Six years ago, Bren Bataclan noted with dismay that fewer people in his home city of Boston were smiling. He decided to do something about it and in 2003, launched the Smile Boston Project . It has been a rolling stone gathering enormous following since.
Philippine born artist, Bataclan, began to leave free small acrylic cartoon paintings in public places like malls, park benches and anywhere people might congregate. In exchange, he asked the finder to commit random acts of smiling. And smile, finders did.
In his website, Bataclan writes that his goals were to: "Bring art to people who typically do not visit art galleries and museums, give paintings to folks who may not be able to afford original artwork, and see smiles around the globe. "
The 2003 Smile Boston Project was a huge success. People were smiling. This was followed by Smile Chicago, Smile Las Vegas and Smile projects all over the US. Bataclan's smile critters could be found in public places throughout the country and around the globe. Smile paintings have been found everywhere from Alaska to Hawaii, from the ice caps of Antartica to the deserts of Saudi Arabia, from Europe to Asia and round and round it has been going bringing hope and the promise of a smiling world.
When the economy bottomed last year, Bataclan changed the note in his 2009 paintings to say, "Eveything will be allright." Many art finders/keepers have been so moved to hope and have left feedback on how it changed their outlook.
Bataclan completed his art degree at the University of California, Los Angeles in 1993 and Masters in Computer Animation at Ohio State University a few years later. Among other activities, he has worked as animator and designer for such movies as Free Willy and Last Action Hero and taught computer animation and graphic design at the University of Massachussets.
The success of the smile project has brought Bataclan into the limelight. He has been the subject of a documentary by David Tames. The book, The Smile Project, has been published by Gingko Press. Bataclan has been featured in TV news such as the June 22,2009 segment on CBS Evening News.
Bren Bataclan is a reminder of the power of one.
All of you out there, practice those smile muscles and spread the word. A Bataclan smile critter may be lurking in a bench near you.
If you're not lucky enough to find one, purchase a smiley critter painting from the artist's website: http://www.brenbataclan.com/.