We had the good fortune of connecting with Ron Blake and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ron, why did you pursue a creative career?
I kind of just happened upon my creative odyssey. It all went into hyperdrive in a most unexpected way.
You see. I experienced a moment of laughter on a suicidal night on November 2, 2015. A simple joke from The Late Show with Stephen Colbert sparked a ray of hope from within me.
I’d struggled horribly for a long time. Being diagnosed with PTSD after a trauma. Three men had entered my home one evening years earlier while I was asleep and sick. I was held down. Raped. Beaten. Nearly killed.
But that night with the laughter stopped me from taking my life. It began a now 2,194 consecutive day cross-continental journey to become a guest on The Late Show in New York. It also became my innovative and creative method of recovery to overcome PTSD. I gave a TEDx talk about it all.
I made a decision to get out of my home. After badly isolating from the world. I was going to go out and meet strangers. To finally learn how to talk about what happened to me. To speak out about the trauma and to share the significance of the symbolic goal involving that show.
As of today, I’ve met 32,072 complete strangers one by one. Folks from 127 countries have signed the most amazing stories of support for my efforts to reach the goal and heal from the trauma. They’ve also shared stories from their own lives.
Those vibrant stories are written in 94 languages with 27 Sharpie marker colors on 494 giant foam boards. It’s more than 4,000 square feet of social practice artwork that’s been developed.
This artwork is opening up important dialogues with individuals from all walks of life. Dialogues about mental health, rape, domestic violence, and suicide. Especially letting men and boys know it’s OK to speak up about these traditionally taboo topics for us guys.
Been quite the surprising…even swashbuckling…adventure. Putting in 16,000 hours of creating art and hope. Those big boards will one day accompany me to the Ed Sullivan Theatre in NYC. When I get invited to be on the show. Stay tuned…
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My massive collection of social practice artwork has been leading me to create other forms of art. Film. Writing. Music. Speaking. Dancing.
Several brilliant students followed me for a semester and produced an Emmy nominated documentary about my artistic odyssey of healing. I am now in collaboration with two more filmmakers who are in the process of developing a feature length documentary about this journey and the evolution of art…and hopefully one day justice.
I’ve produced dozens of short stories over the last six years. Written letters to the editor for multiple publications about social justice issues. One of my stories got the attention of Pope Francis. Last summer, His Holiness mailed a personal letter of gratitude to me for my inspirational work.
I was able to connect with a large group of singer-songwriters from America’s Got Talent renown. They love my story of perseverance. They are currently creating an original uplifting song that will accompany my ongoing odyssey of hope.
Following my fears has led to me speaking at 27 colleges about the creation of my artwork. Legislators had me testify before a Senate Judiciary Committee to help pass a survivor bill. And I was invited and threw out the first pitch at a baseball game before 43,000 fans to represent the male survivors of sexual abuse. That all too often have no voice.
Even some dancers got involved with my creative odyssey. A group of talented dancers from Arizona State University shared my story of trauma to triumph through the beauty of the art of dance. It was performed at a special event.
My art is not an island. It is synergy. As you can see.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Maybe it’s the trauma I experienced. And lived through. I’m sure it’s given me a different outlook.
I’m a simple guy. T-shirt. Shorts. Sneakers. My best friend. And some whimsy.
I’d take my friend to the local hangouts. Nothing fancy. Burger and fries. Pop into a dive bar. Catch a movie. Go to the gym together. Ride bikes. Tossing the Frisbee.
My pal would have gone to a travel agent for an itinerary. He came to me ’cause I’m his buddy.
Spontaneity is the best stuff in life. Kind of like a surfers mentality. Let’s see what the next wave brings.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
A big part of my success has been attributed to lots of people who have believed in me. That ain’t easy. Especially when you walk up to a total stranger and start a conversation. It is a lost art these days. Human interaction. With folks we don’t know.
But a shoutout to the 32,072 strangers who overcome that fear and engaged with me one at a time. You’ve collectively been guiding and shaping me on this epic journey. A journey of recovery and one to reach that symbolic goal.
It’s also been pretty nifty to see the 8-year old kid come out in all of you when I plopped down 27 Sharpie marker colors. Tens of thousands of you colorful creative strangers have become my friends along the way.
You all have encouraged me to stay the course. And that I have done. And will keep doing until we get to New York City.