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Photos > THAILAND: Street Orphans Transform Into Art

I've been making street art since 2009 and have traveled to 13 countries to focus on children who are homeless and living on the street. I make cardboard cutouts that I mount to walls with high tack mounting tape or propped up as stand alone pieces. If no one removes them from the streets, the pieces will decay and be destroyed by the harsh environment. If someone does take it, then they can keep it in their home. If it survives, there is hope for them to continue on as pieces of art, just like there is hope for the actual homeless and street kids.

During my last trip to Asia I stayed in an orphanage in northern Thailand and got to know the kids there. I spent two months with them, listening to their stories, and then I represented these young people in this body of my recent work.

The most memorable stories were of two children named Chai and Lee, who were so malnourished that their little stomachs were swollen when they first came to the orphanage. To get food they would steal the offerings to Buddha in their tribal villages. With this money they would buy snacks, since the only thing they had to eat was white rice, which has hardly any nutritional value. The piece with the arrows (below) is about how Chai had a lot of things in life thrown at him, trying to destroy him, but instead, he focused on the beauty in life. The main thing I learned from this trip is that children find beauty and can reveal it to the rest of us.

MICHAEL AARON WILLIAMS : My art is a narrative, visual poetry, making a social statement to move the viewer to action or realization. An important part of my work focuses on the street, the place where people live their daily lives. This allows me to interact with an audience on their own turf and observe how they react to the art; it is a social experiment. These open-air installations focus on the ephemeral state of street people and enable the viewer to participate in the outcome of the pieces, whether the viewer leaves or saves them from the street. My goal in depicting street people is to show their beauty, fragility, and to bring their situation into the eyes of the viewer, refusing to let them be forgotten or ignored.

Learn about how to help the orphanage at Orphans Assistance and Rescue