I love Vans. I have been customizing Vans longer than most of you readers have been alive. I used to go down to the Vans store on Sunset off La Brea Avenue and spend hours trying to figure out what I want. This was before online buying was so rampant. I would fill out a form, specifying where I wanted what colors and hand them a square yard of fabric, pay the fee, and keep my fingers crossed.
I must have had at least 25 to 50 custom Vans through the ’80s, ’90s, and early 2000s. Eventually, “I grew up” and gave up on my custom shoes and went the traditional route of buying Nikes, Reeboks, and Converse. It is one of my biggest regrets.
The bug for customization has never left me. I recently painted an R2 unit by Sphero and renamed him R2SB2, and purchased a custom Pokéball. Both items are painted in Baltimore Ravens colors. From afar, I have admired many different custom collectibles over the years. Until recently, nothing truly caught my eye. Except for the geek projects mentioned above and currently, Sara Cohen’s work.
Her work is youthful and passion-filled. I have commissioned many independent artists. I like artists that are developing their skills, artists who are still at the stage of their career where they are doing their work for love rather than profit. Sara, Does her designs from love, inspiration, and also for a good cause. How could any person resist that?
“MURALism is a nonprofit organization that is committed to beautifying the city of Los Angeles while providing employment to artists with special needs. A local muralist designs the murals. A team of artists, including young adults with unique abilities, prepares a coloring-book style drawing. Then the community fills in the numbers. The MURALism team comes back, in the end, to clean up the painting to add a professional finish.”
“There are so many great local muralists in Los Angeles. We need to show off these treasures of the community. During the last Los Angeles Olympics in 1984, the city was known as the mural capital of the world. Due to an 11-year moratorium on murals in the city of Los Angeles, murals in the City of Angels began to disappear. MURALism painted the very first mural after the moratorium in 2014 when councilman Paul Krekorian of North Hollywood commissioned a huge mural alongside the 170 Freeway on Whitsett Ave and Sherman Way. 200 hundred volunteers from all around the community helped paint the mural, including students from Exceptional Minds. MURALism’s goal is to paint 100 murals before the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.”
Their goal is to bring people together to create throughout the community by painting 100 murals before the 2028 Olympics!
Sara Cohen has been part of that effort as an Operations Coordinator with MURALism. Sara has directly worked with assisting people with special needs to achieve their goals. She uses her art as a therapeutic outlet and is eager to help others do the same.
How long have you been working with MURALism?
I’ve been fortunate to work with MURALism for the past 6 months. The organization has been established for less than a year.
What’s the earliest age you remember drawing or being fascinated by art and the creation of art?
I remember making a ‘drawing club’ with my friends in 1st grade. We would draw at the cafeteria tables at recess and lunch.
What’s your day job?
I work for LAUSD as a special education assistant.
Are there any artists in your family tree?
Not that I know of, but both of my grandmothers were very crafty.
Do you have a favorite artist or artists you collect or admire?
So many! I recently stumbled upon Jimmy Warhol and love his style.
How did MURALism come about?
Ernie Merlan is the founder and creator of MURALism. He was previously Executive Director of the school Exceptional Minds, which teaches digital arts to young adults with autism. He decided to create an organization that would have people with special needs engaging with the community, instead of tucked away in an office, behind a screen.
What other talents do you possess?
I can crochet a mean blanket!
Are you a collector? What else do you collect?
When I was a teen, I collected bobbleheads and watches. I spent my teenage years wearing 3 watches on each arm (Burger King watches, fake flashy-gold watches, etc.) No one picked up on my fashion trend.
Do you have a favorite thing you geek out on? (Pop Culture, Old School, the 70’s, 80’s, Movie, books, comics, toys, music?)
Vintage t-shirts, Gilda Radner, and Lily Tomlin.
Have you had any celebrity clients?
Is there one celebrity you would love to create a piece for?
I’d love to create a piece for Elton John!
What’s the largest Mural you have worked on, and where?
The largest mural I’ve been a part of was 450 ft. of abstract underwater animals, in Oxnard, Ca. This mural was for Many Mansions, an affordable housing complex for veterans and their families who are formerly homeless and/or have a disability.
Is there anything else you are working on that you would like to share with us?
Right now, I’m working on building exposure for MURALism and perfecting my shoe skills!
Thank you for your time.
Gemr is the #1 free app and website for collectors. It’s the best place on the internet to meet fellow fans, show off your collection, talk all things geeky, and buy and sell cool stuff with people who love the same things you do. If you’re looking for the only place on your phone (or the internet) built just for collectors — this is it!