In 2016, Joel Artista, several Bengali artists and a group of local teenagers collaborated with the Meridian International Center, the US Consulate and NGO Banglanatak.com to create a mural that highlights the issues facing young people in Kolkata. The young people involved in the project had faced several difficult situations in life, including homelessness, human trafficking, poverty and addiction, but were working to overcome their pasts and were specially selected for this project because of their passion for visual art.
The piece is on the large outer wall of the Birla Academy of Art and Culture, a hub of ancient and contemporary Bengali visual art. The project began with a mural workshop from Artista and, after some discussion, the group came up with images that they felt represented a journey from a dark past to a future full of hope.
In one section, the young artists painted the personification of the demons in their lives and communities, portrayed as a giant fiend terrorising a city. In the next section, each student painted representations of that which gives them peace, strength and support to fight these demons: positive relationships with family and friends, activities such as art and music, religious faith and education. At the closing ceremony for the mural project, dozens gathered around to celebrate the artwork and its message.
Joel Artista (Joel Bergner) has completed several murals against human trafficking and modern slavery. He is an artist, educator and activist who is celebrated for his antislavery artwork and murals. Artista's art is heavily influenced by his work with communities and non-profit organisations, and in 2015 he joined forces with Max Frieder to form Artolution. This community-based arts initiative empowers artists, youth and communities to be agents of positive social change and explore critical societal issues and create opportunities for constructive dialogue.