Side Hustle with Bianca Bello
I’m a painter with a growing little art shop called WildHumm. You could call WildHumm my side gig, but being a painter was my full-time gig for a year in 2015. I’m also a person that cares about human rights, but I can’t do protests because I’m not a fan of being in big crowds. It’s an odd little phobia of mine.
Skipping protests can be a huge let down. You can feel like you’re not doing anything to help, and you could even convince yourself that by being invisible, you’re part of the problem. It’s a constant struggle of intense FOMO and guilt.
Then I remembered the wise words of Geneva Reed-Veal, the mother of Sandra Bland, who has turned her grief into activism with the Black Lives Matter movement. In the Women of the Hour podcast she said, “In this movement, you have to know your lane. You have got to know that if you are not a protester, don’t you go out there trying to shut a bridge down. If you are not a letter writer, please don’t send anything to the DOJ. Whatever your piece is, that’s what you do. And all of those pieces are necessary to make the movement move.”
It clicked: I was struggling because protesting is just not my piece. I accepted that and started thinking about what I could do. Then, I looked to my little art business sitting out there in magical Instagram land with about 50,000 eyes on every post. I had spoken out politically before, but never figured out a way to actually use my art community to DO something.
I decided that it was time for the big experiment: Can I activate these people for social good? As we all probably know, getting political in business is risky - but I was willing to potentially burn it down for a good cause.
Step 1: During the holidays on Small Business Saturday when most small shops have sales, I did something I called the “Anti Sale.” Everything was full price, but 20% of every sale was donated to Standing Rock, a resource devoted to halting the Dakota Access Pipeline. The response was a little disappointing, and I lost some followers, but it was worth a shot, right?
Step 3 came shortly after the administration announced travel ban. The ACLU needed help, and on a whim, with no notice to my audience, I announced a “Give and Get” giveaway. The rules were simple: send me a screenshot of your receipt giving any amount to the ACLU, and I will send you a free art studio grab bag. (“Grab bags” are a mixed bag of old snippets of paintings that didn’t work out - people seem to love to use them for collage, and it’s a wonderful way for me to repurpose art that would otherwise end up in the trash.)
The response was incredible! In less than 24 hours, I received 81 messages from 27 states and 7 countries. Donations were as small as $5 and as large as monthly recurring $100 donations. We raised over $1,200 for the ACLU that day! That blows my mind. My experiment was a success!
I feel like I finally have found my piece. In addition to calling senators and writing postcards, I can mobilize my art community to support causes that need it. So, if you’re out there reading this and you’re not a protester either, consider looking to your passion projects. We’re going to be in it for the long haul, so if you can turn something you love into something that does the work, you’ll be able to stay active in your own way.
If there’s ever a cause that you want to draw attention to and you think I could help, or a protest sign you want painted (I have SO many ideas, guys!) find me and ask me. I’m always looking for ways to do more, and more ideas for Step 4, Step 5, Step 6…