I’ve been using art to connect corporate groups around the world for over 25 years. I call these collaborative paintings FingerSmears.

I wanted to use a FingerSmear empower and connect people from all corners to make a broader statement about our need to get along. I chose to focus on adolescent girls, because they are the largest underserved population in the world, and they possess great ability to create multi- generational change – particularly in a 3-rd world environment. I also had some compassion for adolescent girls who wanted, perhaps, to walk a different path.

We collaborate with existing organizations. In each location the girls all participate in one global FingerSmear that travels with us from place to place, but they also create a piece of art about themselves. It’s a super-self-portrait and it’s based on a conversation about community, their place it in, and their opinions about it. What they cherish, and what they want to see change – and how they can become part of that change. What small steps can they take today to start to steer things in that direction. They are insightful, and inspiring, and have plenty to say. It’s an ongoing project and we’ve been able to produce it in 19 locations around the world. I call it Mighty Fingers Facing Change.

My eyes have been opened to places where girls are too often told that their most valuable commodity is their body, where they are expected to have sex for any minor advancement – or a mere piece of soap. Places where access to medical care means standing in line for days to see a doctor who only comes once a month. Places where husbands mutilate their wives for baseless fantasies of infidelity, and the authorities turn their head. Places where human trafficking is a constant and very real threat. Many of these hardships are amplified by widespread alcoholism because homemade booze is a cheap opiate, but makes a poor community infinitely more hopeless, and for young girls – more dangerous.

Faced with these kinds of obstacles, I would sometimes wonder – can art really change any of this?

But I did it anyway because I believed that it could, and I keep doing it, because I’ve seen that having the opportunity to create, and speak, and share, and make bold statements about your own power – and to do it all around a piece of tangible art, that will remind you again and again of that power – and that possibility – holds value.

I’ve seen shy girls find their voice and lead their peers to action. I’ve seen girls dream about bringing some kind of medical care to their community, and graduate nursing school at the top of their class. I’ve seen communities ravaged by natural disaster, take broken bits of rubble and turn it into the most amazing mosaics that now define the flavor of their village and draw tourism dollars from around the world.

Practicing the arts – the introspection, the exploration, the expression – the state you enter when you create it is ancient, and hardwired, and to be in it, is transformative. It helps us communicate from this place that starts on the inside and is given out, rather than operating from a place where we only have external, market driven content, continually pushed IN.

This place on the inside, is where we ignite, and develop and nurture all the beautiful things that keep us connected, and happy, and healthy.

For more information, please visit my website: kellysullivan.live