Lara Mellon’s passion for life, her love of people and the earth, and her generosity of spirit is evident within moments of chatting with her. What sets her apart, however, are two things: a commitment to channel this passion constructively and refusing to be overwhelmed and incapacitated in the face of constant tragedy.
So when Michael Sutcliffe, city manager of Durban, stated that if even 1 000 sex workers fell pregnant during the World Cup it would be a minor problem in a city of four to five million, Lara knew she had to do something.
Her idea: to create and sell artwork to raise awareness and help Shepherd’s Keep, a KwaZulu Natal orphanage for abandoned babies. Originally intended as a personal project, little did she know that this single action would set in place a series of events and synchronicities beyond anything she imagined and many of which will never be known.
Lara shared her original idea with friends via email and Facebook. They in turn shared it with others, and so it grew until requests to be part of this initiative streamed in from around the world. Through the single action of one woman and the power of technology, everyONE counts was born. Interestingly, Lara has always believed that art and technology and systems are able to intertwine harmoniously, as evidenced by the successful combination of a full time corporate career with Deloitte and her life as an artist. Her art often explores the relationship between natural and man made.
Hundreds of artists from around the world – from the famous able to demand exorbitant amounts for their work to the novice just beginning to explore their talent – committed to creating a 30cm x 30cm piece of art, each representing the voice of one abandoned baby. Well over 500 have been received with many more still arriving. Some artists have donated more than one work.
Each piece is on sale online, for exactly R1 000, regardless of who the artist is, making it affordable and accessible, thus emphasising again the message that everyone counts equally.
Buyers include businesses buying multiple pieces for offices and boardrooms, avid collectors, those who would ordinarily be intimidated by visiting galleries and purchasing original art, and people around the world. Lara mentions an enquiry she received from Greenland; that people live in the frozen landscapes of the Arctic Circle is a wonder, never mind that they shop online to purchase art from a small city in South Africa in order to support a cause that could so easily be dismissed as of no concern to someone so far away.
Another series of synchronous events began with Lara meeting for the first time a second cousin (the partner of a participating artist) in KwaZulu Natal, and culminating in a call from a young African woman now living in the United Kingdom, who wanted Lara to know that she was once one of those abandoned babies.
These are just two stories in an infinite number, many of which will remain untold. They stand as testimony to the intertwining of art and technology to which Lara refers, as well as evidence of the extent to which one single action can generate outwards to affect and influence others who will, in turn, do the same.
We can never know the full extent and impact of any one of our actions, but as Lara asks, do we need to? Perhaps knowing that that they can, and do, affect events and people far beyond our comprehension and that ultimately we are indeed all connected, intertwined, is enough. And perhaps looking beyond the narrow confines of our personal daily struggles and extending ourselves in even the smallest way is not the privilege of a few, but the responsibility of every ONE of us.
everyONE counts exhibition
All the art, including pieces already sold, will be on display at The Quays in Durban from 25 November to 18 December. Due to logistics this will be the only group exhibition, so it you are going to be in the Durban area during this time, be sure not to miss it. You may even find that perfect gift for yourself or a loved one. Details at www.everyonecounts.co.za or the everyONE counts Facebook page.
everyONE counts @ school
After being inundated with requests from school pupils and teachers around the world, everyONE counts @ school was created. Schools are encouraged to create art and raise funds for the project, for their schools, or both. Excellent resources, including instructions, suggestions and lesson plans, are available for download at www.everyonecounts.co.za