Q&A: Street Artist Nick Walker for Good Neighbors

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We are kind of feeling like the coolest nonprofit on the block at the moment because we were lucky enough to get street artist Nick Walker to  collaborate with us on a beautiful wood-lasered  iPhone and Galaxy case.  The best part? A portion of the profits will be used to help us build new schools in Africa.

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If you don’t know Nick, he’s one of the world’s best known street artists and a major figure in the contemporary art world (his new solo gallery opened in New York last week, as you might have read in The Gothamist). As a forerunner of the British graffiti phenomenon, Nick’s work has become a blueprint for hundreds of emerging artists. He was selected by the late Stanley Kubrick to work on his last film, Eyes Wide Shut, where he created the artwork of the streets of New York on the film’s outdoor sets. Nick‘s iconic “Vandal” character was also featured in the Black Eyed Peas’ music video “I Gotta Feeling” which has been seen by over 160 million viewers on YouTube alone.

Below, Nick chats with us about his work, why he wanted to collaborate on this project, and what he thinks is the best street art city in the world:

What’s one of your most favorite pieces you’ve done? Where is it and why does it mean a lot to you?

I think it’s the ‘Giraffiti’ piece in Williamsburg in Brooklyn back in 2008. It took all night and we ended up having to get a longer ladder in the end to reach the paintbrush coming out of the giraffe’s mouth. If we had gotten the longer ladder the first time I think we would’ve finished earlier, but then I wouldn’t have gotten to meet [graffiti artist] Futura, who happened to be in the area getting his early morning coffee. It was the perfect end to a crazy night of painting.

What is one of your most favorite collaborations/commissioned projects you’ve done and why?

I’m really proud of my collaboration with Royal Doulton on a figurine due out in January 2015. It’s the first time Royal Doulton has used 3D scanning technology in their 200-year history and the figure will be included in their 200-year anniversary celebration.

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What was the most challenging/craziest/funniest experience you’ve had either trying to install a piece, or the behind-the-scenes work leading up to it?

There’s been a few but a memorable one was painting the shutters on Gansevoort street in the Meatpacking District. The chef from the restaurant next door decided he was going to test his 15-course meal on us and ply us with Mojitos all day for free.

Why did you want to do a collaboration for the Hope School project from Good Neighbors? What about the project is interesting?

If I can help build a school for children who otherwise might not have any access to an education, that’s a really cool thing. I think this project is really cool.

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What city in the world seems to embrace street art culture the most and why?

I could be wrong, but my guess is New York City—it’s where it began and it’s still going strong. Anyone who has grown up in that city has seen the art form evolve over the years. The people, the museums, and even a handful of cops have embraced it. It’s crazy the different kinds of people from all walks of life that stop in the street and pay compliments.

What is the inspiration/story behind the Vandal character?

I first came up with the Vandal concept back in 2005. I was walking through London and I saw one of those massive golfing umbrellas on the ground and on second glance I saw that there was someone underneath it lighting up a pipe. It stuck in my head and I got to thinking that umbrellas act as the perfect smoke screen for pretty much anything you like, especially graffiti, which is how the Vandal Triptych print came about. The second decoy is the outfit and someone dressed as a quintessential Englishman donning a bowler hat–someone you would expect to be doing graffiti!

The Vandal has one mission and, having heard the term “paint the town red,” he decided to take it to the extreme and paint it every color imaginable. But not just the town, the world!

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Why did you pick this particular piece for the PrinkTech collaboration?

I wanted to pick this image because the Vandal is in pouring mode and I wanted to experiment with the design within the paint flow and make it more detailed, rather than a flat colour.

When you were an emerging artist, what about street art was appealing to you to focus on this particular medium/genre?

When I was younger, the art was just known as Graffiti Art. I was strongly influenced by the graffiti on the side of the subway trains in the ’80s in NYC. The artist back then painted whole subway cars and it blew me away.

What was the weirdest/most odd thing said about your art?

I’m not sure, but one of my paintings did once bring a lady to tears!

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Where can people see your work around the world?

Sao Paulo, Paris, NYC, London, Bristol, Los Angeles, Spain, Berlin, Tokyo, Osaka, and Shiga. I forget the names of the streets, though! I am represented by Brugier Rigail gallery in Paris and I have a solo show there in March 2015. My upcoming show will be in New York City this month, opening on October 16th and running for one week.

What’s the most unexpected thing/event/person/etc. that has inspired one of your pieces?

