2018 CRISIS AWARD HONOREE
Spend five minutes with Max Frieder, and you’ll understand art can transcend the most challenging circumstances. His luminous, larger-than-life personality combined with an eccentric artistic talent are a testament to art as a modality for communication, expression, and friendship—as a way to express optimism even when hope seems lost.
A native of Denver, Colorado, Max is an artist and an educator, born with a love to paint and create. At 18 years old, he traveled to Israel after being invited to create a mural on a Kibbutz. Returning to the United States, he began his studies at the Rhode Island School of Design, battling an internal struggle of discontent watching his paintings hang static on walls. He was hired as an arts director at a summer camp in the Adirondacks, where he completed 25 wildly collaborative pieces of art and murals with children from around the world. In those moments, his eyes were opened to the potential for what could happen when children come together to paint their hopes and dreams for the future, and what this could mean to work with children who have experienced serious trauma.
Next stop: Israel and Palestine after the first Gaza war.
Max was 19 years old at the time, and shortly thereafter in 2009, he founded the beginning of Artolution as a global initiative. He garnered support from the U.S. State Department, U.S. Embassy and U.S. Consulate who supported his first projects in the conflict zones of Israel and Palestine, ranging from reconciliation programs to working in the most violent refugee camps in the region. From there, international organizations including the UN, UNICEF and the EU continued to support his efforts in some of the world’s most marginalized communities.
In 2016, Max partnered with his fellow community artist Joel Bergner, and Artolution became a non-profit organization in New York. From Syrian refugee camps in Jordan and Turkey to refugee camps in Greece and France to the slums of India and Peru to aboriginal communities in Australia and New Zealand, Max has completed powerful and overwhelmingly beautiful large-scale interactive murals and sculptures in 30 different countries over the last 10 years, working with thousands of children and families.
Most recently Max has worked in the Balukhali Rohingya Refugee camp, the largest refugee camp in the world on the border of Myanmar in Bangladesh training local refugee artists to facilitate trauma relief programs with children in the community.