Benjamin Swatez and ‘The Goodness Tour’

The Goodness Tour has combined forces worth the International Art Association OMAI to host its 7th annual event in Puerto Rico. Benjamin Swatez is one of three co-founders of the group. Their goal is to share psychosocial support through art with those who have faced adversity worldwide. They have worked in Puerto Rico since hurricane Maria sharing peace through creativity.Benjamin Swatez is also the 2018 president of the art organization named OMAI (Organización Mundial de Artistas Integrados) and together these two organizations work to celebrate the voice of the underrepresented.

ATM: What is a typical day of The Goodness Tour?
 

BS: It is about holding space and about inviting in a symbiotic experience. Our projects open the door for a multicultural dialogue between us,creativity and the people we are blessed to work with. It is exciting to create a win-win experience where all hearts are fed in a positive environment for self-expression and the discovery of one’s voice through creativity like music, dance, [and film].

For example, while working in the refugee camps, we organize the schedule,materials and curriculums. We then hold workshops to invite each individual to express their journey through symbolism and transform the victim mentality into self-empowerment, and the embodiment of choice to move through past what is bothering them.

ATM: What could you learn from this tour?
 

BS:  There are a number of incredible international creatives that are coming from all over the Americas for this tour: OMAI Goodness Tour International Convention 2018 Puerto Rico. It is inspiring to be around people who are living their dream by truly excelling in their chosen profession.We have a woman joining us who is a United States Commissioner of UNESCO and Representative from the United Nations San Diego chapter. She has been inspiring positive cultural change for longer than I’ve been alive. We have a museum art director from Venezuela who was voted one of the most influential Latina women in the United States. Also, we have a Mexican muralist who once painted the largest mural in the world by a single artist. We get to learn from each other, while simultaneously learning from the beautiful island culture.

ATM: How can the concert and mural evoke a change in someone’s adversity?

BS: This is a good question. Our events are focused on collaboration, instead of living the old paradigm of rockstar/ audience. We want to connect deeper. There’s a time and a place for both, but our focus here and now is to celebrate all participating voices. Everyone is contributing to making the environment, atmosphere, experience; everyone is equally as important in the creation of the overall experience. A Mayan elder in Guatemala asked, “Which is the most important stair of the temple, the first or the last? “Well, every single stair is equally important because if you take anyone away then you cannot reach the top. The mural allows them to come and express themselves and every contribution is valuable to make it complete. The participating community members get to walk by the mural everyday and remember that they contributed to the masterpiece and can feel a sense of positive pride.

ATM: Express more about Memorial Wall painting.

The Memorial Wall is about honoring the people who were affected by Hurricane Maria. We are inviting people around the island who would like to participate and especially those who have lost loved one’s affected by the hurricane. We invite them to put a star on the wall for their loved ones who transitioned on from the effect of the hurricane. One element will be a painted grandmother in the center of the composition, carrying her wisdom in her wrinkles.

Painted candles will glow in her honor below. A world will be created upon this wall in La Perla, the “shanti town” of Puerto Rico with full support and participation from the community. The composition will be incredibly dynamic, fusing multiple styles from around the Americas while transcribing the ideas and symbolism from the people and the culture of this beautiful Island.

ATM: Talk about your experience prior to and now as the president of OMAI.


BS: It’s been an incredible honor to direct this convention and lead OMAI. Right after the hurricane, in November 2017, we came down here to Puerto Rico. It took a huge amount of faith and trust to reach Puerto Rico,knowing that music and the arts will be effective and incredibly important in great time in need. We got here and ended up being able to paint and make music and make a song with over 500 children in the mountains, schools,and communities without electricity. We were carrying water to them. We salute the powerful resilience of this incredible culture!
 

A song emerged from one of our art workshops in the mountains. The song “A Celebrar” was written with over 100 Puerto Ricans from all walks of life throughout the islands. It was recorded by Puerto Ricans. It made sense to say let’s continue the journey and take it further. So, let’s bring 18 National musicians, the best muralist, and artists. 
 

ATM: Explain the significance of the “Love My Neighbor” mural that would be at this convention.


BS: The “Love My Neighbor” mural that we will paint in Cayey stems from a project in Carson City, California. It is a beautiful social service project using creative outlets. It’s a reminder to love one another regardless of ethnicity. It is about loving everyone as a human being. Puerto Ricans across the island were on top of the rooftops together pulling trees down, when prior to the storm they didn’t even know the names of their neighbors. Children were out in the street using their imagination while playing together.It was so deeply inspiring, and we are honored to collaborate and celebrate the beautiful Puerto Rican culture. 

ATM: How does filmmakers and video production help continue to spread the message?

BS: We do interviews with participants while they are in the moment. They are expressing the true emotion that is emerging. Capturing this through video is also celebrating this moment in time. This is the day and age we see a lot of negativity and violence on the News and T.V.This brings people together and can uplift souls, offer hope, and reminds the world of the power of love and respect in humanity.


ATM: How do you plan to have literature, in this case, poetry to expand the meaning of The Goodness Tour?


BS: Poets paint with words and create compositions through written and spoken symbols. Sharing someone’s personal interpretation of life and their experiences really opens the door for others to relate to similar experiences. Poets will speak of their experiences, without turning a blind eye to the adversities and difficulties and what can seem dark. We can emerge out of sludge and rise up and express it through the words of the poet. Performances will take each participant on a journey, if they choose to take the ride, a guided transformation through word and song will enhance the quality of life for all who say yes.

ATM: How do you are being a part of the goodness tour learn from each other?


BS: Often times, if someone is not secure with themselves, then there is this kind of energetic tug a war that plays out. This team is remarkable because each person is putting all their power into art. I focus most my time on painting. Luc Reynaud does songwriting. Jeremiah Alexis does film,compositions, and is a good MC. We build each other up and inspire greatness in one another. It is a real joy to work beside such capable, talented, goodhearted and motivated individuals working hard for the betterment of life for all!

A Celebrar Music Video Link: https://youtu.be/wPMk-da-pqM