The former president of France (Nicolas Sarcozy) decided to ban the burka in Paris, so I ended up painting six women in burkas doing the cancan. It didn’t last that long though, because political elections were happening at the time and any kind of anti-government graffiti or posters were getting white-washed. You can see a video of it here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/expat/7535535/Nick-Walker-paints-a-mural-in-Paris-about-the-proposal-to-ban-the-veil-in-France.html

What has been your favorite place to install your artwork so far?

New York. The energy of the city is great! Strangers pop up and offer you ladders and stuff–that kind of thing never happens anywhere else.

Thanks so much, Nick! To purchase your iPhone or Samsung Galaxy phone case, go here. And visit Nick’s official site here.

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Meet Paulina, Our United Nations Communicator

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Paulina Mangubat is our United Nations Communicator and a sophomore at Barnard College at Columbia University.

By Paulina Mangubat

I was first introduced to Good Neighbors by an old high school classmate. In high school, she had been one of those amazing upperclassmen who took it upon themselves to mentor less-experienced freshmen. Her honest, helpful personality has led her from Smith College to a successful career in civil society, and when she informed about a job opening for the role of GNI UN Communicator and offered to recommend me for the position, I knew it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

The application process began in April, I was interviewed and tested for the job in July, and by August 26 I found myself flying back to New York a week before school started so I could attend the 65th UN DPI/NGO Conference at the UN Headquarters from August 27 to August 29.

Before I get too far into discussing my experience at the DPI/NGO Conference, though, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Paulina Mangubat, and I’m a sophomore at Barnard College of Columbia University. At school, I write for the Columbia Spectator, act in a few productions a year for the Columbia Performing Arts League, and work in the Barnard Writing Center as a fellow. As a Political Science-East Asian Studies double major, I have special interests in social justice law, international relations, and nonprofit organizations.

As UN Communicator, I attend all New York City-based NGO events and relay the information back to the Good Neighbors International Cooperation Office in Geneva via e-mail. Since GNI doesn’t have an office or official representatives in New York, it’s my job to act as its eyes and ears during important events such as August’s UN DPI/NGO Conference.

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Since the DPI/NGO Conference was my first official introduction to the world of civil service, I wasn’t sure to expect. My supervisor certainly did his best to keep me in the loop: I was told the purpose of the conference was to bring together a wide variety of NGO workers, volunteers, and experts to discuss the Sustainable Development Goals and the post-2015 agenda, but nothing could have prepared me for the sheer volume of talented individuals I encountered during the conference proceedings.

The conference featured experts from civil society, nonprofit organizations, and universities leading roundtables and workshops that discussed sustainability and human rights in the context of the UN’s post-2015 development agenda. The conference concluded with the approval of an official conference declaration that emphasized the importance of arts and culture, empowerment of indigenous people, implementation of sustainable policy, and participation of common citizens via civil society.

By the time the closing ceremony rolled around, my laptop disk drive was full of notes ready to be converted into my first UN report. The closing ceremony featured amazing speakers, including Hadiza Bala Usman, founder of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. I’m looking forward to further updates on the status of the post-2015 agenda, and I can’t wait until my next opportunity to return to the UN Headquarters.

Thanks so much, Paulina! For more updates from Paulina, follow her on Twitter.

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Our 2013 Annual Report

Annual Report 2013 Cover

We’re proud to announce our 2013 annual report is complete! Thanks to YOU, we were able to do some pretty amazing things. Read all about the highlights, behind-the-scenes stories, and accomplishments of our past year here.

And for a sneak peek in infographic form…

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Thanks to all of our donors and supporters–your donations, tweets, Facebook shares, Instagram likes, video views, and all the other awesome things you did truly helped us get to where we did in 2013! For full stories, you can read our complete annual report here.

 

 

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Coffee Meets Water Spotlight: Groundwork Coffee

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Groundwork Coffee has been serving up delicious coffee for over 24 years, and we’re thrilled to have founders Eddy Cola, Steven Levan, and Jeff Chean be part of our Coffee Meets Water campaign. Thanks to them, we’ve been able to fundraise and spread the word about our effort to fix 22 broken water wells in Sidama, Ethiopia, a leading provider of coffee beans in the region.

Below, we chat with Eddy and Jeff about their coffee background and why they want to join us in changing the world:

What first drew you to making coffee?

Eddy: As a child, I used to watch my grandfather drink coffee. So, naturally because I wanted to be like him, I wanted to have what he was having. Later, as a young adult, I was drawn to the caffeine jolt. But over time, and being a foodie, I got into the artisanal and craft aspects of it. When I was younger, I was partial to espresso — now I prefer drinking a good cup of coffee (usually using a Curtis Gold Cup brewer).

Jeff: I got in the business 20 years ago.  At the time, Starbucks was just opening their first stores in Los Angeles.  On my drives to law school, I would stop in at Starbucks and try to reconcile their flavor descriptors with what I was drinking at any given visit.  I couldn’t—and wondered if I could do better.  I like to think we have.

