Artist provides communitywide project for JCC

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published April 15, 2013

 Huntington Woods artist Daniel Cascardo stands in front of his communitywide art project April 11 at the Jewish Community Center in Oak Park. Cascardo drew the outline, and community members painted in between the lines.

Huntington Woods artist Daniel Cascardo stands in front of his communitywide art project April 11 at the Jewish Community Center in Oak Park. Cascardo drew the outline, and community members painted in between the lines.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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OAK PARK — With a rather large canvas in front of him containing everything from stars and flowers to people and hands, Daniel Cascardo stood back from his work of art April 11 at the Jewish Community Center in Oak Park and handed paint to every person who came to him.

The 51-year-old Huntington Woods artist spent much of the previous day drawing an outline of the planet Earth, with people spread across the globe and hands surrounding every edge. After inscribing “The World is built through Kindness,” across the top, Cascardo handed over his canvas to people he didn’t know.

In what he calls the art-action experience, Cascardo was commissioned by the JCC to draw an outline of the painting and then help people in the community paint between his lines in whatever way their hearts desired. “The Colors of Kindness” communitywide project was aimed to bring people together, and the final painting will hang permanently in the JCC.

“I love it because every (piece) I do is unique and there is always someone who has a different perspective, and I work with real little kids to someone who is 98 years old,” Cascardo said of the project. “Everyone loves it because it kind of taps into their childlike expression. They were able to do that when they were kids and some of them haven’t picked up a paintbrush in 50 years.”

Cascardo remembers making Fred Flintstone’s house in kindergarten and seeing his appreciation and love for art blossom as he was older and traveled to the Guggenheim Museum in New York.

After stints at Henry Ford Community College and College for Creative Studies in Detroit, he had a choice to make between a life of uncertainty as a professional artist or something more stable, but ultimately less fulfilling.

“I always got bored quickly with what I was doing, and in this career, it is never boring,” Cascardo said. “Even though I am kind of doing the same thing, there are always differences, and I kind of fell in love, because there is no other career that had that uniqueness to it.

“I’ve had some great projects go for thousands of dollars and then I wouldn’t work for a few months. But I couldn’t stop doing it. Even if I don’t get paid, it’s something I like to do.”

Having done a similar communitywide project in Grand Rapids, Cascardo developed the idea of an all-hands-on-deck painting by working with VSA Michigan in helping kids with disabilities tap into their artistic side.

“I had to work with kids with severe emotional impairment or physical restrictions, and it was hard to find a way to engage them in the art-making process,” Cascardo said. “If you gave them a blank piece of paper, they would freak out and not know what to do, but if you draw the lines, it gives them a map or direction to work with and it is less intimidating.

“They can work with other kids on it, and you get a whole different perspective when you have their input because they may make the sun blue or the trees purple.”

It was all the different “voices” that contributed to “The Colors of Kindness” project that interested Royal Oak resident Steve Barron to come out April 10 and put his own touch on Cascardo’s art. As a member of the JCC in West Bloomfield, Barron heard of the project and came with several others from his center.

“I think it is neat that there are going to be so many artists here just putting their signature on this painting,” Barron, 64, said. “When I was (painting), I did it so that, when I look at it, I will be able to remember where I painted. I would paint one color and put squiggles of a totally different color on the same piece, just so I knew that was what I painted.

“It gave me a sense of awe because, as I was painting up there, I had some little girl, maybe 6 or 7, and she was painting, too. The age gap really fascinated me.”

The generation gap and community bonding was a factor in Rifcah Krolikowski-Goode coming out to the JCC for the project, as well, but as a former art teacher, she wanted the chance to work with another artist, such as Cascardo.

While others used mostly one color on a hand, person or star, Krolikowski-Goode, 43, took her time on one hand and painted several small dots of varying colors to fill that section of the canvas.

“To me, this is a mosaic of people, of humanity, and it represents that each person has a different purpose, and the colors represent different qualities of people, but everyone together makes a big difference,” Krolikowski-Goode said of her inspiration. “It makes me feel more connected with the artist community, and it makes it more meaningful (to be) more connected with other people who have the same passion as you do.”

And in the end, it was people like Barron and Krolikowski-Goode that allowed Cascardo to have not a second thought about handing his work of art over for others to shape. To give people the chance to open up their creative side, he said, is what makes his choice to be a professional artist an easy one.

“I try to work spontaneous, from the imagination, and I incorporate people in the process, which is different than most artists who don’t like other people to touch their work,” Cascardo said. “I encourage it so you get the energy and uniqueness from the people who are participating in it. Art can change your life, and I tell people to take a canvas and do this at home. Just allow yourself to do it.”

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