After 60 days, nearly 30,000 miles (7,000 driving and 20,000 flying) and more than a few time zones, my US road trip is done and I’m back in Belfast, which now feels so very tiny.
I spent the last two months on a tour of the US with an LA-based non-profit called Off The Wall Graffiti – a charity that aims to get kids ‘off’ the street doing graffiti illegally and onto things like canvas, legal walls or murals and merchandise which they can in turn make money from.
Flying into NYC two months ago, then to LA with Paulie Nassar of Nassart, we met the owner of the charity, Maura McCarthy at the airport. Basically, the plan was to zig-zag across the States in her van doing live art and creating awareness for the organisation, connecting with as many people as possible along the way, doing art and recording a documentary at the same time.
From LA, we drove North all the way up to Seattle. In between we had live events in small towns like Ashland and Eugene, painting on the street in Portland and staying with a mix of family and strangers. From Seattle, we made the 19 hour trip to Boulder in one go. That was rough, especially when the heavy snow forces you to sit at a solid 40 mph.
Directly East to Kansas City and St. Louis connected us with some amazing artists whom we interviewed for the ongoing documentary. Memphis and New Orleans came next – good food, great music would sum them up I guess.
Miami was the first main ‘goal’ of the trip, to reach Art Basel with the best selection of work we had to show. Sweating all my shirts through we painted walls, gates, an 18-wheeler truck and any other flat surface that remained unclaimed.
From there, it was to DC, to finish some pieces off then NYC for the final exhibition. Despite losing the venue 24 hours before the show due to the weather conditions, we were fortunate enough to be generously given space by the amazing Con Artist Collective in the Lower East Side. With no promotion, no marketing and a change of venue we were expecting no one to show, but everything always works out. The night was great, people showed up, everything looked well considered and professional and money was raised.
Excuse the quality of the video above, it was a quick overview and I forgot to record a proper version!
It was time for me to depart despite the tour’s continuation back to LA. I half didn’t want to leave, half missed my dogs too much to stay; the already booked flight winning out in the end. It has been the trip of a lifetime but I’ll do it again, I’m not that hard to persuade! In fact the call that got me out there was Paulie saying something like, “You wanna come on a tour of the US?”, me: “What dates do I need to book?”
Anyways, I just want to thank everyone we met along the way – you know who you are. We are grateful to each and every one of you for your generosity and hospitality to three strangers who hijacked your life for a couple of days.
If you are interested in donating to assist in Off The Wall Graffiti’s vision, you can do so via this page – every little really does help on their continuing US road trip!
10 things that stand out on this trip include:
1: Nearly hitting a Caribou at 5am in the Rockies the first time I drove.
2: Painting live at an impromptu billionaires mansion during a party in Miami.
3: Spending four days on an organic sheep farm in Seattle.
4: Meeting strangers at a poetry event then staying with them at their apartment making art.
5: Taking over a bar in St Louis when the owner got too drunk to stand. Also free drink on that note!
6: Painting live with 30-40 kids at Boulder university.
7: Walking into the Art supply store on the first day and being given $1000 worth of canvas for free.
8: Temperatures of -20 degrees in Montana – it hurt to breathe!
9: 896 miles to go on the GPS to our next destination makes Ireland feel so wee!
10: Losing my mind after 4 days of no sleep.