MARCH 14, 2018

Episode 11 – These Walls Bring Us Together

Andi Scull from HOPE Events

We’re excited to bring Andi Scull, Founder and Executive Producer of HOPE (Helping Other People Everywhere) Events, to the studio. HOPE Events is a nonprofit production company where artists and makers donate their time and talents to giving back. HOPE is also the founding organization behind the HOPE Campaign, HOPE Farmers Market, and the HOPE Outdoor Gallery.

We spoke with Andi about HOPE Outdoor Gallery, a once abandoned area of Austin’s downtown that later transformed into a haven for local artists and the global street art movement. The HOPE Outdoor Gallery is now an internationally recognized arts destination featuring renowned artists like Shepard Fairey. HOPE announced last year that they’ll be relocating the art park to Carson Creek Ranch. Listen to learn more about HOPE’s vision for the future of Austin’s arts community!

Lisa Graham (00:00):
Welcome to this week’s episode of the Change The Rules podcast. I’m Lisa Graham, co-founder at Notley. And joining me today is my co-founder Dan Graham and Matt McDonnell, managing partner of Notley. Our very special guest today is Andi Scull Cheatham, the Founder and Executive Producer of HOPE Events, the nonprofit behind HOPE farmer’s market, HOPE outdoor gallery, and many other projects and causes both in and out of Austin. So welcome to the show, Andi, we’re excited to have you here. And the first question that we have, I promise I’m not trying to be more existential or anything, but what does HOPE stand for?
Andi Scull Cheatham (00:32):
No, it’s great. I love it when people ask me because it is interesting that, you know, so the acronym of HOPE stands for Helping Other People Everywhere. And that was the inspiration behind me starting the organization, in 2006. And I was just driving along one day and I was trying to figure out what it was that I was feeling. I kept seeing the word hope and it literally just came to me in that way. It was very, very kind of funny, actually.
Lisa Graham (01:02):
Talk to us about the programs that you all offer. What is the mission of HOPE?
Andi Scull Cheatham (01:06):
So, essentially, we are a nonprofit production company and we connect creatives with causes through projects and events. So my background as an art director, graphic designer in advertising, marketing, and film over the years, I just started producing art shows or creating events that other charities wanted to attach themselves to. And eventually, I found that it was becoming much more than a hobby and was ruling my life. And so I thought it was time to just start my own charity out of it. Which basically is kind of what I had already been doing. You know, every time a project came up, I would call, you know, all of my creative friends, whether it’s a photographer, a chef or an editor, or an illustrator, and I would ask them, “Hey, I’m doing this thing. Would you mind, you know, kicking in?” And of course everyone always said yes, which I think is also kind of the philosophy behind the organization.
Andi Scull Cheatham (02:01):
It’s a quote that I’ve often share that I even looked up to make sure I get it right. Because you know what I mean, throughout your lives, when you kind of read something that someone else famous said, and you’re like, Oh yeah, that’s great. That’s exactly it. So yeah, Martin Luther King Jr said, “Almost always the creative, dedicated minority has made the world better.” And that was actually the quote that I use for my art piece in the very first HOPE art show that we had in LA at the top of city hall. And from there, that’s kind of, kind of how I feel the mission has grown for the organization.
Lisa Graham (02:40):
What are the programs you all offer? I think people in Austin are very familiar with the HOPE outdoor gallery. So we’d love to hear, you know, from you what that is, but also what are the other programs that you guys offer in the community?
Andi Scull Cheatham (02:52):
Well, on a local level, I think most people are familiar with the HOPE farmer’s market. And again, kind of going back to the, that we’re a nonprofit production company. So I mean our, our ability to allow creatives the opportunity to donate their time and talent towards these projects and events is what we do weekly through the farmer’s market. I mean the program in that basis is every month we have an artist design the poster for the market. These types of things are often what a lot of nonprofits don’t plan for. And that’s something I’ve also talked about for the past decade of running HOPE that, you know, just because my background is in advertising and marketing, you know, we had so many pro bono clients and I always wondered that right out of college, you know, working at these agencies, like why didn’t they budget for their logo?
