By Chris Daley, UPMC Health Plan

172,281 portraits. 592 locations. 1 TED talk.

The breadth of TED Talks is incredible. Impressive, really.  It may be the one platform where diverse audiences come together to learn how to lean in, why we are happy and to love, no matter what.  From art to literature, success and motivation to the essence of the everyday, all TED Talks have one common thread: the power of sharing an idea.

My favorite TED talks are the ones that inspire tangible action — where spreading an idea can lead to spreading ink over a canvas or building bridges over divides.

It can be easy to think of art as inaccessible, a difficult and specialized endeavor that is so specific and divided by the individualized tastes of the viewer.  But, TED turned the lens on the artist: JR, a French self-proclaimed “photograffeur” and recipient of the TED2011 Prize to find unity.  JR’s “My Wish to Use Art to Turn the World Inside Out” is truly inspiring, a global initiative to change the world through photos.  Through his large-scale participatory art project, JR challenged the world: “To stand up for what you care about by participating in a global art project, and together we’ll turn the world . . . inside out.”  His use of art — merely the simple portrait of everyday people — to equalize differences and show what people across the globe have in common.

“The people I photograph were proud to participate in the project and to have their photo in the community. But they asked me for a promise basically. They asked me, ‘Please, make our story travel with you.’ So I did.”

An idea that spread over the Facebook walls and the walls of 30-story buildings alike, or fed through black and white printers and Instagram filters is an idea that belongs to more than one person. Through the power of paper and glue, JR has helped to shatter the notion that creativity is only something the chosen few possess.

This example shows that art is personal, yet social. Assertive, but welcoming. Even more, JR’s Talk shows just how prolific an idea can become, shared and spread.

What is more exciting is that this kind of thing is happening in our own backyard. Just wait and see what happens when a ripple effect hits three rivers – that’s what this Saturday’s installment of TEDx Grandview Ave is about.  A room to meet in, ideas to share, and the ability to dare to create.

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