Have Van, Will Paint

Sam Paolini’s Mural Mission is taking their art on the road to connect underground art spaces and DIY communities.

Travel along the New Hampshire Seacoast and the odds are good you’ll encounter artist Sam Paolini’s work. Their paintings, full of surreal landscapes populated by adorable-yet-grotesque beasts, odd geometry, and explosive colors, live in local coffee shops, art galleries, skate parks, and dozens of other venues.“(The Seacoast) has been a very encouraging and supportive community,” Paolini says. “We’re lucky to have people in each and every town who are doing similar things and want to lift you up and support you.”

It might seem strange, then, that Paolini’s latest project is set to take them out of New Hampshire and on a months-long road trip. Paolini and her partner, Adam Gouveia, are setting out in September to paint murals in DIY-arts spaces and other community spots throughout the country. They’re calling it Spikepit and SPAO’s Mural Mission, and the first stop is Worcester’s Collective a GoGo on Sept. 18.

“We want to work with DIY spaces and smaller, self-reliant underground organizations and venues,” Paolini explains. Painting murals lets Paolini and Gouveia “work on a bigger scale, and it involves the community more.”

Sam Paolini, Adam Gueveia, Teatotaller mural in progress, Wrong Brain Mural Mission

Teatotaller mural in progress, photo by Sam Paolini

Paolini thrives on collaboration. Their own DIY arts collective, Wrong Brain, has evolved in the last decade from a popular zine to an established studio/community space in Dover. The last month has been particularly busy. Art shows at Adelle’s Coffeehouse in Dover and the Portsmouth Music and Arts Center have doubled as fundraisers for the Mural Mission. Meanwhile, they’ve worked on two massive community murals at Teatotaller in Somersworth and the Maybarton Community Garden in Clinton, Mass.

Paolini is stepping away from a leadership role in Wrong Brain. The Mural Mission, they explain, is a chance to shake up their and Gouveia’s art and bring the kind of connections they’ve fostered in New Hampshire to the rest of the country. “I wouldn’t know the difference between how New Hampshire’s influenced my art and any other place, because this is all I’ve known,” Paolini says.

Their mission officially begins on Sept. 16 at the Takedown Music Festival in Strafford, where they’ll create a mural that will double as a stage backdrop. From there, Paolini and Gouveia will hop in their gray Honda Odyssey (nicknamed Odie, after the dog in “Garfield”) loaded with an air mattress and paint supplies, and hit the road. The three-month trip will take them across the country to California; from there, they’ll work their way back to New England through the South. At this writing, they have a painting scheduled at the Aquadome, a non-profit, volunteer-run arts and music venue in Kirksville, Missouri, with venues being considered in Queens and Brooklyn, as well as Lancaster, Ohio.

In true underground spirit, the itinerary is in flux. DIY art spaces are volunteer-run and take years to become established and ironing out a schedule has been challenging. But Gouveia is optimistic. “I think once we get on the road, we’re going to run into all these situations we couldn’t plan for,” he says.

Sam Paolini-artist, Wrong Brain Mural Mission
Dover, New Hampshire
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Top image, Pyramidscape (cropped), photo by Sam Paolini
Janet ReynoldsHave Van, Will Paint

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