there was a “Faces of…” in every city around the world? What if artists transform culture and neighborhoods with their gifting and skillset? I believe this is our responsibility and duty as creatives and artists.” – Brian Peterson
Brian’s Tips for young world changers:
Learn to love the people within your neighborhood.
Search deep within your heart to see, understand and honor the people who are most different to you.
As you grow older, life often strips us of our curiosity and childlike wonder. With the best of your ability, hold on to the childlike spirit you currently possess. If you love to paint, never stop painting. If you love to dance, never stop dancing. If you love to sing, never stop singing… and so on. These could be the very gifts you can use to impact the world around you. Never forget what you love to do as a child.
FACES OF SANTA ANA is a non-profit organization, started by Brian Peterson in 2016. Faces of Santa Ana exists to befriend our neighbors experiencing homelessness then paint large scale dignified portraits of them. After the paintings are completed, we list them for sale, and use the proceeds to help our newfound friends with their dreams, goals, needs, or desires. Along the way, we ultimately believe we are using art and creativity to engage and build relationships with our invisible neighbors.
This article first appeared in Edition 30.