Bethany Halbreich


Entrepreneurship takes leadership, and I’m not sure that’s something that can be taught. It takes a certain grit to move past the judgment and failure, and it’s my belief those qualities are either inherent or learned in unsought out ways.

Location: New York, New York

Profession: Creator of experiences that bring joy, spark creativity, and inspire curiosity.

How and why did you start Paint the World?

As someone to whom creative expression is essential it has always puzzled me why others were so reticent to engage in creative acts. The biggest reasons is that I have heard are: 1) lack of materials; and 2) perception that they don’t have the skill. We know that people are more vibrant/alive/confident/happy when they have an opportunity to “realize their inner creator”, and the biggest barriers are simply materials and perception. And so, that’s what the mission of Paint the World aims to solve; it goes beyond a paintbrush, a canvas and some paints; it’s truly about inspiring the discovery of inner power and inner agency to make a difference, to contribute to something great.

What do you think it is about art that that brings people together and has such therapeutic benefits?

When we stop thinking as much as we’re used to – or rather, in the way we’re used to – and let our true intuition guide our creations, the unimaginable is possible. When we commit to creating art alongside another person, we have committed to engage in fostering trust. The research is there; it’s been shown through various studies that participation in the arts improves physical and psychological well-being, and provides a catalyst for the creation of social capital and the attainment of important community goals. It not only enhances one’s abilities to work with others and to communicate ideas, but also increases one’s sense of individual efficacy, self-esteem, and belonging to a greater whole.

Can you share some moments from your time with Paint the World that really stand out?  Perhaps some incredibly memorable canvasses or murals that sticks out in your mind?

It’s difficult to identify a favorite because each collaborative piece has such a unique story.

However, I think the below so beautifully illustrates the last day of Burning Man. We left it up for 24 hours, and I would estimate that ~40-50 people contributed to it. It’s stunning in it’s chaos; the faces portray sadness, and fear, yet the feeling of the piece is fairly positive and uplifting. The incredible thing is that I don’t believe anything was intentionally juxtaposed… it just is.

day4

I’m a huge fan of Carl Jung and his theory on the collective unconscious of the world. I truly believe these collaborative works give us a rare window of understanding into the unconscious undercurrent of a community. Once we spark opportunities for creativity within a community, we can analyze aspects of what has been created, and ultimately call upon an abundance of techniques to harness the communities’ creative potential and increase the communities’ creative capacity. We can continuously measure the impact of these methods, and then use the data as a resource to influence development economics.

Have you always had this entrepreneurial, charitable streak?

I would say so. When I was 6, my parents enrolled me in an inventor’s camp, and subscribed me to Entrepreneur Magazine. There was a huge Japanese population in my new elementary school, so I started a small sushi business to make friends (it worked). A couple years later, when I was 8 or 9, I noticed that kids in a mostly-Latino neighborhood of Buffalo weren’t wearing coats in the depths of the winter, so my mother and I found a way to contribute over 1000 new and donated coats for that community each year. I’m incredibly fortunate to have been raised by parents who support me in a way that left me no option but to believe in myself and my ability to make a difference in the world.

Entrepreneurship takes leadership, and I’m not sure that’s something that can be taught. It takes a certain grit to move past the judgment and failure, and it’s my belief those qualities are either inherent or learned in unsought out ways. I also believe you can teach someone how to have empathy, or what empathy looks like, but you can’t teach someone to genuinely care about something.

Who inspires and motivates you?

My parents: they are not afraid to think differently, and to do differently. My friends who work 9-5s: I’m sure they would love to do otherwise, but many have enormous loans to pay off, and still find plenty of reasons to cultivate their sense of adventure, and to explore things they are curious about. I also have a particular friend who inspires me to unapologetically follow my interests, and all of them, even if they are incredibly diverse and not necessarily directly aligned.

In 5, 10 years down the line, where do you see Paint the World?

Paint the World will not only catapult a paradigm shift in the way we think about creativity, but can also facilitate the realization of our individual creative power. The model can change how we share community art around the world, and how we view communities. When Paint the World’s uniquely designed creativity-enabling products are deployed to underserved communities around the world, we will help make continuous creative expression accessible to everyone.

What advice do you have for others who are hoping to one day start their own non-profit?

The nonprofit field is over-saturated by many that have such similar missions. 10 years ago, Derwin Dubose wrote:

“As of 2006, there were nearly 1 million 501(c)(3) organizations in the US — a nearly 70% increase from the 536,000 there were ten years earlier — and I’ve heard that number currently grows at a rate of 1,000 per month. As the number of non-profits grows, inefficiency within our field goes up while the pool of available donors shrinks.” 

I can only imagine what the numbers are now. Before you set out to start your own entity, look for ways you can partner with like-minded teams. Your impact will be multiplied, and your goals can be set higher. We’re in this together.

 


Sara Schenkel

About

Sara Schenkel is a development professional with experience at several nonprofits, including the arts and Jewish organizations. Based in the Philadelphia area, she enjoys writing and music. Sara is a graduate of Muhlenberg College where she obtained her Bachelor of Arts in Film Studies with a double minor in Creative Writing and Religion Studies.


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