Public Works of HeART was founded by Will and Katie Bryan on February 14th, 2013.
After Katie and Will returned from a trip building homes in Haiti, Will, a former University of South Carolina football player and artist, was commissioned to paint a mural for a friend. Katie and Will decided to have the friend donate the commission to the non-profit they worked with in Haiti. That way the friend would become aware of the need in Haiti, and the mural would become a reminder to the friend that the money they paid for the mural not only beautified their home but also helped improve someone’s life.
Soon after, Will’s company, Genesis Studios, was documenting the process of the giant Gamecock graphics being installed at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, SC. Upon learning that the artwork was priced by the square foot, Will realized that public artworks could be funded in the same way. If enough people were willing to pay for just a small square of the mural, together the community could crowd-fund a large scale artwork. By adding just a few dollars to the cost of each square, a donation to a local charity could then be made at the end of the project. Just like the original mural after Haiti, the community would become aware of the needs met by the non-profit, and the mural would be a public reminder that the money they spent on their square not only beautified their community but also helped improve people’s lives.
These experiences inspired the idea of starting a social benefit company that would beautify communities, create awareness of needs, and give money to good causes – especially those that help people in need.
Ignite Ideas Contest
In the Fall of 2012, the concept for this company, given the name Public Works of HeART, was submitted to EngenuitySC for the Ignite Ideas Contest, an entrepreneurship contest meant to discover the next great idea to improve the region’s economy and prosperity. Public Works of HeART was voted winner of the contest and was awarded $5,000 to help kick-start the project.
Public Works of HeART then needed to find a great location for the first community mural. After scouting locations throughout Columbia, Will received a call about the opportunity to design a mural for an enormous water tank that celebrated the University of South Carolina Gamecocks. The same Gamecocks that Will played football for when he and Katie first went to Haiti. The same Gamecocks on the outside of the stadium that inspired the idea for crowd-funding public art. And the person that called – was the friend that made the original donation to Haiti when Will painted murals in his home seven years earlier.
It was settled. The Gamecock Water Tank Mural would be the first Public Works of HeART project.