18 Oct Wellness with Rich Alapack
a collection of chats with various experts on their definition of wellness.
To round out our week of wellness experts, we caught up with the founder of We All Live Here, Rich Alapack. Created in 2015, the organization uses public art as a platform to spread a message of inclusivity throughout communities. If you live in Chicago, you’ve probably seen his work on walls across the city as it touts the organization’s moniker.
We had the opportunity to meet up with Rich to learn more about the four-word phrase and what wellness looks like to him.
Tell us a little about yourself.
“My name is Rich Alapack and I’m the founder of We All Live Here. We create positive, inclusive public art, ideally with different communities, groups, libraries and schools, in order to spread a positive message and remind everyone to get along and help each other succeed.”
How did you come up with the phrase “We All Live Here?”
“I was walking my dog and in my neighborhood there’s this white walled garage. It always looks like it’s about to fall down, but it never got tagged, it never got graffitied, so for someone like me that kinda stood out. I wasn’t actually thinking about tagging it, but I started playing this silly little thought game to break the monotony of walking the same route every night. I started thinking ‘what could I write on the wall that the owner might like?’ So, through playing that game, I came up with a lot of silly ideas and then one night I was reflecting on my own journey of coming to the United States from Canada and how I started to encounter a lot more hateful things. I was completely dismayed that you could try to say something to someone, but it wouldn’t really make a difference in how they were thinking. So when I saw the wall that one particular night, ‘We All Live Here’ just popped in my head and I went wow, that’s gender equality, racial equality, sexual equality, the environment—all these things could fall under the umbrella of those four really simple words.”
Can you walk us through how your program is implemented into schools?
“Yeah! I’ve worked with 105 schools since 2016, the vast majority being CPS schools. It’s interesting because one of the things I actually didn’t realize were how many schools were cutting their arts programs. So, for some schools we kind of become a pseudo art program and for others it’s just an augmentation. But the primary way we do everything is through an all-school assembly that allows us to reach every kid. Then we invite them to participate in creating a unique We All Live Here logo that they’ll use to make products like shirts or hats or coffee cups. Finally, all of that leads to selling those items to fund the larger art piece that the school will create. You see, my goal is to teach kids how to be entrepreneurs, not just employees. An entrepreneur creates fifteen jobs, while an employee just takes a job. In my mind, if we want to boost up some of our less fortunate communities, that’s the best way to do it. Having an idea for a business and wanting to start a business are two vastly different things. So, we work to help the kids get the ball on the tee on how to get an idea off the ground and learn that if you really want to get that idea off the ground, then you should share it. I think a lot of times people are afraid someone will steal their idea, but if you hoard your idea and don’t let other people help you then it’ll never get off the ground.”
The phrase is written on walls across the city. When someone sees it, what do you hope that the takeaway is?
“Originally, I started writing this on walls in chalk, because I knew it’d stand out more. If a kid came across it, he might stop and say, “what does that mean” and then whatever the mom says may start a really good conversation. It’s a way to remind everyone to get along.”
Bringing it back to you, what does your daily routine look like as you run your organization?
“I walk my dog in the morning and stop at a Foxtrot for coffee. That’s kind of the only normal part of the day. The rest of my day is up in the air. Sometimes, I’m at a school giving a talk, doing art or meeting with people who want to learn more about the organization. So, my day can be chaotic, but that’s why Foxtrot’s amazing. I’ve had you guys deliver me water before while doing a mural. It’s just amazing that a store can bring me something I need so I don’t have to stop doing what I’m doing.”
What does wellness mean to you?
“From a community wellness angle, I just feel that individuals use positive quotes, mantras, mottos and things like that all the time to motivate themselves. I felt like if that worked for individuals, why not do that for our community, so that our community can find common beliefs that benefit everyone. So ‘We All Live Here’ is what I call a communal mantra and I feel like that helps neighbors start to look at each other a little differently. They might start to talk to each other and actually pick up extra litter. All those things increase the overall health of the community, so hopefully what we’re doing is inspiring people to care about where they live.”
What are some of your favorite products that help you maintain a sense of wellness?
Check out the rest of Rich’s go-to wellness picks by visiting our site.
As always, thank you very much to Rich for chatting with us. If you’re feeling inspired to getting involved with We All Live Here, check them out here. And next time you’re out and about in the city, keep your eyes peeled for that four-word phrase.