The Artolution revolution is here, there and everywhere.

It stretches from the Dominican Republic to the central desert of Australia, and from Syrian refugee camps in Jordan to the streets of St. Petersburg, Russia.

That's just for starters.

The world at large holds no bounds for the community-based public arts movement begun two years ago in New York by B-N native Joel Bergner and a small group of like-minded artists, educators and supporters.

Though formed two years ago, Artolution became an official nonprofit organization in 2017, says Bergner. 

The Artolution mission: To give under-privileged young people everywhere the chance to share their hopes and dreams — both for themselves and their world — through colorful street art projects.

The projects, says Bergner, can take anywhere from a week to a month to complete, depending on their size and scale.

The primary goal: "To set up ongoing, sustainable programs that are community-based," he says, thus ensuring that what was initiated by Artolution continues to grow long after after it moves to its next far-flung destination.

A crucial factor is his group's partnering with local schools and organizations.  

According to Bergner, the youths being targeted by the group reside anywhere where hardship exists, from refugee camps to immigrant communities to lands torn by war.

Bergner, the artist and educator whose colorful street murals are no stranger to us here at home, is back in town this week for a public Artolution "friendraiser" celebration. It's set for 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at the McLean County Arts Center in Bloomington. 

During the event, the Normal Community High School alum will talk about his globetrotting Artolution experiences, which have taken him and his partners, as mentioned, here, there and everywhere.

Bergner will also discuss how we can become involved at home, where his trademark murals are on easily accessed view.

The first, "From the Ashes," located on a building wall at 121 N. Main St. in downtown Bloomington, was created in 2013, and features, among its symbolic imagery, a phoenix rising.

The second, created in the spring of 2016 on a wall next to the Regional Alternative School at 408 W. Washington St., is a colorfully designed collage evoking the triumph over hardships and struggles.

Both murals were completed with RAS students.

You read it here first: A third is in the offing he says, though he can't yet divulge the particulars.

"We're still working on that," he says, but expects it to take shape in the year ahead.

He confirms that it will be occupy a public space somewhere in the Twin Cities.

Elsewhere in the world this past year, Bergner and Artolution partner/co-founder Max Frieder joined forces with local artists and teens in the marginalized Dominican Republic community of Rafey to create a public sculpture that doubles as a percussive instrument made of recycled materials.

The sculpture was then placed in the middle of a giant mural that dozens of local youth designed and painted as their homage to the natural environment and the area's culture.

That wasn't all for Bergner and Frieder: Later in the year, they returned to Jordan to begin a new series of projects with Syrian youth and local artists in refugee camps and host communities.

Through a partnership with Park Inns by Radisson Hotels, Bergner created six community-based public art projects with challenged youth in locations as diverse and far-removed as Stuttgart, Germany; St. Petersburg, Russia; Riga, Latvia; and Detroit, Mich.

What's up for the year ahead?

At the Tuesday night MCAC "friendraiser," Bergner will reveal his plans, among them a series of reconciliation projects with Palestinian and Israeli youths and artists next summer, in partnership with the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv.

The program will include a training course to set up a long-term arts initiative led by a joint group of Palestinian and Israeli teaching artists.

For more on Artolution and its mission, go to www.artolution.org.

Dan Craft is Pantagraph entertainment editor. He can be reached at 309-829-9000, Ext. 259 or via email at dcraft@pantagraph.com 

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