Andi Scull Cheatham (03:50):
I mean, these types of things that are what any small business owner learns. And I think it is now come to light in a much more crucial way for the nonprofit sector to treat their charity as a business. And so really creating a brand or identity or something that the community then can relate to is just as important as the work and message that you’re doing. So, kind of back to the programs that we do. You know whether it’s the HOPE farmer’s market every Sunday, which also involves local musicians or, um, you know, that weekly platform is really about the creatives involved in food and education. We also are a free platform for other nonprofits to come and use the event space. There’s a lot more new programs that are going to be coming through the HOPE outdoor gallery in our relocation. So I’m very excited to talk about some of that stuff, which kind of ends up touching on some other areas that I think are very key for the organization from the beginning, but in our growth, we’ll be building on a lot more. And so I’m calling that job creation.
Lisa Graham (05:14):
Yeah. Tell us about the big move that you guys are having with the HOPE outdoor gallery. You all announced in November that y’all are going to be moving out to Carson Creek Ranch. How did that come about and what is your vision for the new location?
Andi Scull Cheatham (05:27):
So, I call the new park, my, my fourth child. Anyone who has a business can relate.
Lisa Graham (05:41):
Absolutely. Yeah.
Andi Scull Cheatham (05:43):
The growth, development, and birth of something. So yeah, the journey to find the perfect new location for this park has been going on for several years. And, you know, we always knew that it was a temporary project. I think that’s very critical for the public to understand as we start sharing the details about the move.
Lisa Graham (06:06):
And can you describe the project as well? In case there are people in the community who actually haven’t been able to see it, I think y’all get so many visitors, I can’t imagine, but yeah. Can you describe that for us?
Andi Scull Cheatham (06:18):
Yeah, absolutely. Which is true, you know, you think when so many people constantly tell you how they’ve been there and then you meet someone you’re like, “Oh, I’m so sorry.”
Lisa Graham (06:29):
Come see it. It’s incredible.
Andi Scull Cheatham (06:31):
So the HOPE outdoor gallery, we started it in 2010, and the concept originally was just to utilize these abandoned walls for public art. For art forms that typically for these types of artists, they don’t get the opportunity to use such large spaces or they end up doing this work in the dark or under conditions that are very nerve wracking and not as comfortable. So that was kind of the simple ask in 2010, when I asked Vic Ayad and Dick Clark what they thought. And I think at the time, HOPE had already been getting requests from other great campaigns — global campaigns — and other nonprofit groups doing great work. And so there’s often messages that it’d be great to have our own space where we could just, you know, share some of these messages and ideas.
Andi Scull Cheatham (07:36):
We also at the time were just starting the HOPE farmer’s market. So we thought it’d be another cool way to engage our artists to maybe educate the public more about healthy food options and stuff like this. So what started as just permission to use over one and a half acres of abandoned walls from the 80s very quickly turned into so much more. And I think that was not anticipated by us, but we very quickly caught on that the importance that this project was playing for Austin, the art community, and then the global street art movement came to light within the first year and a half. I did go ahead and start this project by also asking the first artists that I asked to start the organization with to help support the launch of this and his name is Shepard Fairey.
Andi Scull Cheatham (08:45):
A lot of people are familiar with him for doing the HOPE Obama poster, but he’s a very prolific contemporary American street artist. And so when we met in LA, and I came up with this idea of HOPE, him and his wife, Amanda, loved it and we launched the HOPE campaign together. So he wasn’t surprised when I said, when I sent him a short video, “Hey, check out these walls,” if you wouldn’t mind doing the first mural there. And so that also gave us a lot of credibility within the street art community right out the gate in terms of a project. But now we have learned over eight years the incredible benefits that this park has had for Austin. So kind of now going back to job creation, I feel like that’s been one of the number one things that I’ve been very proud of to watch dozens of our local artists become full-time artists, which also, you know, has given so much value to those companies that have been hiring them. And we’re finding that a lot more in a lot of the young tech companies that are starting in Austin and even some of the huge ones – I mean Facebook hired many of our artists to outfit their entire building.
