Nick Ramos at <em>Build Hope, Not Walls</em> exhibit

Local artist’s vision became a massive art exhibit

This past October, Georgetown artist Nick Ramos stood inside Austin’s Big Medium Gallery enveloped by beautiful pieces of art representing an inspiration he’d had nearly a year ago. The three-day exhibit, Build Hope, Not Walls, was about “coming together to help immigrants and refugees,” according the exhibit’s website. It featured 150 artists’ work from across the country and Mexico. The idea behind this massive project began one night when Nick was watching the news and doing something that came naturally to him—sketching.

“I was listening to the news, and they were talking about the Muslim ban and building the wall, and I just started doodling a brick, and then I started decorating it,” Nick remembers. “And then I thought I could make a hundred bricks, stenciled, painted, and sell them to raise money for awareness.”

But taking on that much work by himself wasn’t feasible. He mentioned his idea to a fellow artist, and word started spreading. In just a few days, Nick had fifty artists passionate about the message of the project and eager to contribute their talents. Using his connections as a former curator of the Georgetown Art Center and through social media, he found another hundred artists.

The artists utilized their particular mediums—paint, metal, wood, and others—to build or cover a single brick for the exhibit. The variety is staggering, from Austin artist Toni Ardizonne’s use of acrylic paint on brick to Mexican artist Adrian Oviedo’s wooden brick finely cut with a laser. The bricks displayed along the walls at Big Medium Gallery not only represented the project’s overall theme but also embodied the uniqueness and value of each human being.

Painted bricks from <em>Build Hope, Not Walls</em> exhibit

“It was a community of artists coming together and embracing each other. Each person created a brick that is a metaphor for the individuality and what each has to contribute to society,” Nick explains. “It’s about telling a story—we might not necessarily understand how we go together, but we do complement each other. Love is the mortar that binds the bricks together.”

The bricks were donated by the artists and sold through a silent auction during the exhibit with all the proceeds benefitting American Gateways, Casa Marianella, Preemptive Love Coalition, and Refugee Services of Texas. Nick picked these nonprofits for their work with immigrants and refugees internationally and locally in Texas.

Build Hope, Not Walls started with a spark of an idea and became a massive project drawing on the talents of individuals passionate about refugees and immigrants. But for Nick, the project is more than a passion—it’s also personal. When he was thirteen, Nick and his mother emigrated from Brazil so she could pursue her doctorate. Since then, he’s worked hard, built a graphic design business, and established his life here. “A big thing about this project is that I’m grateful for my life in this country,” Nick explains. “Trying to help others and showing kindness to others is the best way I can say thank you. Because everybody deserves a chance, no matter who they are.”


Learn more about the project and view some of the artists and their bricks at www.buildhopenotwalls.com.

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