When Caymin met Joanne Tawfilis last year, he didn’t speak. He’d been bullied at school and he always held his head down, rarely looking up from the floor.
Just one year later, this 16-year-old autistic young man is now not only talking, but laughing, and getting straight A’s in all of his classes. Caymin is now also a Peace Paint Ambassador for Joanne’s organization, The Muramid Museum & Art Center. The museum is home to the Art Miles Mural Project, a non-profit established in 1997, which uses painting and art to promote a global culture of peace.
The Art Miles Mural Project was born when orphans painted their fears, their pain, and their hope, onto bedsheets riddled with bullet holes – creating make-shift murals on the only material they had, a grim canvas exposing life in war-torn Bosnia.
It was in Bosnia that Joanne and her husband, Fouad, saw the incredible transformative power of art. They watched the orphaned children paint and saw their eyes begin to fill with joy again. They watched as the children’s hands, clenched in fear and anger, began to slowly loosen up around their paintbrushes. They watched as the orphans’ hearts started to warm up again as they painted.
The experience in Bosnia inspired Joanne and Fouad to launch the Art Miles Mural Project, a United Nations, UNESCO initiative which has led to the creation of more than 5,280 murals by one-half million people in over 100 countries across the world.
Caymin is a shining example of how expression through art can change lives. “The power of art can remove, transform, and heal pain, sorrow and sadness,” says Joanne. “Caymin is a very talented young man.”
“Caymin works with Joanne at the Muramid Museum,” says Flor Angel, Program Director, Mountain Shadows Outreach Services. “Joanne and Caymin, along with several students from the Tukwut Leadership program at Cal State San Marcos come to Mountain Shadows Outreach every Tuesday. They help our participants create new pieces of artwork. The participants absolutely love them!
“When we mentioned to Joanne that we needed a new mural for the Outreach Café, she was so excited. There was no hesitation. She just asked, ‘What would you like us to do?'”
“Flor and the Outreach staff wanted a 50’s-style mural for the café,” says Joanne. “I talked to Caymin and he was very excited about it! He researched 50’s cars and memorabilia, and then he designed the mural and helped to paint it.
“Caymin loves working with the Outreach participants. He treats them as he would anyone else. They tell him what they want to create, he sketches it for them, and they paint it together. Caymin’s life was changed through art. Now he acts as a mentor and teacher to the Outreach participants. We’re so proud of him.”
“Several of the Outreach participants – Carlos, Kristine, Kenny, Caroline and Kara – helped in painting the mural,” says Flor. “They had a blast! And the mural is beautiful. It is exactly what we wanted.
“Joanne also hosted an art auction last year, with over 100 paintings created by our Outreach participants. More than $1,000 was raised! The proceeds were used to buy paint and brushes for our art program this year. We’re planning another auction for this Spring.”
“We just love coming to Mountain Shadows Outreach and working with the participants,” says Joanne. “I’ve been working with them for 4 years now. It’s become ingrained in me. The staff is amazing. It’s a win-win-win. A win for the participants. A win for the Cal State students. And a win for us.
“I love helping people see what they can do!”
Our heartfelt thanks to Joanne, Caymin, the Muramid Art Museum, and the Cal State San Marcos Tukwut Leadership program, for this incredible mural – and for your continued support and friendship.