At the Impact
First responders change lives. It is a part of the job, and for every routine call, there is a member of the community whose life may be impacted forever. In this section, we will present a small sampling of the stories from community members and the families of service personnel, demonstrating the day-to-day difference a first responder can make through their skill and dedication.
Street Painting Artist Nate Baranowski
On a street in New Paltz, NY, during the Second Annual Hudson Valley Chalk Festival held July 12-14th, Street Painting Artist Nate Baranowski created a 12 ft. x 12 ft. tribute to heroes. Nate has no relation to first responders with the exception of a family friend, and has never responded to a call. He was inspired to do a "more meaningful, more touching” piece for this festival, and decided that he was going to capture a hero.
Street Painting Artists attend festivals and gather to create their pieces because they have something to say, art "for the people.” Nate has been a street painter for four years, and because their medium is not permanent, the art is not meant to be sold, but rather meant to make people smile. There are competitive events, where artists may win prize money, but the Hudson Valley Chalk Festival is an exhibition. Travel is sponsored, but otherwise, artists meet to share their creations with the people purely for the love of art. Nate traveled from Tampa, FL to participate in this event.
For his subject matter, he thought about Police, Firefighters, Paramedics, and his brother and sister who are missionaries in a New Guinea hospital. He began to plan the piece about a month before the festival and he found inspiration in a photo by photographer Danny Pavel. The studied expression on the firefighter’s face was the first part of the mural. After the Yarnell Tragedy, and the loss of the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots, the piece was firmed up in his mind. The timing made sense. The face of the firefighter on the left is not one of the fallen, but rather a model of a firefighter, with the expression of "concern, strength and triumph.”
"Firefighters seem like one big community, a family, and rather than play on the emotions of sadness I wanted to show a steady, firm expression.” This firefighter is representative of the entire community. The other two figures on the right and the shield on the helmets came from photos Nate found after the Yarnell Fire. He is careful to note that this work is not to "capitalize on tragedy” but to rather inspire people and show the strength of the firefighting community.
"The purpose of a firefighter is clear, and it is honorable. It is sad to me that we give attention to everyday heroes only when a tragedy strikes. I have no danger in my job. It was an honor to do the piece.” The mural has gone viral on Facebook. His original post was made before he ever left NY. Immediately the photos were shared, and the thanks rolled in. Nate and his wife have been deeply moved by the attention and comments that have followed his Facebook post of the work. “I don’t know these people, but the posts have been amazing. I didn’t expect this much impact.” Nate also gives credit to an artist friend from Chicago, Michael Schumann who helped him on this piece at the festival.
You can see some of Nate’s other work, including photos of the progress of this piece over the three days, at www.streetcanvasdesign.com and follow Nate on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/StreetCanvasDesign
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