Dan Graham (10:19):
What is, I’m really curious, especially with kind of the fascination that street artists are currently carrying and there’s been movies about them and now everybody knows names across the world like Banksy and others. What is the relationship or how does that relationship work or is there really much of one there? And how do you kind of think about that?
Andi Scull Cheatham (10:38):
So I do get asked often who are my favorite artists, or, you know, and I have to admit that I can’t ever say that I have any favorites because I’m very focused just on our small little contribution. Right. And I just say that meaning that the HOPE outdoor gallery now is internationally known and we have had lots of internationally recognized artists come and participate in our walls. But I feel like I’m more excited about what we’re developing and what we’re doing here as just a local platform that then adds to the global platform. So my answer to that is street art is not new. There are so many incredible street artists around the world that have been doing their work for decades. And it’s amazing to see on a local level that our artist community is really starting to blossom and grow and be a part of that international scene. And the HOPE outdoor gallery has created that platform for them.
Andi Scull Cheatham (12:03):
But I think that we are a very young country. And I think that’s something that’s overlooked sometimes when it comes to us thinking about public art. And that when we travel and go to Europe and just other places in the world where their cultures are older, they have been commissioning artists to paint, do mosaics, to create artwork out in the public for thousands of years, you know, so I feel like with the HOPE outdoor gallery, we’re just trying to do our part and it’s a little part, but it’s being recognized at a much higher, rapid pace than we ever imagined. And I’m excited to see how that grows into the international community. Does that make sense?
Dan Graham (12:57):
Matt McDonnell (13:00):
You know, I think it’s interesting too to think about some of the benefits that aren’t just art oriented. Right. So I think one of the things that I recently learned is there’s been something like three dozen marriage proposals at the HOPE outdoor gallery. So I’m curious if you could just tell us a little bit more about maybe some of these unexpected events and things like that that popped up that aren’t just purely, you know, individuals making street art.
Dan Graham (13:21):
And are those people still married?
Matt McDonnell (13:22):
A hundred percent of them. Anybody who proposes at HOPE.
Andi Scull Cheatham (13:28):
Oh my gosh.
Lisa Graham (13:29):
They stay married forever. Write that down.
Andi Scull Cheatham (13:30):
Right. That’d be an amazing little certificate we could give them. Like matching risk tattoos or something. I love talking about this stuff for sure. Because it is stuff that nobody really knows about. You don’t really know the best way to share this stuff, say on social media for a project, right? But when you’re having private meetings with friends and you get to tell him, yeah, dozens of, it’s like one of the favorite places to propose for marriage. But the cool part about that are these couples have literally come out to the park, met an artist, commissioned them, and then planned this whole thing together. Right. And I think that’s more of the cool stuff that we’ve been able to share with our local level, the City of Austin Parks and Rec when we’d meet with them, you know, that for whatever reason, there are 72 public parks in Austin and we see 50 to 200 people per hour, per day at HOPE outdoor gallery.
Andi Scull Cheatham (14:35):
And they are there filming a video for their grandma, filming a tap dancing video, practicing drone piloting, doing their family photo shoot, doing a volunteer cleanup garden plant. I mean, it’s been incredible to see people’s interest in use of the space, which I think by the third year I really started crediting what I think is kind of the, the way skate parks came into the urban core and that this is just the evolution of that, you know, that we see so many families or couples that people go there together and they want to be inspired or, or do something. And that’s so interesting and so unique, you know, when you think, well, you could go to Zilker, you know, but for some reason they’re coming here. And so I think again, referencing the skate parks, this feeling that people have when they come to HOPE outdoor gallery is like a feeling to be free, like a place where they can safely share their own ideas.
