Travelers enjoy Project SNAP's
mosaic mural in the Honolulu
Many Hands, Many Voices
Project SNAP blends artwork of a multitude of kids and adults
into powerful, empowering mosaics.
ince 2005, Project SNAP (Share,
Nurture, Act, Preserve) has
inspired kids and families around
Michigan and the country to take action
and let their voices be heard through piec-
es of artwork that form mural mosaics.
The nonprofit organization was designed
to bring people of all ages together by
using art as a vehicle to help people believe
that what they say matters.
"If you break it down simply, we raise
awareness and build relationships:' said
Michael Rubyan of West Bloomfield, 24,
Project SNAP'S marketing and communi-
cations director. The nonprofit partners
with schools and communities to set up
events where kids and adults can create
artwork centered on a certain theme.
"The reason I started Project SNAP was
because I felt there was an unmet need in
our country for people of all ages to have
a chance to speak out and be heard in a
meaningful way," said Deborah Rubyan of
West Bloomfield, founder and CEO, and
"Using mural mosaics came about
because we figured art is a universal lan-
guage that everyone can understand and
express themselves in without having a
certain education or cultural background.
Everyone — and I mean that sincerely
— can create some sort of drawing that
comes from their feelings and emotions."
August 16 • 2012
Michael Rubyan uses a mural poster to point out how the individual artworks make
For each mural, the organization col-
lects more than a thousand pieces of art.
Then art director Roy Feinson sorts them
by color and places each original piece into
a huge mural.
The organization's first mosaic titled "It's
Our World, Don't Waste It" measured 15
feet by 20 feet and contained 14,000 min-
iaturizedpieces of artwork, each originally
the size of computer paper. The mural was
installed in the Detroit Science Center in
"We chose to start with an environ-
mental focus because kids felt they could
be involved and make a difference in the
environment," Michael said.
"When we started, our main focus was
on involving kids, but we found that adults
were just as excited to contribute, so we
expanded to other causes."
For the 30 estimated murals Project
SNAP has made, topics range from Type 1
diabetes, healthy eating, promoting diver-
sity, environmental conservation and com-
memorative openings and anniversaries of
states and buildings.
"To me, it's important to find solutions
to challenges we face in our communities:'
Deborah said. "My commitment is to help
facilitate the growth and connection of
people in the Metro Detroit area — and
in other places around the country — by
giving them an opportunity to let their
voices come together and be heard and
The organization sets up tables at schools
and public events where people walking by
may create a picture if they wish.
"We'll start out with just a few people,
but within an hour or two, we usually have
people making artwork on any open space
available:' Michael said. "Once they see
what they have a chance to be a part of,
they flock to our tables."
Once the nonprofit got under way, the
team realized that not everyone who cre-
ated works of art would be able to see their
contribution in person.
"That's why we created the online art
museum," Michael said. "Through it, peo-
ple can type in their name and the site will
show them where their work is located.
This way, everyone can see how they fit
into the mosaic and that their artwork is
necessary for the mural."
Another benefit of the mosaics is that
it brings people together who normally
would not have contact with each other.
Project SNAP, in partnership with DTE
Energy Foundation, created a mural fea-
turing the Nigerian musician Fela Kuti.
Artwork came from students in school dis-
tricts ranging from Detroit to Royal Oak
and from charter schools.
"We brought all the students together
for the unveiling;' said Michael, "and
through the mosaic they could see that
even though they may come from different
backgrounds, they're not that different and
that each of their voices matters just as
much as anyone else's.
"In general, kids from the suburbs and
kids from Detroit don't tend to have much
interaction with each other, so this was a
great way for that to happen."
In October 2011, Project SNAP part-
nered with Common Ground, a crisis
intervention agency in Bloomfield Hills, to
create a mosaic for its 40th anniversary.
"This mosaic gave us the opportunity
to engage our community in a different
venue than we already do:' said James
Perlaki of Common Ground. "Our job
is to serve people at a time of crisis, but
this gave us a chance to work with people
when they weren't in a crisis.
"Our goal is to help people move from
crisis to hope, and this helped us focus on
the hope aspect of it while also incorporat-
ing our anniversary and putting together
the large picture of our community by
drawing a small picture," Perlaki said. ❑
To learn more or make a donation to Project
SNAP, go to www.projectsnap.org.