What do you love about owning your own coffee business?

Eddy: For starters, I love coffee—and tea. I also like making a delicious product and offering it up to customers. Finally, I am a big proponent  of organic, sustainable food and beverages. The natural-food category is close to my heart.

Jeff: I get asked that a lot.  People also comment on what a great job it is because I get to drink such great coffee.  I always feel compelled to let them know that they are only seeing the tip of the iceberg in that they are focusing only on the coffees and blends we actually sell.  Behind every great single origin we buy, the Coffee Team has to wade through lots of bad to kinda-good coffee samples before we settle on buying the gems we find.  It is at that moment—while having cupped sixty or so coffees that we will reject—when I slurp an amazing coffee sample that smacks my palate like a slap across the face that I really enjoy my job.

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(Left to right): Founders Eddy Cola, Steven Levan, and Jeff Chean

How would you describe your coffee in three words?

Eddy: Delicious. Local. Organic.

Jeff: Ditto, well said.

What is the most popular drink you serve?

Eddy: Probably cappuccino and lattes by volume. But our “dirty chai latte” is a real popular signature drink. (That’s chai latte with a hit of espresso!)

Have you traveled abroad for coffee sourcing? What were some of your favorite destinations and why?

Eddy: Our coffee team has  traveled to Brazil, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, Honduras, El Salvador, and Hawaii, to name a few. We travel for a number of reasons, including judging at Cup of Excellence and other competitions. The most important reasons we travel are: 1) we want to find coffees before a Coop blends them into homogenous lots and they get lost; 2) to develop personal connections and partnerships with growers and coops from whom we consistently buy; and 3) promote and encourage our partners at origin.

What is your favorite brewing method and why?

Eddy: Chemex. It brings out the best flavors of the coffee, particularly the fruit and floral. And I like the artisanal craft aspect. It feels scientific. Chemex was actually developed by a scientist in a lab. It is, essentially, a modified beaker.

Jeff: Yeah, me too.  I like the Chemex because it forces me to slow down and appreciate the brewing process.  It goes only as fast as it goes and I can’t force it; I’ve got to literally “Stop and smell the coffee!” Oh, and it tastes great.

How important is it to have clean water in order to make great coffee and why?

Eddy: Very. Coffee is about 98.5% water!  Bad water can make the best coffee taste awful.  What’s important to us is to choose a sustainable method of getting the proper water.

Why did you decide to join the Coffee Meets Water fundraiser?

Eddy: It’s a great cause. We’ve been looking for a water partner at origin for some time and Coffee Meets Water fit the criteria of a program we were looking to participate in.

Thank you so much, guys! To learn more about Groundwork Coffee, visit their website and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

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Coffee Meets Water Spotlight: Cafe Demitasse

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​Bobby and Fred Roshan​ are the founders of Cafe Demitasse and self-professed coffee geeks tinkering with espresso, coffee, and tea at their cafe in the Little Tokyo neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA. After they heard about our Coffee Meets Water fundraiser to bring clean water to Ethiopia, they were more than down to be our awesome supporters throughout the campaign. Below, we chat with Bobby about his coffee background and why they wanted to join us in changing the world:

How long have you been in business and what first drew you to making coffee? 4 years! I was obsessed with coffee while working at a law firm and decided that I better do it for a living.

What do you love about owning your own coffee business?Discovering new and exciting coffees from areas we normally don’t see coffee, like Uganda and the Congo. ​

How would you describe your coffee in three words? ​Delicious. Lovingly made. ​

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 What is the most popular drink you serve? We sell cappuccinos more than any other drink.​

Have you traveled abroad for coffee sourcing? If so, what were some of your favorite destinations and why? ​Not yet. Hopefully this year. ​

What is your favorite brewing method and why? I’m a big fan of japanese style iced coffee. It gets you a light and fruity cup of iced coffee. ​

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How important is it to have clean water in order to make great coffee and why? Coffee is almost all water. If your water isn’t right, there’s no way your coffee is going to be right. ​

Why did you decide to join the Coffee Meets Water fundraiser? So many reasons. I’m a huge international relations nerd and was super excited to help Good Neighbors out several months ago when we partnered to help out with the cookstoves in Guatemala. When they asked about the clean water fundraiser, I was instantly in, as the wells they are fixing are in Ethiopia, one of my favorite coffee-producing countries. ​They do great work and we’re honored to be a part of this.

Thanks, Bobby! Visit Cafe Demitasse for their locations and to shop their products online. 
[photos via Cafe Demitasse]
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