An Artist’s Dreams of Happiness

Werllayne Nunes, a self-taught Brazilian painter, has captured the admiration of Austinites since his arrival in 2008. KLRU, the local public television station, just launched a video featuring the artist and his work, called Behind the Colors. It is a must see for anyone to appreciate this incredible talent and his underlying message of the resilience of the human spirit. A nominee for the 2012 Austin Visual Arts Award, Werllayne has two paintings in The People’s Gallery through January 2013 at Austin City Hall.

Werllayne’s artistic career traces to a fall morning in 2003 as he sipped coffee over the El País newspaper in a Madrid cafe. “Nigerians are the happiest people in the world…,” the headline proclaimed, according to the World Values Survey. Nigeria? This was a country known for corruption, violence, and poverty. Money, the article continued, repressed happiness.  Of modest beginnings and on scholarship, Werllayne worked through medical school in Spain–as he believed he should to support his aging parents. But it was not his calling. He asked himself:  What does it mean to be happy? What does it look like to be happy and poor?

Werllayne knew the life of a doctor was not for him soon after his 2003 show at Casa do Brasil in Madrid. His current series launched in 2003 with an oil painting, called Agua Viva (Living Water), portrayed a Nigerian woman balancing a pot of water on her head. His subjects later turned to people living in Brazilian shantytowns, known as favelas. Werllayne’s work contradicts the perception of poverty as mere misery and the poor as powerless.

 “You can be happy for simple things,” he reminds us. “It doesn’t matter where you come from. What matter are the community you’re from and the connection.”

One harsh reality in his homeland of Brazil revolves around racial discrimination. The vast majority of an estimated 54 million favela dwellers are black or of mixed race. Werllayne eschews telling others what to think about his art, but, in the end, he says, there is talk of racial issues.

He strives to challenge stereotypes of the poor by conveying the favelados’ imagination and joy. Magical realism, bright colors, and contemporary patterns fuse with cultural and religious symbolism. Individuals have the power to confront harsh realities with fantasy and indomitable spirit. “I show the contrast and the reality of poor kids when they are happy,” explains Werllayne. “The happiness transforms into virtual art as towers, doves, or elephants.”

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Money can buy happiness

Can money make you happy? Apparently, it can!

Perhaps not in the way one might imagine. To give a hint: it’s one more argument in favor of the global good.

Michael Norton tells us How to Buy Happiness:

Spend it on someone else! It doesn’t matter if it’s $5 or $50. When was the last time you gave/spent money on someone else?

The Global Good is Catching On

Today, September 24, the UN Foundation launched the Global Good Challenge. The challenge provides incentive, the chance to win prizes, to use social media to support and raise awareness of selected UN Foundation’s causes. (Note: Great name! But there is no affiliation between the challenge and TGG.)

Please, take a moment to sign on. By “playing” you are donating your voice for the global good. Causes include: Nothing But Nets, to fight malaria; Girl Up for the empowerment of girls; and Shot@life to provide vaccination protecting children from preventable diseases.

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Google has become a verb…?

I do my share of online research and, I admit, I use Google almost daily. However, I thought I would share a few of my lesser-known favorite resources.

I still love a good book, as opposed to a Nook. You know what I mean. To find the best price  on  new and used books, try the AddAll book search and price comparison.

If you are looking for information resources on Latin America, LANIC, the Latin American Network Information Center, is still king among online directories.

When I have to arrange international phone meetings or travel, is a handy reference. For currency conversions, both actual and historical, try to
Finally, Noodle has a great list of specialized search engines considering the scope and time-sensitivity of your research needs.

What are your best-kept secret search engines or other information resources?

Art Teaches Kids about Poverty

Why should we teach our children about global poverty and its challenges? Did you know half the world’s children live on less than $2 a day? (UN Human Development Report, 2011). And, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, an astounding 22% of American children– 15.7 million–  are considered poor. (Kids Count data book, 2012).*

The topic of poverty is relevant to Texas “essential knowledge and skills” in a broad range of courses such as: economics, geography, government, history and culture. And, beyond the facts, it is essential that we empower our next generation of problem solvers with comprehension, compassion, and critical thinking about sustainability at home and in the developing world.

Click on this image of Rocinha to read about
the Origins of the Favela (

Bringing the Brazilian Favela to Austin, Texas is a new collaboration in development that will use art to create an interactive stage for learning. The next major installation of Brazilian artist Werllayne Nunes, planned for early 2014, will create a “life-sized” rendering of a portion of the favela, or shantytown. Approximately a dozen original oil paintings, an actual favela dwelling, documentary film, and other media will serve as resources for local educators.  Middle and high school students will have a unique opportunity to learn not only about Brazil but also about the broader social and economic challenges of living in informal settlements.