Lisa Graham (15:53):
And is that, what is your vision then for your fourth baby that you’re creating out at Carson Creek?
Andi Scull Cheatham (16:00):
Oh my goodness.
Lisa Graham (16:01):
More space for that, what are you hoping for it to be?
Andi Scull Cheatham (16:04):
Yes. Well, at this point it is a fully baked baby. I think three years ago when we truly started looking at new locations and understanding what was happening at the current site we started putting together a plan and we started talking to architects and landscape designers. And again, going back to what our organization actually does as a program, we started getting creatives to donate their time and talent towards this park. And some incredible people stepped up. Chioco Designs has been doing our renderings for the park for several years, over several different locations we’ve looked at. And many others just contributing along the way. So, finally, we’re there, you know, we found a home adjacent to Carson Creek Ranch. It’s not actually in Carson Creek Ranch. It is right next to it, but they are a great group and it’s just the perfect little playground for this baby to grow up in.
Andi Scull Cheatham (17:13):
Well, and the great part was as soon as we shared this location with the most important community, which are our local artists, they were all pretty excited, you know, cause they were also familiar with going to camping music festivals at Carson Creek Ranch. And I think also knew the environment that it has to offer, which was critical in us finding a new spot, you know, that ultimately we needed a place where artists and even if they’re, you know, budding artists. So that’s another kind of fun fact. You know, I’ve seen dentists, two nurses, several different adults who are now like doing full time murals as side gigs came out to HOPE outdoor gallery and painted for the first time in their lives with that kind of feeling that I think we often hear with people when you, when you say, “Oh, you know, Oh, you cook that delicious dish.” Like, “Oh, I can’t cook.”
Andi Scull Cheatham (18:12):
And then people say, “Oh, I can’t draw.” You’re like, “Well, have you ever tried?” You know, and that’s something kind of going back to job creation, which I’ll touch on really to me is about job education. But that a lot of times people just have never had the opportunity to try. And for whatever reason, that’s the magic that’s come out of HOPE outdoor gallery. So us recreating that in a new spot, we’re like let’s make a list of the key ingredients here. So at the new location, we’ll have six acres to establish all the important parts, which will include us having parking.
Lisa Graham (19:00):
What is this parking that you speak of?
Andi Scull Cheatham (19:08):
I know we all make decisions now based on Uber and Lyft and Ride Austin help us out.
Dan Graham (19:12):
So with your regular visitors, you know, those who are already coming to the park, what are they going to be surprised to find at the new location? You know, what’s, what’s going to be different. You mentioned the size, certainly.
Andi Scull Cheatham (19:24):
Right, right. Um, did I say parking? And, you know, you’ll have to forgive me on this, but truly the basic amenities that come with the park — restrooms, water, you know, these are things…
Matt McDonnell (19:39):
Andi Scull Cheatham (19:39):
Right. You’d be surprised how, how incredible, we’re like people come here and we don’t have these things. So just to tell them that for the artists was like, oh right.
Andi Scull Cheatham (19:55):
But yeah, for sure, we figured it would be then important for us to have educational space, indoor space, having a coffee bar, where an artist can have an appropriate meeting with someone who wants to commission them to do a marriage proposal or to talk about a commission project for a huge corporate client or to do a fundraising art show for our organization or other organizations. So those will be new parts to the park. Definitely going to have just as much wall space. And we’re going to maintain the ability of having practice space, but now we will have a more curated program. And I think that is also really important to so many of our artists. At the new HOPE outdoor gallery, there’ll be more of a graduation process, so you could kind of move into the curated wall system and then eventually have your own curated mural show and an actual outdoor gallery space.
Lisa Graham (20:59):
That’s awesome.
