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Rise in the City

What do 76 artists from around the world, who are conscientious about the world, have in common? They are all participating in the first Rise in The City event – an international art event to inspire change!

I had a vividly interesting conversation about the event with Daniela Gusman, the founder of Rise (Relationship Inspiring Social Enterprise) at a rooftop café in Sliema. The idea is creative and inspired: Manhattan’s skyline was mapped out in 100 virtual blocks and principal architecture firms, designers and artists have been invited or, as Daniela puts it ‘challenged’, to create artwork relevant to a NYC block of their choice. The works of art created should represent that block infused with some elements of Lesotho culture.

Claudio Pardi – Embrace the children

All the works had to have found some inspiration from Lesotho in Southern Africa, such as making reference to the white, blue and green colours of its national flag, the traditional blankets or the famous Basotho hat – or even re-interpreting the traditional Litema patterns that adorn Lesotho’s vernacular buildings. The artworks could be anything from a sculpture, sketch, painting or photograph to jewellery or clothing.

Lethoso was chosen for this Rise pilot project for a number of reasons, one of which is Daniela Gusman’s experience and network of contacts built up through living and working for years in this region of Africa, where she has initiated community-led development, trying to reduce dependency on aid and leveraging existing resources.

Juan Ramiro Torres – Wanderer
Gustavo Duque – Souls in Hiding

The ‘in loco’ ( project was conceived through the first-hand knowledge and awareness that, in Lesotho, especially in the rural and semi-rural areas, there is a fundamental lack of certain skills in the fields of construction and architecture that inhibits proper development in built environments.

To address this, Daniela and two other architects, Pedro Clarke and Luca Astorri, devised a model to bring together local expertise as technical advisors to work on community projects. The purpose of Rise in The City (a non-profit organisation) is to fund this project ‘in loco’ in an effort to connect those with skills already in Lesotho with each other and if any gaps are identified, then connecting the right international people to compliment the teams as well. This type of approach is ‘sustainable, dignified and makes sense for long-term change to be initiated’.

‘In Loco’ is a programme for 20 local graduates who have studied the Built Environment to attend a six-month design and build fellowship and entrepreneurial training programme. At the conclusion of this programme they will be equipped with the skills required to initiate other community projects.

The benefactor of the programme is God’s Love Centre, a home for orphaned or abandoned children, many of whom are HIV positive, in Sekamaneng, 15kms outside the Lesotho capital of Maseru. The house was designed to accommodate 20 children in two dormitories; however, it currently has 54 children with two to three sharing a mattress and is in great need of additional accommodation and study areas.

All the proceeds from the Rise in the City event and online art auction will go towards the construction of an extra accommodation block combined with entrepreneurship training and mentoring for the staff and older children at the orphanage so they can establish income-generating activities and reduce their dependency on aid.

Daniela, a Maltese by birth who considers herself a citizen of the world, has spent her life working on projects that make a difference in the community. This is rise’sfirst event and the plan is that it will become an annual event on the New York arts calendar and become known as a creative and collaborative event, the proceeds of which will go 100 per cent to a selected social project in Africa.

The event is a combination of competition, online auction and live auction and New York was chosen for the venue due to its vibrant art scene and high network individuals as well as the fact that it has a considerable number of top architectural firms.

Rise’s co-founder is BOND events, who organise B2B events mainly for the architectural and design community and have strong networks in New York.

Initially, artists wishing to create an art piece chose one of the 100 Manhattan virtual blocks, and choices were made through a personal affinity or some other connection. Certain blocks were very sought after by the artists applying. All the blocks were also open for sponsorship packages. Some sponsors, such as architecture firms, opened the art piece competition internally and then chose the best piece to submit, whilst other firms sponsored their own physical block.

This provided the opportunity for artist and sponsor company interaction but was entirely up to the artist to decide the degree of the sponsor’s involvement in the creative development of the work.

Some sponsors ended up very involved – resulting in a number of co-created works, whereas others are just having name placement as per the sponsor package.

The artists come from 15 different US states and 11 different countries and many will be travelling to New York for the live auction. New York – apart from the value of helping towards a good cause – is the ideal platform to increase their profile.

The venue chosen is New York’s oldest synagogue, Angel Orensanz Foundaion, a beautiful gothic building and an Art Foundation, so the monetary rental costs are fed straight back into the art world.

The job of exhibiting 76 artworks for a four-hour auction is not for the faint-hearted! A friend of Daniela from the New York art scene told her: “You’re organising a four-hour art festival, not an exhibition!”

The top 10 artworks chosen by the judging panel will be auctioned live during the event night on 25 October, and the judges will announce the winner and present the prize: a trip to Lesotho from anywhere in the world.

Rise encourages all those who love art but cannot be physically at the event to take part and bid in the online auction.

The online auction needs to raise $75,000. Any remaining funds needed will be raised from local donors in Lesotho. For more information and bids log on to

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