The sunlit front room of the Interactive Resource Center on
East Washington Street in Greensboro felt like Grand Central
Station on a recent Friday afternoon with people coming in to
take care of laundry, a newspaper staff meeting convening and
various interactions transpiring among staff and the homeless or at-risk
clientele who exchanged information about services or simply enjoyed
one another’s company.
The artist Zada emerged from a wide corridor at the back, at the end of
which a freshly painted mural radiated between the men’s and women’s
bathrooms and around a pair of water fountains. She handed a rinsed
paint container to one of the clients and took a break from cleanup. She
wore flip-flops, a striped blue work shirt and green pants splotched with
Thus ended two weeks of sketches, conversations, walking tours
of the city, planning and execution for a project that was the highlight of
Zada’s residency at Elsewhere.
“I’m sad to leave,” she said. “I think I became a bit of a different
person through this.”
On Tuesday she flies home to Seattle.
Zada prefers to work with other people. She said she has been inspired
by an artist that paints the favelas, Brazilian slums, with the residents of
the favelas, making them attractive so that they become places people
want to visit rather than avoid.
The change she has experienced involves personal growth through social
interaction: “Being more in contact with life — everyday life — and
being more sensitive to what is happening. It’s filling and draining.”
She believes art should serve a social purpose, rejecting the idea of art
for art’s sake.
“I’ve been traveling all over the world and I’m not very familiar with
the language here,” she said. “In everything I do there is a big, big, thick
meaning. I don’t do portraits.
The person might be a beautiful person,
but what can I communicate through that? It’s giving people a little wake
The mural features geometric shapes and colors. She said she avoided
using faces because she wants everyone to recognize themselves in the
mural. She wants people to feel happy when they see the mural, which
projects a brilliant, Technicolor landscape with conventional clouds and
rays of light that collide and, prism-like, refract an array of dazzling
Zada’s artistic mission grows out of her experience as traveler, a role
that forces her to remain open to new people and experiences. Born and
raised in Italy, she started traveling at the age of 13 as an au pair girl, or
“an international babysitter.” Since receiving her artistic training in Italy,
she has lived in Finland and Hong Kong.
“In Asia, there’s a very different way of dealing with and facing people
with such problems,” she said, referring to the homeless or at-risk clients
at the Interactive Resource Center. “Art is very commercial, is not as in
contact with life and people as it is in the US.”
Zada’s frustration with the emphasis on commercialism in the Asian
art world prompted her to move with her husband to Seattle. She maintains
a studio there and also works at Home Depot doing color consulting.
After her exposure to the sunshine of North Carolina, she said she
has become interested in moving to San Francisco.
As Zada folded up the drop cloth, a woman emerged from the bathroom
with a small child in tow.
The child lingered and pointed. “You like my pants?” Zada asked. “They have a lot of colors. Your shirt has a lot of colors, too.”