It’s no secret that a yellow room—sunshine on your walls!—can lift your spirits. But this month, there’s a movement afoot to prove how one particular shade of yellow can help people battle the stigma of mental illness, while also building awareness of how many Americans are coping with the effects of these often-hidden conditions.
International-Optimism Yellow, or for short, is a collaboration between the artist G. Riley Johndonnell, who goes by the name Uncle Riley, and the Pantone Color Institute (the color itself is Pantone 108 C). Each May for the past three years, to mark Mental Health Awareness Month, the INT-O Yellow movement has partnered with local communities for a variety of art installations, interactive performances, meet-ups, lectures, and more—all in the name of bringing people together to share their stories and foster a sense of connection in our sometimes-isolating world.
“I create public and personal works which seek to convert blight to light, generate positive energy, and to create opportunities and tools for transformative collaborations,” Johndonnell says. “We are witnessing optimism as an emerging ‘ism’—a movement of people who want to create a brighter now and a brighter tomorrow.”
This year, three towns in the tristate area—Madison, New Jersey (through May 11); Kingston, New York (through May 31); and Montclair, New Jersey (May 31–June 7)—are hosting events to celebrate optimism. Among the endeavors: “Paint the Town Yellow,” where residents use paint, ribbons, even Post-Its to adorn buildings, storefronts, and various landmarks as a way of disseminating the message of joy. A “Pollination” is a community art project resulting in a virtual garden of painted flowers on yellow discs. “Oozies” are wall murals painted to mimic oozing, dripping paint; “Happy Spots” are large, bright yellow circles that are placed in public spaces to encourage PDH—that’s Public Displays of Happiness.
And if you can’t make it to one of these towns, remember that you can always start spreading good vibes in your own home by picking up a brush and painting a wall or two—any shade of yellow will do.