Yazmany Arboleda is a Colombian-American artist whose raw materials are neighborhoods and sometimes entire cities. The residents who bring these communities to life are not only his subjects but also his collaborators.
Among his more recent projects are large-scale works in Kabul, Afghanistan and Nairobi, Kenya. In Nairobi with the aid of several houses of worship he created “Colour in Faith,” a city-wide project in which he and a team of volunteers painted several religious buildings — including Christian churches, Muslim mosques and Buddhist temples — in a color named Optimistic Yellow. In Kabul he created what he calls a living sculpture when he and a team of volunteers and community activists gave away 10,000 pink biodegradable balloons to residents throughout the city as the ever-present cracks of gunfire continued to reverberate close by.
For the foreseeable future, he will be making art in his hometown of New York City. A few days before this interview, Yazmany learned that starting in August of 2020, he would be Artist in Residence with the city’s Commission for Civic Engagement.
Among the many organizations in which he plays a leadership role are Future Historical Society, a multi-generational team of artists, activists, educators and community members who represent a diverse range of connections to the neighborhood of Fort Greene in Brooklyn; and limeSHIFT, an art-innovation consulting company that helps organizations unleash the power of place and people through creativity.
In this interview with Artist as Leader podcast producer Pier Carlo Talenti, Yazmany describes how an outsider’s perspective has shaped how generously and delicately he weaves his art-making and leadership style into the fabric of every community he inhabits.