How Health Betters With Attitude
By Jennifer Brizzi
“How wonderful yellow is. It stands for the sun.”
–Vincent Van Gogh
Optimism with a capital O — literally — is the operative word, and Riley Johndonnell (who goes by Uncle Riley) is bringing it to the community, with plenty of yellow everywhere.
Recently, at the Kingston YMCA, he threw an international, intergenerational “Get INT-O Yellow” dance party designed to “shine a light on depression.” On March 20, party-goers were urged to bring someone half their age and someone twice their age (at my age that would be a challenge).
“We’re all up to get down!” was the theme/tagline, as was, “Paint the town yellow!” DJ Ali was set to play along with the span of generations by playing a variety of music that would go through the decades. Participants were asked to wear something yellow and bring a flashlight. Talk about a cheery sea of yellow!
Other events scheduled for that day in Kingston included a yellow ribbon ceremony with mayoral proclamation at City Hall, followed by a Yellow Party at ARTBAR. Paint the Town Yellow is a City of Kingston initiative in collaboration with UMEWE, Health Alliance, MHA Ulster, YMCA and Kingston High School. UMEWE — founded by Uncle Riley — encourages further collaborations with communities, companies, creatives and “self-proclaimed optimists.”
So why celebrate yellow?
You surely have heard of the effect of color on mood, that blue and green are calming, that red and orange get you all hopped up, and so forth. Interior designers have known this for a while. But although there is a field of alternative/holistic medicine called chromotherapy or colorology, scientific research has been inconclusive,
maintaining that the effects of color are mostly subjective. And very personal. It can be culture-specific, as well. For example, white symbolizes purity to westerners and death to easterners. Clinical studies have failed to prove that yellow alleviates clinical depression, but many people do feel cheered and uplifted by yellow.
Yellow grabs the attention and so is used commonly in advertising and to alert people that stoplights are
about to turn red. But some people react to the color with irritation, agitation or frustration, especially if it’s
present in excess. Softer, paler yellows are less abrasive. A fully saturated hue can tire the eyes because it reflects a lot of light, or even elicit energetic, excited behavior.
But of course yellow is the color of light, of sunshine warming your face, evoking the Earth’s turn toward that
fiery, warming orb in the sky. Yellow is bright spring flowers like daffodils, dandelions and sunflowers. Yellow is cheerful, nourishing foods like bananas, lemons and corn. Yellow can make us feel happy around it. Although I don’t wear yellow or possess yellow art or knick-knacks in my home, I admit that it surely has its very merry place.
Uncle Riley’s title at UMEWE is co-founder and creative director. He is a conceptual artist/activist/Optimist. A self-described “(art)repreneur,” Uncle Riley has made promoting yellow his mission, along with fellow co-founder Whitny Sobala, the “Chief Executive Optimist.” With backgrounds in design for luxury and consumer product goods and lifestyle brands, they decided to turn towards helping their fellow humans in a new way, to “help turn Optimism into Action” by giving people “practical ways to make a brighter reality.”
This came in the form of a color and an initiative in community building. “What if Optimism was a color? What if Optimism was a space?” they asked themselves. And the hue INT-O-Yellow was born. Artists can use Pantone hue 108c, Benjamin Moore #322 or just mix cadmium yellow with equal parts white and black. Johndonnell encourages creatives to use this hue and use it liberally, to promote the cause. To see a gallery of such works, visit intoyellow.com/gallery2/
Local businesses are being encouraged to feature yellow from now though May, which is Mental Health
Awareness Month. Redstart Cafe is baking yellow cupcakes; Peace Nation is hosting a “United States of Optimism” installation of flags; ARTBAR and StoreFront gallery collaborated on a group show called “We Are #INTOyellow”; Kingston Library and HealthAlliance are hosting yellow art and “Community Garden” flower murals; Radio Kingston will be painting their entry door INT-O Yellow; and so much more.
Uncle Riley’s (P)optimism Shoppe at 622 Broadway in Kingston was supposed to be a brief pop-up but now has an extended tenure. He inspired 100 Kingston High School students to paint yellow discs with flowers and to write on the reverse their ideas for making Midtown Kingston a brighter place. Yellow dots are now scattered around Kingston, “happy spots” intended to “brighten communities and beautify neighborhoods.” A form at happyspots.com encourages members of communities to bring the cheery dots to their towns. There are also plans to install pairs of yellow rocking chairs around Midtown Kingston to encourage dialogue and community connections.
For more information visit umewe.org or intoyellow.com.