Matt McDonnell (21:01):
One of the things that’s been so interesting to me watching the move from the current location to the next is that you’ve done a really nice job of sort of bucking that trend of what you hear is the normal development story, right? Somebody wants, you know, a developer wants to build condos. Artists are displaced, right. And you’ve mentioned a couple of times that you’ve been working on this project for years now, knowing that eventually you were going to take a temporary location and find something new and you’ve been able to do it really gracefully. Right. So I’m curious if you could just sort of help us understand how your organization, I think has avoided one of the stories that you hear a lot about, not just here in Austin, right, but in any city that’s growing quickly.
Andi Scull Cheatham (21:41):
Yeah, for sure. I mean, first right off the bat, as I mentioned, you know, asking permission to use someone’s private property for your own art project, I think, you know, just historically anyone involved in HOPE, we’re pretty grateful.
Dan Graham (22:01):
They had no idea what they were agreeing to.
Matt McDonnell (22:06):
Six years ago or seven years ago.
Andi Scull Cheatham (22:08):
Yeah. Definitely Vic and I love our own private story exchanges of this stuff that nobody knows that has gone on there. That’s just fun and hilarious. But I think, you know, keeping a really close relationship and communication, figuring out who are the people that this project will be affecting, and immediately we met with the local APD for that neighborhood. We reached out to the neighborhood association. I mean, truly forming as many close community relationships right from the beginning I think is critical and then can be beneficial down the road. And for us, most definitely was. So when we started to notice a lot of things that we didn’t like about the project, we could then talk to those partners, the community groups, and ask their thoughts on how to work through that, which then gave us even more information about how to treat it moving forward in its new place. And then I think talking to other partners that were coming into the project, just figuring out how can we work together? What are ways that we can share, you know, positive aspects and not get sucked in the vortex of negative media, which is, I don’t know. I feel like for us, it’s just a good brand fit. So there’s that, you know, when your motto is helping other people everywhere, you wanna include as many people as possible.
Andi Scull Cheatham (23:51):
So, yeah, I think now as we’re approaching kind of having a huge press release to share even more about the new location and all the people involved, including Notley, and how we’re working with you guys, it’s very exciting. You know it really allows everyone to get even more behind it. And I think from a marketing perspective, for me, it’s an easy sell with partners too, because not treating these things with the type of love and respect and concern that they deserve can also just lead to just not as much value that you get out of all the work that you’ve all put in, you know?
Matt McDonnell (24:34):
And one of the other things that’s been interesting, you know, obviously we’re on a podcast, but can you just explain the design a little bit? Because I know people can’t see all these pictures, but you’ve got something pretty special in store I think.
Andi Scull Cheatham (24:48):
Oh my gosh. Yes, I would love to. So, so we were out on site with Jamie Chioco, the architect, and, you know Carson Creek Ranch is right across from the airport and Joan, the owner, is a dear friend. I’ve spent a lot of time out there and joined some great cook-offs with her and you know, being near the water. But I think as anyone knows, you know, when you hear a plane go by, you’re like, “Oh right, we’re by the airport.” So a plane flies over. And I was like, man, you know, we have had a lot of artists contact us from France, Brazil, you know, artists that do, you know, outdoor art, but it’s more like landscape art. There’s so much public art that we get requests for at HOPE outdoor gallery, but we can’t always accommodate.
Andi Scull Cheatham (25:38):
I’m like, man, but we’re going to be able to do that out here. What if we use that to our benefit? And Jamie looked at me and he’s like, we just need the H, the P, and the E, we already have the O. Cause you’d always kind of seen this outdoor gallery as this O design. So we’ve literally designed the park to spell the word HOPE that can be seen from the sky. So every plane that flies into Austin. So, we just flipped it. We made it more of an asset. Which again, I think kind of going back, like just whatever it is, like, how can we make this a positive thing? So now it’s crazy. I mean, as we show people the MP4 of that, I mean, you’re like, Oh man.
Dan Graham (26:24):
Yeah, it does look really freaking cool.
