Successful creative partnerships are a lot like marriage. They require trust, support, flexibility, sensitivity, and above all, open and honest communication. With partnerships, opposites often attract, the timing has to be just right, and there tends to be that something special in the mix to make everything come together. Hamilton Glass calls that something special “destiny.” Patience Salgado prefers the term “magic.”
Regardless of the terminology, Patience Salgado, known to most as Kindness Girl, and Hamilton Glass, the local artist known as Ham, brought their magical destiny together this year to create one of the most groundbreaking visual arts projects ever to hit RVA: The Light of Human Kindness (LOHK).
Debuting at the RVA Street Art Festival, The Light of Human Kindness (LOHK) is an 80-foot interactive mural that merges art, technology, and acts of kindness in a way never seen before. The mural is the first of its kind, fueled by personal stories of light and hope during dark times. Area volunteers assisted the ef- fort by painting the stories (submitted online) onto the wall. Then Glass went to work adding his signature architectural-based lines to the mural, overlapping the stories. The final touch was provided by The Martin Agency, who joined the project by adding 1,000 LED lights and controlling the technology to launch a dynamic series of light sequences ignited by human connectivity. The visually stunning mural is located at the site of the old GRTC bus depot on Cary Street, in the Fan District.
On the surface it is an unlikely partnership. Glass, the Philly native who moved to RVA in 2006 to be closer to family, is reserved, even-tempered, quiet in public settings, and fairly difficult to read. Salgado, the mother of four who came to RVA in 2000 from Miami, wears her heart and her emotions on her sleeve, she’s not only a talker but a hugger, and her poker face is nonexistent. Through personal friend- ship, the two were able to form a bond that helped them navigate the many professional challenges of producing such a trailblazing project.
“I didn’t know it was going to be such a strong partnership; that was a huge for me,” says Salgado, sitting across the street from the LOHK mural in the parking lot of Selba. “Hamilton was a bit of a reality check for this entire project. I had no clue what I was walking into and every step of the way Hamilton was there letting me know what hoops I needed to be aware of.”
Glass adds, “You have to understand at the end of 2012, I was coming off the first Street Art Festival and, in my eyes, Richmond still hadn’t had a major art explosion. I was still finding it difficult to secure walls in the city to paint on. I hope I wasn’t being discouraging at the time, but there were obstacles that would need to be addressed if the LOHK mural was going to get off the ground.”
“Honestly. It just made me even more determined,” says a smiling Salgado. “Here is the thing, and truly the best part of our partnership: At every moment during this process—whether it was true or not— Ham told me exactly what I needed to hear to get me to the next place. That was the magic of our collaboration. I had no clue that was going to happen. I didn’t even know that I needed that but I did and it was major. I could have never done this project on my own. Ham was just that voice—that constant, clear, grounding voice that helped move this project along.”
Prior to LOHK, neither Hamilton nor Patience had a lot of experience collaborating on their projects. In order to get their individual visions across, they normally took the DIY model. However, this time a collabora- tive approach yielded the best result imaginable. “I think our partnership worked well because we both really believed in what we were doing,” says Glass. “It wasn’t about ego; we both just wanted to make this project a reality.” A nodding Salgado adds, “I also think our partnership worked well because we are similar in some key areas. We both have a very strong work ethic. We both handle crisis very well. There were a lot of road blocks and we handled them together.”
Glass and Salgado’s bond extends beyond the LOHK mural. It even stretches further than the two of them. “I knew this project was going to be massive for not only the two us but for our families too. So very early on, my husband Jorge and I invited Hamilton, his wife, Taekia, and his daughter to our home for dinner,” explains Salgado. According to Glass, it was that dinner that really structured the LOHK partnership and the friendship foundation that brought these two artists together.
“Ham was the first person to ever call me an artist. That was a shift for me because I think I secretly want to be an artist but I’ve never con- sidered myself an artist,” says Salgado. Glass interjects, “That’s crazy. I don’t know if you remember this but I think one of the first things I ever said to you was that I really enjoy your art. I’d read about your kindness missions and your work definitely seemed like art to me.”
Glass’ assessment of Salgado as an artist is one that the world’s art community agrees with. “It’s funny, I don’t think of this project as art as much as I think of it as an extension of the kindness work that I’ve done for so long now. But most, if not all of the calls I receive about LOHK are from the art world. I think that says something about this project and where kindness work can go,” says Salgado. “Before LOHK, I really felt like there were limits on how much I could take on to complete a project, but now I know that there are no limits. I can dream bigger than I’ve ever done before and get the mission done, if not by myself, with partners like Ham and the help of RVA’s creative community.”