Artist Amber Rae is hell-bent on changing the world for the better. To do this, she’s enlisting the support of communities across the globe to create public spaces that spark honest reflection and dialogue.
With her global art project The World We Want, she invites the public to share their vision for themselves and the world they want to experience on large public installations. The goal of the project is to invite communities to connect more deeply to themselves and each other.
A contributor to outlets like Fast Company, Amber’s work has been featured in top outlets including The New York Times, ABC World News, Forbes and Inc.. Prior to her current work, Amber helped best-selling author Seth Godin launch the Domino project and has collaborated with tops brands like Apple and Dove.
Here the Brooklyn-based artist and entrepreneur shares how she lives a full expressed creative life and inspires others to do the same.
- What was the genesis of The World We Want?
It started with an energy in my lower belly. It felt as if a beating heart was inside of me, wanting to be birthed into the world. When I looked to the yoga tradition for wisdom, I learned that this part of my body represents the sacral chakra — my center of creativity and zone of passion. The tradition guided me to connect with the energy by closing my eyes, putting my hand on my belly and asking, “What message do you have for me?” Without hesitation, my belly replied, “Your artist is repressed.”
Soon after, with a renewed creative spark, I took my notebook and a series of questions on the meaning of life to a nearby cafe. I asked strangers to define love and freedom, to share their fears, and to describe the world they wanted to live in. At least half of the people I spoke with said they had never been asked these questions before. Others mentioned not having a safe space to talk about these topics. I was so moved by the conversations, literally, to tears, that I knew I had to find a way to bring this dialogue into public spaces.
Inspired by the work of artists like JR, Candy Chang and Humans of New York, the interactive chalkboard wall was born at the Dumbo Art Festival in Brooklyn, New York to over 200,000 people on September 26, 2014. We quickly spread to Chicago and Boulder, and I’m off to explore Israel and Palestine next. The next big milestone we’re working toward is “World We Want Day,” where walls and conversations will be launched at the same time all over the world on July 11.
- What are some of the responses you’ve seen with the project?
Love, peace, happiness, freedom, equality, beauty and health are some of the major themes. I expected those. Where it gets interesting is in the responsibility piece. It’s powerful to know the world you want to live in and it’s even more powerful to know how you’re going to create that world.
One of the most memorable interactions was with a man named Jay from Chicago. He wanted to live in a world where men raise boys to be men, and to create this world, he said he would raise his son to be better than him. When I asked him about how he came to this vision, he shared that his father was a no show when he was a kid. He made choices that could have killed him or sent him to prison like some of his peers. He’s been to more funerals than weddings, and nearly all of his friends are gone. He credits his being here with uncles sharing knowledge and giving direction when he was young. Had his friends had a male role model, he believes they would still be here. Now, it’s his mission to be that role model to his son, giving him every tool he needs to make it in this world.
- You’re a professional writer and storyteller whose writing appears in your popular blog, The Daily Clue and Fast Company articles. What’s your advice for people who are looking to better tell their story whether on their about.me page or beyond?
James Joyce said that in the particular lies the universal. What scares the hell out of you and moves you to tears will speak to others. The more you can pull out the most personal and vulnerable bits of yourself, and have the courage to weave that into your writing, the more your work will stand out. You must risk comfort if you wish to resonate with the core of another.
- Tell us a bit about your path. Who were you when you graduated from Miami University and how did college launch your journey?
Growing up, my Mom always encouraged me to choose my own path. “There are two paths in life,” she used to say. “Some will go down a path of peer pressure and seeking acceptance. You don’t have to go down that path. You can choose your own. Always make sure to pick the path that’s right for you.”
I took her words to heart.
From launching an online magazine at age 11 to various entrepreneurial pursuits as a kid and into college, I was always going the way that felt true for me. I was constantly questioning the system, tuning in with myself and making decisions from that place. In college, I had the unique opportunity of working with Apple as the Campus Evangelist, which was a huge catalyst for me. My greatest lessons came outside the classroom, applying the skills I was learning to real-world problems.
Taking lessons of how to spread ideas on and offline, I headed to the digital marketing and ad world after college, joining Omnicom’s first boutique agency, Zocalo Group. I spent about 18 months there creating campaigns for brands like Frito-Lay, Dove and Kimberly-Clark until I felt like I gained what I needed. I headed next to San Francisco to dive into the world of technology and innovation, working in enterprise software and with start-ups until a voice inside said, “This isn’t your life. Keep on.” So I headed next to New York where I worked with Seth Godin to launch a publishing company with Amazon. Along the way, I shared the ups-and-downs of carving a non-traditional path and creating your life’s work in the digital age through my blog and social media. This led me to launch retreats and work with hundreds of creatives and entrepreneurs as they boldly carved their own path as well. This eventually led to my current creative projects The Daily Clue, a content membership described as “yoga for the soul,” and The World We Want.
I couldn’t have predicted anything that has happened in my life. What’s consistent is listening to and following my inner guidance. So long as her and I are in check, all is well. All is flowing.
- What’s something that’s not in your biography or resume that has influenced who you are today?
My dad passed away when I was young and then I had a falling out with my step-dad as I went to college. Not having a strong male figure in my life created a belief that I was not worthy of male love and men I love will leave me. I spent the better part of my early 20s telling myself this story. I lived out this pattern in the men I attracted and dated, and in how I showed up to the relationship.
This story only began to shift when I recognized that I will never leave me, I love myself and the experiences I’ve stepped into in life are part of a grander puzzle I am here to put together. When I recognized that I am not victim to circumstance; rather, I create my reality, I began to trust in the process of life more. Heartache became a journey of opening wounds and allowing healing; a fear of loss challenged me to appreciate what is here and now in this moment.
Learning to love myself and learning to understand that I am worthy of real, raw, deep and lasting love has been the most painful, heartbreaking, significant and meaningful journey of my entire life. Had I not done the work, I’m not sure I’d be capable of the kind of love I now experience with my fiance Farhad. We are magic together. Doing the work from the inside out prepared me for him, and he is the greatest inspiration and support system in my life. Every day I count my blessings.
Header photo by Masha Maltsava.
Antonio Neves is the Director of Higher Education for about.me. He is a graduate of Western Michigan University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. You can find him on Twitter at @TheAntonioNeves.