Andi Scull Cheatham (26:29):
I think about a kid anywhere I’ve traveled to, even when, I don’t know, you go to LAX and there’s the giant L-A-X. It’s like, Oh, we’re going to make that. There’s the HOPE outdoor gallery. So that’s part of the news, the new news.
Lisa Graham (26:45):
Awesome. To get a project like this, I mean, it does call for a lot of collaboration with nonprofit, for profit, municipalities. And so what are some of the collaborations you’re most excited about with the new space?
Andi Scull Cheatham (26:56):
Well, we recently just started a relationship with Rodeo Austin and we’re talking with Andy Roddick Foundation and we’ve been working with the Vince Young Foundation in terms of kind of nonprofit stuff. But the most exciting thing for me is the work we’ve been doing with Industry Print. And, again, kind of going to our, our interest always in kind of maybe helping to bridge that gap between the nonprofit world and the for-profit world. And so Industry Print, you know, they are one of the best print shops and branding shops in Austin, but for several years now, Tony, the owner and I have talked about how we could create more creative industry job workshops for the youth at the new park. So, I am so thrilled for us to start what hopefully will be summer camp programs for kids, which will involve working together as a team to design a mural, which then from that you glean the t-shirt design that you need to then translate to a computer and learn more about graphic design in vector, and then translate that to a screen and a press and actually print their own shirts and put them out, you know, take them through an entire, you know, week or two week camp process where they’ll learn about five to eight different jobs in the creative industry.
Andi Scull Cheatham (28:25):
And that for me is so huge. You know, I think back all the time when I talk about HOPE, how I had to look up what an art director was. I did fine in school and athletics and was a leader in whatever stuff in high school, but no one ever told me what a graphic designer was, you know, and granted that was three decades ago. But I feel like we’ve come so far in terms of parents now learning about six figure jobs that their kid could have if they’re really talented in some of these fields. So I think that partnership is the most exciting one to me for the new park.
Lisa Graham (29:11):
Cool. Can you tell us about your book, “These Walls Can Talk”?
Andi Scull Cheatham (29:16):
Yeah. So this is our second book about the project and we released it last South by Southwest. But we did specifically title it to be a part of the relocation campaign. So it’s titled “These Walls Can Talk” and it will play a key part as in our announcement with the relocation campaign, which is titled ‘These Walls Bring Us Together’. So the book, the second book, we actually created it by compiling submitted stories and photos from the community. So it’s actually its own testimonial about why Austin loves this thing. And it’s not just limited to Austin. There’s definitely plenty of stories in there from outside the city. And we got plenty of submissions from people that live all over the world. I mean, it’s crazy like how in the street art world, even the artists will say how they’ll be artists from the Netherlands or Japan that are like HOPE outdoor gallery. But, definitely the book, I was just so happy with the outcome of that. And Preacher is our pro bono marketing partner. They put together the entire book and are still handling the look and feel of our relocation campaign. And we worked very closely together on that. And you know, it’s rare to have such a visual art book be something that you actually like to read. So yeah, I mean, I love recommending it to people. I’m like, the stories are really good.
Lisa Graham (31:03):
Great. That’s awesome. Thank you so much for joining us today, Andi. It’s been really awesome hearing about the project and what’s to come. We’re so excited. Thank you for being here.
Andi Scull Cheatham (31:09):
Yeah. Thanks for having me.
Lisa Graham (31:12):
Well, make sure to follow along with the HOPE outdoor gallery relocation and other HOPE projects at www.hopecampaign.org. Change The Rules is sponsored by Chez Boom Audio and the talented Shayna Brown. You can find her studio at https://chezboomaudio.com/. That’s C H E Z Boom Audio dotcom. Change The Rules is now on iTunes and you can find every episode by searching Change The Rules, subscribe to follow us, and if you like what you hear, leave a review. Thanks for listening.

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March 10, 2018