At a time when art programs are getting scaled back in some schools, Severna Park resident Roberta Pardo is using art to drive important discussions. For her efforts, she was honored on September 26 when the YWCA of Annapolis and Anne Arundel County hosted its 2019 Tribute to Women and Industry Awards ceremony at Hotel Annapolis.
The program was founded in 1985 and has honored more than 900 women since it first began. YWCA considers this annual event to be the premier awards ceremony in Anne Arundel County honoring the accomplishments and contributions of professional women across a variety of sectors, including nonprofit/community, health, education, environment, the arts and business.
This year, a category was added to recognize a new generation of leaders, and it featured honorees who are under the age of 18. Among the honorees was Severna Park resident Roberta Pardo, founder of Urban Walls Brazil.
Pardo was born in Brazil and became an avid equestrian. At age 18, she left Brazil and traveled around Europe for a year. Her passion for horsemanship led her to train for the Olympics. Her dream of competing in the Olympics fell short when she missed qualifying by only two points.
Although a career as an equestrian may not have worked out, Pardo soon moved to the United States. While still involved in the equine world, Pardo also began pursuing her other passion, art. Before long, Pardo met her husband, married and started a family. While her family life blossomed, her involvement with equestrian sports began to fade, and art became her prominent focus.
In 2015, Pardo founded Urban Walls Brazil. The organization draws on Pardo’s love and admiration for street art and the talent it takes to create such vibrant and thought-provoking work. Urban Walls works with artists from all over the world, and more than 30 murals have been commissioned through the organization in Brazil, the United States, France and Canada.
Pardo considers Urban Walls to be an evolving project. “It all started with an exhibit partnership with George Washington University,” she said.
She brought street artists from Brazil and created a mural in downtown Annapolis. The project has since grown and serves to inspire and educate youth through art. When asked why street art was chosen specifically, Pardo explained that while street art may not be loved or understood by everyone, it gets everyone talking. Conversation, even if it is controversial, is still conversation. Through conversation, Pardo hopes to educate people about diversity, get people thinking and ultimately spark change.
Urban Walls brings international street artists to schools in Anne Arundel County, where they offer art talks and Q&A sessions with students. Many students involved in the program also get to paint alongside artists.
“By getting kids involved in the program, they gain a sense of belonging,” Pardo said.
In addition to bringing art to area schools, artists through the program were recently brought in to paint a mural in the children’s area at the new YWCA safe house. In the spirit of unity, Pardo hopes to be able to create a wall where students from all high schools in the county can collaborate to create one work of art celebrating diversity. While there is much work being done here in the states, Urban Walls Brazil is making changes internationally as well.
“We are working on a partnership with schools in Brazil to talk about solving economic and educational issues,” Pardo said. “We have started a crowdfunding project to purchase books and educational materials for Brazilian school children.”
Through this program, Pardo hopes to influence today’s youth to be more open-minded and worldly, and she feels there is no better medium than art to promote this.
In addition to working on Urban Walls Brazil, Pardo also serves as a board member for Indian Creek School, Visit Annapolis, AnnexB, and the Maryland Commission for Women.
“I am honored to be nominated,” Pardo said. “I am doing this because it is my passion, and it is a joyful surprise to be recognized for my efforts. I want to inspire. If we could all do a little more for our community, what a difference we could make.”
To learn more visit www.urbanwallsworld.com.