Exclusive Coverage: Portraits of Hope Announces 2015 Park Project

(Photo Caption: An artist’s rendering of what the lake at MacArthur Park in Los Angeles will look like filled with thousands of 4-foot to  6-foot diameter spheres, the newest project from Portraits of Hope.)

New York City taxicabs. A blimp. Hundreds of lifeguard towers. A DC-3 airplane. 

A common thread among these seemingly unrelated objects is that they have all played the role of canvas to the creatively philanthropic minds of brothers Bernie and Ed Massey, co-founders of the California-based nonprofit Portraits of Hope.

The Masseys and the Portraits of Hope team have been using unlikely objects such as those listed above to spread their message since 1995. Their projects are designed to give hope to people—especially young people—who are facing challenging circumstances, whether they be health-related or some other issue that has them fighting against the odds.

The nonprofit organization gathers vinyl materials donated by its corporate partners, prints black and white outlines and takes them to young people in hospitals, schools or community centers, where the materials are transformed into works of art. Once the artwork is completed the material is affixed to whatever high-profile object, or objects, the subject of the piece is in any given year.

In 2015, Portraits of Hope is turning its attention to historic MacArthur Park in Los Angeles, an urban park in a densely populated section of the city not far from downtown. The centerpiece of the park, which is a registered city landmark and dates back to the 1880s, is a large lake that will be home for a month to approximately 10,000 brightly-colored floating spheres, each about four to six feet in diameter.

A view from the side of what MacArthur Park in Los Angeles will look like this summer.

Portraits of Hope co-founder Ed Massey is the creative mind behind the idea for the spheres, as well as the blimp, the NASCAR race cars, the jet, and all the other objects Portraits of Hope has wrapped and highlighted over the years. Speaking from southern California in a recent interview with Sign & Digital Graphics magazine, Massey explains that while he runs the creative side of the organization his brother, Bernie, handles the policy and education end of the organization.

Ed Massey says the spheres idea is one he’s been researching for a number of years. Just figuring out a way to have them made was a logistical challenge unto itself, he says.

“No one fabricates spheres in this country to that volume,” Ed Massey says. “Because we’re doing thousands of spheres, those are going to be made overseas.”

As with all Portraits of Hope projects, it is the generosity of the digital graphics industry that will make the feat possible. “The sign and graphics industry has been the lifeline for our projects,” he says.

Companies Believe in the Message
MACtac has been one of the constants,” Ed Massey says, referring to the adhesive vinyls company that is a regular Portraits of Hope supporter. He estimates that for the New York City cab project alone, MACtac donated about 800,000 square feet of vinyl.

Image Options, a California-based printing company, is another backer of Portraits of Hope, including on 2010’s “Summer of Color” endeavor, in which hundreds of southern California lifeguard towers were dressed up in colorful wraps.

Image Options CEO Tim Bennett says he recalls visiting the University of California-Irvine’s burn unit to watch some of the patients there paint some of the vinyl sheets that would go on the towers. He says he’ll never forget one little boy in particular, about three or four years old, who was completely bandaged head to toe.

“They got the paints out, they put them on the floor, and within five minutes this kid’s whole demeanor had changed,” Bennett recalls.

Just one of the hundreds of southern California lifeguard towers that were decorated as part of Portraits of Hope’s 2010 project, “Summer of Color.”

Ed Massey had approached Bennett about his company possibly getting involved with Portraits of Hope.

“We didn’t have a relationship with (wide-format printer manufacturer) EFI, but that’s a case where Tim (at Image Options) said I like this project so much I’m going to get EFI and Seemee (now called Verseidag) involved,” Massey says.

Image Options ended up donating hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of printing services to the lifeguard tower project, Massey says.

“I emailed Scott Shinlever,” says Bennett referring to the senior vice president and general manager of EFI’s Inkjet Solutions division. “I said, ‘Scott, this may sound a little wacky, but we’re in this great project and I wonder if you’d like to be a part of it.’ I got an email back within the hour—Ding!

The Summer of Color project was also the first involvement with Portraits of Hope for Laird Plastics, although his company had been familiar with some of the nonprofit’s previous work, manager Andy Boyle says.

“Laird Plastics’ involvement has varied from project to project depending on the need and location,” says Boyle. “For the Summer of Color project we donated all the plastic material used on the lifeguard towers, labor, warehousing and delivery services. Our entire team participated in a number of on-site painting sessions.

“(On) other projects we have been the staging point prior to shipment of materials, shipping, transportation and product development.”

Laird Plastics helped out last year when Portraits of Hope wrapped dozens of first responder emergency vehicles in the Aspen, Colorado area, Boyle says.

“Ed and Bernie are the main reasons we were drawn to Portraits of Hope,” he says. “The message they are delivering to school children, the smiles they put on children dealing with health issues is inspiring. The beauty of the projects and the scale on which they are developed are impressive, but seeing the children and the volunteers is what has continued to drive our involvement.”

Massey says the planning of the spheres at historic MacArthur Park has been years in the making, and the nonprofit just recently got Los Angeles City Council approval to stage its project there.

He expects to be bringing materials into schools and hospitals to be painted starting in the spring and manufacturing beginning after that. The actual display of the spheres on the lake is expected to start in July, he says, and the display will continue for four weeks.

“We anticipate somewhere around 5,000 to 7,000 children participants in this project, and it may swell larger than that,” Massey says.

Aside from the spheres on the water, a variety of things will be set up along the shore to inform the public about the spheres project and the Portraits of Hope mission. All those items will be designed and wrapped to match the spheres, Massey says.

He said that one thing that MACtac and other companies have commented on is that having their materials involved in the projects actually provides a pretty good test of their durability, Massey says, given how many times it is opened and unrolled and then re-rolled.

“If a child is in a wheelchair, they just roll right over the material,” Massey says.

Bernie and Ed Massey


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