Art Therapy: Dunwoody Uses Art to Transform Communities

Shawn Dunwoody's "Happy" music video portrayed the best of Rochester. Credit: YouTube

Shawn Dunwoody’s “Happy” music video portrayed the best of Rochester. Credit: YouTube

Shawn Dunwoody is well-known around the Rochester area. A self-described visual consultant, Dunwoody finds ways to incorporate art and creativity into every project that he takes on.

Dunwoody is incredibly active in the Rochester community. Currently, his focus is on using art to solve problems in struggling neighborhoods, particularly the JOSANA neighborhood near Ames Street and Campbell Street. This inspiration from this project came from Philadelphia, a city that has the most murals in the world.

“It was a lot more than one wall, it was actually taking a whole block and painting it. These artists spent two to two and a half years working on this project,” Dunwoody explained. “It drew my attention that they could shape a community, give it new identity and some hope. So, I said ‘We can do the same thing.’”

The streets in the JOSANA area are most often named after fruit, which inspired both the project name as well as the color palette for the project. Two buildings have been painted: Stop One Meat Market on Jay Street and College Club Beverages on Grape Street. Over 250 volunteers showed up in May of 2015 to work on the buildings.

“I realized that if you can manipulate graphite in your pencil or paint on your brush, why can’t we move communities” – Shawn Dunwoody

Dunwoody was drawn to the JOSANA neighborhood because in 2014 it was ranked highly among America’s most dangerous neighborhoods. Some of the focus of the Fruit Belt Project has been increasing safety. Dunwood has done this through re-painting crosswalks or making signs more prominent and obvious.

The bright colors and the attention that the project received makes this project an early success in Dunwoody’s eyes, who believes that people are already starting to view the neighborhood in a different light. Local businesses have reported higher traffic and have become involved in the movement as well.

The Fruit Project is just one of Dunwoody’s many personal projects. He is also well-known in the area for his video “Happy Rochester,” where local people danced to Pharrell Williams’ “Happy,” in 2014.

For Dunwoody, art takes on all forms. He’s also been deeply involved with Rochester’s Fashion Week as one of the founding creators and Greentopia’s fashion show, From the Ground Fashion Show. He’s even worked with local youth groups teaching safe sex and sexuality in the community. No matter what he puts his art into, he makes sure that the Rochester community is positively impacted.

“I realized that if you can manipulate graphite in your pencil or paint on your brush, why can’t we move communities,” he explained. “The community is your canvas, so why can’t we move people to make their community bigger and better? (I’m) still creating art but in a different medium. People and policy is where I’m at.”

Dunwoody was unable to discuss his upcoming art projects at the time of print, but is always looking for volunteers to help him with his endeavors. Those interested can reach him through his website,, and keep up with his work through social media.

“Pretty much everything you want to go to (in Rochester) you can reach within 20 minutes with a car,” Dunwoody said of why he loves Rochester. “That’s why I don’t see why there’s so much disparity between communities because we’re so close together. You could build a lot, you can do and create so much … This small town packs a punch.”


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