Artist honored with visit from first lady
NEW YORK, N.Y. – Not even two weeks before his opening at Converge Gallery in Williamsport, New York City-based artist Trey Speegle and his work were on display at WAT-AAH! water’s “Take Back the Streets” show at the New Museum when first lady Michelle Obama made an appearance, toured the exhibition, and signed Speegle’s 16-foot-wide mural.
WAT-AAH! water was started by former ad executive Rose Cameron (with the help of her two young sons) with the intention of getting more kids to drink water, especially in schools – reducing the amount of sugary drinks consumed by kids every day, and fighting childhood obesity. The company eventually partnered with Mrs. Obama’s “Let’s Move!” Initiative, a program designed to “create a healthy start for children, empower parents and caregivers, provide healthy food in schools, improve access to healthy, affordable foods and increase physical activity,” according to the organization’s website. “At some point it became clear Mrs. Obama might come to New York to tour the exhibit,” Mr. Speegle explained on his blog.
Cameron asked Speegle to create a mural that could be painted by the children attending the exhibition, and, along with the WAT-AAH! staff, the artist created a paint-by-number piece that reads “Drink Up!” After some brief lessons, the eighth graders in attendance took turns painting sections of the mural. “They were great – NOT your typical eighth graders,” Mr. Speegle wrote.
Eventually the First Lady made her way to the theater where Speegle, the young painters and the mural all were waiting.
“She talked to the kids for a bit about health issues, what they were studying in school and then said, ‘I heard you want me to sign this.’ I was hanging back up, until this point but I scooted in and told her. ‘Lower left.’ She said, ‘Where?’ and without really thinking I said, ‘How low can you go?’ Speegle said on his blog. Mrs. Obama shot the artist a devilish smile and everything was caught on camera.
Speegle and Mrs. Obama chatted about the possibility of the mural travelling to Washington, D.C., in March. From the “Take Back the Streets” show, the first lady went on to a fundraiser luncheon and later to make an appearance on The Tonight Show.
“She was just as gorgeous, charming, relaxed and fun as you see in pictures and on TV,” wrote the artist.
Learn more about WAH-TAA! water at drinkwataah.com/ and the “Let’s Move!” Initiative at http://www.letsmove.gov/.
Read Speegle’s entire account, or watch a short video documenting the event on the artist’s blog at treyspeegle.com.