“By believing passionately that something does not yet exist, we create it.” –Nikos Kazantzakis
From cave paintings to street graffiti, (Pics #2 and #3) we all – in one form or another – have a need to express ideas that are uniquely ours. Whether we doodle in margins of our company reports, scribble on the Sunday comics, keep a sketchbook of our dreams, or fashion junk mail into paper airplanes – we each have methods of self-expression, that, according to experts, tap into our creative powers, and can “change our state of being.” My mission is to stimulate these instincts in everyone I can. Call it my drug of choice.
So what do prehistoric cave paintings have to do with frozen yogurt?
Entrepreneurs are now tapping into our basic need to create. And opportunities for self-expression have now hit the local yogurt stores. A rapidly-expanding LA-based frozen yogurt chain called “Menchies” serves up sweet treats, and a place to draw. A massive chalkboard circle greets customers as they walk in to sample the flavors of the day (Pic #1). Kids love it—and well, so do I. Any unexpected chance to play makes it a good day. (It is not lost on me that any section of this communal art project could pay homage to one of my favorite blue-chip “scribble” artists, Cy Twombly. His blackboard paintings have fetched over $5 million. (Pic #4)
According to Amete Balas, Marketing Director for the franchise, the company’s mission to provide a place for “creative stimulation” is intentional. Families know they are getting something more than dessert here–they are walking into an “interactive” environment, where artistic expression is encouraged. Even the staffers say they look forward to drawing, and inspiring kids who also want to “make their mark.” The psychology appears to be working, as the franchise boasts 57 stores in the US and Canada, and still growing.
Menchies is now working with local installation artists to create interactive artwork that engages adults and children alike. In their Village Village store (Los Angeles, CA), they asked a lighting designer to set up a display that customers can change themselves…creating mood lighting in their color of choice. The company likes to have “one unique feature” assigned to each store–plans are already underway to install an electronic photo booth, in another valley location, where you can take your picture, post directly to Facebook, and leave with a print. Keep an eye out for drawing and photo contests–Menchies likes to see what you’re up to. It’s creative marketing at its best.
Do try this at home:
If you’d like to create your own chalkboard wall at home, that’s a fairly easy project too. You may have heard of blackboard paint — you apply it to the wall or refrigerator, and it makes for a sleek surface for chalk, and becomes an erasable canvas for creative kids. It works on metal or drywall. Just make sure to let it dry a few days. Check out the “how to” here.
Interior designers now seem to be incorporating more guerilla-like images in their visions for home decor and commercial space. Check out this custom designed wallpaper by Bravo’s Top Design Judge Kelly Wearstler (#7).
One of my favorite “marksmen” is Austrian painter, Otto Zitko, who creates what he calls “drawings in space” — seen here (Pic #8) at the Gallery of the Austrian Culture Forum, in Prague. Check out his improvised abstract drawings at an exhibition in the UK here.
Encouraging young artists:
I consider opportunities to create art one of the most important aspects of education. Americans for the Arts studies show: young people who participate in the arts for at least three hours, three days a week, for at least one full year are:
- 4 times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement
- 3 times more likely to be elected to class office
- 4 times more likely to be honored for writing an essay or poem
- Twice as often more likely to read for pleasure
- Four times more likely to perform community service than their peers
Let them make marks. It’s only natural.