Art Can Change the World!

It’s annoying to me when I hear the concept floating around that art is dispensable. Not enough money in the schools? Take away the art classes then, take away the music program. The economy is sluggish, so what’s the first thing to go but purchasing things that you don’t really need—like art?

When I met Rosalind Russell (not the late actress), nicknamed Laguna’s “goat lady,” we were both in a tough place. I’d lost a business, my house, my husband and my health insurance, and Rosalind’s house in Laguna had burned down. But she was still trying to raise money to buy goats for women in Nepal with her R Star Foundation! They were having a fundraiser for her at the Neighborhood Congregational Church.

At one point, she was speaking to the audience, but the crowd in the back of the room was busy socializing and I could barely hear her. That was annoying too, so I whistled my very loud finger whistle, and people stopped talking and realized she was trying to get her message across. That’s when I first felt a bond with Rosalind and her cause.

I thought to myself, what could I do as an artist to help Rosalind raise money for the women in Nepal whose husbands had been dying in all the fighting going on over there? They needed income to feed their families and keep a roof over their head too. With the goats, they were able to sell milk and cheese and pass baby goats on to other women from different tribes to do the same.

I got the idea of creating an art icon for the R Star Foundation that would give the organization more of a face—a branding, of sorts. It could be used for the advertising and promotional things that Rosalind would do. She met with me and liked the idea, and within a month, the art was finished. I scanned the painting and framed the piece for Rosalind to have too.

The icing on the cake came when another local woman fell in love with the painting and wanted to buy it. I told her it belonged to Rosalind. Rosalind is still waiting for her home to be rebuilt and didn’t want to part with the painting for good, but didn’t really have room to hang it either, so Betsy ended up renting the painting from Rosalind, which was a financial help to her!

I’ve just finished a letterhead for a woman’s interfaith group here in Orange County, CA called S.A.R.A.H. (Spiritual and Religious Alliance for Hope). They teach their children to understand and respect everyone’s faith. My next project is to create an art icon for Transition Laguna Beach, a local organization that is helping Laguna to become a sustainable community. They will be able to use it on products that they create like T-shirts, mouse pads, mugs and advertising.

I’d like to put an end to the concept that art isn’t important. So your kid wants to be an artist? What a blessing to the world! We need that little artist!

Please post a comment to share with us your own thoughts and experiences of how art can change the world.



Robin Wethe Altman
Robin grew up in Laguna Beach. Her uncommonly vivid watercolors have evolved over her 35-year art career. She attended Principia College with the assistance of an art scholarship from the Laguna Beach Festival of Arts and graduated in 1976 with a BA in Fine Art. Robin has exhibited her work in several prominent galleries in Laguna Beach and in all three summer festivals in Laguna as well. Her work is in private, corporate and public collections throughout the world. She has illustrated books and her work has adorned wine labels from Napa Valley and greeting cards. Her paintings express a special sense of fun and happiness that is often missing in a world that is "too busy". They illustrate her reverence for "the simple life" and are decidedly upbeat and idealistic. When someone looks at her paintings, they can't help but smile.
Robin Wethe Altman

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