In 2005, residents of the Paris projects appeared in the city’s wealthy neighborhoods—or, rather, giant photographs of them did. It was the work of JR, the French street artist who has dedicated his career to bridging gaps—physical, cultural, spiritual—among people of all backgrounds.
JR’s public art has since created thousands of similar encounters, all around the world. He has expanded into new formats—most recently with the Oscar-nominated documentary film Faces Places, which celebrates the dignity of France’s forgotten rural villages.
At the U.S.-Mexico border, his much-viewed installation helped inject humanity into our polarizing immigration debate. Like all of JR’s work, the imagery is at once playful and profound: a merry toddler peeking over the unforgiving steel barrier.
In 2013, I partnered with JR on Inside Out/Dreamers, an art installation that toured the U.S. The project inspired so much participation that we decided to do it again last year, allowing “Dreamers” and their communities to show their support for the Dream Act in a beautiful and powerful way. The legislation has stalled, but the connections the project sparked continue. JR’s art changes the ways we perceive each other. The impact of that shift may be far greater than we imagine.
Powell Jobs is the founder and president of Emerson Collective