The Accidental Street Artist Keeping Hope Alive During The Coronavirus Pandemic

"It happened by accident, and when it did, I was like, OK, wow, this is what I am meant to do," said Corie Mattie of her optimism-spreading work.

Corie Mattie never intended to be a street artist.

But when the coronavirus pandemic hit, the Los Angeles-based artist lost her part-time job and her commissions dried up.

So, inspired by her doctor brother who was frustrated with people not taking COVID-19 seriously, she found a wall and painted her first piece on the street, “Cancel Plans. Not Humanity.”

Courtesy of Corie Mattie

The striking image ― only painted on a yellow background because she had paint leftover from a custom piece of the late NBA legend Kobe Bryant ― went viral on social media, and was featured on MSNBC.

“I knew I was onto something,” Mattie told HuffPost this week. “I was doing what not many people were doing at the time: offering hope through art — connection when everything felt so distant.”

Seizing on the moment, she then installed these similar, yellow hope-themed signs across the city:

Courtesy of Corie Mattie

Mattie’s LA Hope Dealer project was born around the same time.

She’d send artwork or stencils to people nationwide. They would then place the pieces, or paint the stencils, and share the resulting messages of optimism on social media.

“This past year, everyone felt so isolated from their friends and family,” she said of the initiative. “I tried to think of ways for people to be involved in the movement, in the art, and feel connected.”

Corie Mattie

Growing up in a South Jersey family of educators, “it never seemed practical to pursue art as a ‘real’ job,’” Mattie said. She ignored her artistic side for years, instead focusing on completing a master’s in sports management at Georgetown and then working in the sports industry.

But feeling “like I was dying a slow death working a 9 to 5,” she moved to LA where she combined part-time work with custom pieces for clients. “They would come to me with general ideas, colors, and themes and then allow me to put my own creative twist into the final piece,” she explained.

The pandemic and the street artwork she’s created during it has pushed her “into a spotlight I have been waiting for, I just didn’t know it yet.”

“It was never set in my head that I wanted to become a street artist,” she said. “It happened by accident, and when it did, I was like, OK, wow, this is what I am meant to do.”

Mattie tries to send dual messages with her street art — to uplift and connect, and to make people stop and think.

“I want to promote an open mind, allow people to see different perspectives, shedding light on issues that are prominent in today’s society,” she said. “I want it to be that little nudge for someone that gets them to start evolving and growing, while reminding people we are all cut from the same mold. We are all human.”

Corie Mattie

The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

“It makes me feel I have found my path in life,” she said. “Positive feedback illustrates people are connecting with my work and what I stand for. Maybe a lot of people have the same thoughts as me, I am just expressing them on a larger scale through art.”

As for the future? Mattie aims to continue highlighting “societal challenges, while also playing a role in their solutions. Raising money to fight homelessness, food insecurity, and systemic racism through my murals will serve a vital role in my future.”

“I also want to continue to be a fierce advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community and a model trailblazer pushing the boundaries of what society expects women to say and do,” she added. “Good art makes you think. Great art makes you do.”

Check out more of Mattie’s work on Instagram.

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