Robert Guillemin is "Sidewalk
Sam," the popular artist dedicated to creating
art at the feet of pedestrians to inspire, promote
spirit, enrich daily life, and address social
issues. Sidewalk Sam has been called the "Johnny
Appleseed of Art" and a "Pavement Picasso".
He has been featured on the "Today Show",
"Good Morning America", "Evening
Magazine" and "Real People" and
in hundreds of newspaper articles from coast to
coast. He takes arts to the streets with charm
and expertise that has thrilled millions of people
for nearly forty years.
Through a magical blend of community art initiatives,
broad-based participatory events and an unfailing
joyful spirit, he organizes citizens, government
agencies, cultural organizations, schools and
corporations to work together for a common cause.
After studying at Boston College and receiving
a bachelor’s and master’s degree in
painting from Boston University, Robert followed
a traditional path to becoming a successful artist.
He had many commissions and exhibits, including
one-man shows at Boston’s Institute of Contemporary
Art and the Rose Art Museum of Brandeis University,
but the structure of the art scene was not a good
fit for the artist he was becoming. He believed
that art’s focus on a small, elite audience
caused it to turn its back on society at large.
He realized that "art for art’s sake"
was not the same as "art for people’s
Sidewalk Sam was born when Robert stepped outside
of traditional art venues and took his talents
and enthusiasm to the streets. Choosing "Sidewalk
Sam" as a nickname and using skills he had
sharpened while a copyist at the Louvre Museum
in Paris, he began to reproduce beloved masterpiece
paintings on the sidewalks of Boston. "By
staying in museums, galleries and the halls of
academe, I felt I was missing the human experience.
So I chose to bring art to the street and into
daily life. I love crouching on the sidewalk,
kneeling at the feet of people and having art
look up to us for a change. I want art to serve
people as a natural part of everyday life. I think
art should bring people closer to each other and
inspire people to a better vision of society."
Sidewalk Sam makes a connection with the public.
They gather on street corners to watch him chalk
on the ground. His art is in perfect harmony with
the pedestrian experience - a polite, social event
in the streets of our cities where there is often
a need for civility. Using the streets as a canvas,
Sidewalk Sam has rallied people around solutions
to social problems, addressing issues like poverty,
diversity, children and family and the environment.
Now in a wheelchair, Sidewalk Sam still thinks
big. He organizes large events where lots of people
come together and create big artworks to show
their common spirit. “I love to get people
involved with each other", he says. "Art
can bring society together.” He adds, “Everything
in modern life is so depersonalized - I’m
just trying to personalize it a little.”