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Alum’s Street Art Goes Viral (and Anti-Viral)

Wall-Covering Creations Cover Pandemic, Racial Justice, and now Ukraine

By Sala Levin ’10

Artist Corie Mattie ’12 paints mural

Los Angeles-based street artist Corie Mattie ’12, left, has painted murals that touch on issues like Black Lives Matter and the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, she's partnering with a Wheaton, Md.-based nonprofit on a mural that allows visitors to support women and girls in Ukraine.

Photos courtesy of Corie Mattie ’12

Artist Corie Mattie ’12 knows how to draw attention to current events and causes, and in a big way.

After the pandemic started, the self-described “LA Hope Dealer” spent 20 hours hand-painting a West Hollywood building’s wall with an image of herself in a white doctor’s coat: inside, the word “hope” was a nod to the medicine Mattie believes in most. Next to the image were the words, “Cancel plans. Not humanity.” Soon, her mural was featured in The New York Times and The Huffington Post, as well as on MSNBC.

After that, Mattie began painting more murals in her signature yellow, black and white palette, from a piece in support of the Black Lives Matter movement to a “Be More Like Betty” portrait that paid tribute to Betty White after her death.

Artist Corie Mattie ’12 sits near mural that reads, "HOPE"

Now, she’s highlighting another issue garnering worldwide attention: the war in Ukraine. Partnering with the Wheaton, Md.-based nonprofit I Support the Girls, Mattie has created a new 25-by-30-foot mural in West Hollywood that encourages passersby to donate to help provide displaced Ukrainians with menstrual and other hygiene products.

“I’m showing people that it’s easy to give back,” said Mattie.

Though Mattie studied kinesiology at UMD and earned a master’s degree in sports management from Georgetown University, her early career in athletic marketing didn’t fulfill her in the way her artistic habit did. “I would still come home and draw for seven or eight hours after work,” Mattie said. She began selling small pieces as a side gig, and soon moved to Los Angeles to pursue art full-time.

Laid back but focused, Mattie felt that it was “about time” her work was recognized when she got a New York Times mention in May 2020, she said. “I was the PR, the manager and the artist,” she said. “It was empowering, because I didn’t have anyone else to attribute (my success) to.”

When the war in Ukraine began, Mattie, who calls her work “at the cross-section of art and activism,” knew she had to use her cans of paint to support those affected by the crisis. She discovered I Support the Girls, which provides menstrual products, underwear and toiletries to people dealing with homelessness or other challenges. The organization’s location near Mattie’s old stomping grounds was a bonus, she said.

“There’s a lot of power in communicating important messages through different channels,” said Dana Marlowe, founder and executive director of I Support the Girls. “I think art is a very powerful medium to convey important messages around dignity and to raise awareness and have a social impact.”

Mattie’s latest mural, which also features the word “hope” written across a dove and a black background, includes a QR code that visitors can scan to support I Support the Girls’ efforts distributing supplies to refugees in Poland and Slovakia, as well as people still in Ukraine. Since the war began, I Support the Girls has sent more than 118,000 bras and hygiene products to the region. While visiting LA to see the mural, Marlowe, along with Mattie, also donated some 5,400 pads and tampons to a local shelter. (They also shared an “only in LA” moment: As they talked to press near the mural, a pedestrian stopped and asked what was going on. He turned out to be Verdine White, a founding member of funk and soul superstar band Earth, Wind and Fire.)

In art, Mattie sees an opportunity to foster connection, be a source of strength and splash some color and whimsy on the world’s canvas. “Art has gotten people through so many things,” she said. Adding in a call to help others, she hopes, will “make kindness cool.”

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