The educational component of the project is made possible through partnership with Public Engagement office of the Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies (LLILAS), University of Texas at Austin. LLILAS Public Engagement is dedicated to supporting Latin America-related K-12 education. As partner to the Favela project, Public Engagement will consult teachers on appropriate topics for classroom inclusion, create standards-based curriculum units that offer an in-depth understanding of poverty and development issues, provide training and gather resources for teachers. One to two student groups per week will visit the art installation over a three-month period reaching roughly 1,000 area middle and high school students.

Bringing the Brazilian Favela to Austin integrates art with education on a diverse range of topics. This means of engaging students in creative learning aims to raise awareness, challenge stereotypes, and create empathy. Not only is using art in education innovative, but it also has proven positive effects on children’s academic, social, cultural, and cognitive development.

Research performed by the Arts Education Partnership and others has demonstrated the power of art in education to develop skills and abilities such as:

  • Creativity, imagination and innovation
  • Problem solving and critical thinking
  • Communication and collaboration
  • Academic achievement
  • School, social and civic engagement (Arts Education Partnership)

A possible lesson plan, for example, might encourage high school students to role-play and go through group problem-solving exercises to develop solutions to specific challenges of living in a favela. Another lesson might explore the rich cultural production of the favela, especially in music, and the role arts-based non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have played to empower youth in these communities.

In addition to school outreach, Bringing the Brazilian Favela to Austin will engage the community by partnering with local organizations to stage concurrent Brazil-related cultural events. The art show will remain open to the public during normal gallery hours. Austin-based social enterprise The Global Good will undertake the role of fundraising and project coordination.

While the installation itself is planned for early 2014, a number of related events or workshops, such as a possible Master Class in painting for at-risk teens, are under discussion for the interim.

For more information about the Bringing the Brazilian Favela to Austin project, contact  <>.


*Poverty is defined by the U.S. government by income. The poverty level for 2012 was set at $23,050 (total yearly income) for a family of four.

Social Entrepreneurship is front and center at Rio+20

Skoll Foundation tells us why they are there:

“Because a critical mass of people can surprise you: over 70,000 decision-makers and social change actors are in town. There really has never been more peer pressure for social change, showing the world scalable solutions to the world’s most pressing problems. And right here, on the peninsula outcropping between Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, Skoll and our close partners AVINA, Ashoka and the Fundaçao Roberto Marinho, are hosting the 3 day Forum on Social Entrepreneurship and the New Economy. It’s one of the most public events at Rio+20, celebrated on national TV in Brazil and included in Rio+20 agendas. Social entrepreneurship is front and center…”

Skoll Foundation at Rio+20: Why We’re There « Skoll Foundation.

#socent #rioplus20 #empreendeRio20

What Exactly Is Social Entrepreneurship?


From Forbes: What Exactly Is Social Entrepreneurship?

My comments: The for-profit and non-profit worlds are merging. For-profits see the monetary advantage of green practices and investing for social benefit. The fair trade market is a good example. Fair sells.

On the flip side, non-profits understand that they must not only be mission-driven, but also be able to demonstrate measurable returns– social returns– on their investments. The key words are impact, scalability, and sustainability.

So when it comes to the social entrepreneur, he’s, well, an entrepreneur like any other– mostly. The gist of it, according to the author of this Forbes piece, is that the social entrepreneur strives to operate by business standards while bringing the dual returns of profit and social outcomes.

Should social entrepreneurs focus on monetary profit as well as doing good? Can they do both well at the same time? What do you think?

Social Media for Social Good Directory

CHA-CHING!!  I just came across the extensive list of resources on Social Media for Social Good compiled by and

I also recommend Socialbrite’s Sharing Center, “a free learning center for nonprofits and changemakers”.

Do you have a great resource on social media for good? Share it here!

Recommended Reading: Why Nations Fail

Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson (Mar 20, 2012)

Hot off the press and at the top of my reading list (along with 1/2 dozen others…) is these economists’ view of inequality and poverty on a global scale.

Why are some countries rich while others remain poor?

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Twitter is the new SMS is the new e-mail

Whether you’re a novice or an old salt, online branding and social media tools are constantly changing. It’s daily process and a challenge to keep up with!

It’s good to go back to the basics as things evolve– as with Facebook’s timeline, for example. For a nice introduction to the social media landscape, click on the image to the left. I’m sharing a handful or two of links to tips below.(Maybe it’s just me, but I hate the FB timeline.)

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