Culture and Animals Foundation 2018 grantee Donald Vincent a.k.a. Mr. Hip is a spoken word poet and hip-hop musician based in Los Angeles. He began recording his latest project, entitled Vegan Paradise this year, which was funded partially by his CAF grant. This album, produced in full by Boston’s Moji, also features other compassionate animal advocates, including Doc G of Hip-Hop is Green, Risa Branch, and the Bearded Vegans. The album’s artwork was created by Jane O’Hara, who herself was a CAF grantee in 2017. O’Hara and Vincent first met at a Compassion Arts Festival to benefit Maple Farm Sanctuary in 2016 and last year, both were featured presenters at the collaborative Compassion Arts & Culture and Animals Festival in New York City.
“I am a huge fan of her work and how she captures what is hard to do with words,” Vincent says of O’Hara’s art. “We’ve shared the stage and performed together two or three times now. When I thought of Vegan Paradise and what that would look like, I was immediately drawn to her works, “Bubble Series Separate Not Equal” and “Insatiable,” for my album art.”
“I was excited and so honored that he felt my paintings were what he wanted for the back and front cover of ‘Vegan Paradise,’” says O’Hara. “Both paintings are favorites of mine . . . I love this particular way to get them seen.”
In spite of their talent and creativity in their respective realms, neither Vincent nor O’Hara necessarily set out with the intention of becoming artists. Vincent discovered his love of hip-hop through teaching a high school poetry workshop, where he used the work of Kanye West and Lupe Fiasco to highlight similarities to Shakespeare and inspire his students.
“As a poet that writes ekphrastic poetry, I just fell in love with the platform,” explains Vincent. “While I’m not a visual artist, I do appreciate how art helps bridge gaps of cultural divides.” Meanwhile, O’Hara was exposed to the arts from a young age but realizing herself as an artist was not an explicit goal, but rather a more organic, slightly surprising occurrence.
“I never realized I was inspired to become an artist, though I gravitated towards drawing and painting as far back as I remember,” she says. “Painting was a natural fit as I love color and I love trying to tell stories visually. Going to art school felt like cheating as far as higher education went because it was fun for me; but the more I created, the more it occurred to me I was an ‘artist.’”
Part of what makes animal advocacy particularly powerful and engaging is its close association with artistry, whether visual, musical, or otherwise. This is the intersection that CAF seeks to foster and promote. Our investment in creators like Vincent and O’Hara is not just helping to showcase their art and further animal advocacy, it’s actively creating an environment in which these uniquely skilled artists can come together and produce new, captivating collaborations.
“Art has always gone where no politician or legal advocacy could ever go, even back to the feudal days, where plays would be satirical of the kings and queens and other rulers,” says Vincent. “Because of that art, the common man was able to enjoy the world into which they were cast. One could look at Jane’s painting and see the cages and fences around farm animals and household pets living their best lives.”
“I feel the arts can work on people’s subconscious and not create resistance that a direct argument could sometimes create. Because I was a slow and defensive learner myself, I feel the arts are a gentler way to get people to see things differently,” O’Hara adds. “I am an artist and through my paintings I hope to communicate, but I am in awe of all of the other ways that others advocate. Together, I believe we will reach more people to find their compassion and make the changes necessary to treat animals with the love and respect they deserve.”