If you know the art of Romero Britto, you can easily imagine his vision and version of space. It’s a happy place splashed with bright colors and out-of-this-world joy.
After all, the Brazilian-born, Miami-based Britto is the founder of the Happy Art Movement, which he defines as a “visual language of love, hope and happiness.”
Now, this long-time friend of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is taking his support to new heights. He’s creating custom art celebrating Inspiration4, the space mission with St. Jude as its charitable beneficiary featuring an all-civilian crew that includes St. Jude physician assistant and former patient Hayley Arceneaux.
Upon hearing about the mission, Britto didn’t hesitate to offer ways to help fundraise.
“I hope to inspire people, children especially, to get interested in art, the work St. Jude is doing, science and making the world a better place," he said. "I want people to know you can always go farther — even to the stars!”
Britto will support St. Jude in many ways, including creating art that will orbit Earth aboard the Inspiration4 spacecraft. The artist has created original space-themed coloring pages that crew members will complete in space, to be auctioned after the mission.
Also, he will finish a live painting, for auction, during the Inspiration4 launch party dinner on the eve of the mission launch. His art will be prominently featured on lanyards to be worn by attendees, celebrities and retired astronauts at the St. Jude Inspiration4 Launch Experience. Also, a live, virtual painting party with Britto will be auctioned to benefit St. Jude.
St. Jude also will benefit from the sale of two pieces in Britto’s latest gallery launch, in which his art is set to music and will be auctioned as non-fungible tokens (NFTs). An NFT is a unique digital asset that represents art or other objects, and is bought and sold online.
“It’s wonderful that St. Jude is there, and they’re at the frontline of everything," Britto said. Anything I can do to help, I definitely love to help.”
Britto speaks with the same joy and optimism he infuses into his art — and that’s saying something. He learned to draw sitting under a guava tree after school in his native Brazil, later becoming a fan of pop art icons such as Andy Warhol. He’s created a vibrant, readily accessible style — The New York Times called it “art without angst” — that mixes elements of pop art and cubism and lights them up with an explosion of color.
Britto’s feel-good style clearly works. Even if you’ve never heard his name, you no doubt have seen his art. A CNN profile called him “the most licensed artist in history,” reeling off a who’s-who list of international brands that have used his prints to help sell everything from luggage to luxury cars to board games. His art brightens public spaces like train stations and airports, and it’s been showcased at the World Cup, Super Bowl and Olympics.
Beyond his staggering commercial success, however, Britto is an ardent supporter of numerous charities, including St. Jude. It’s a reflection of not just his generosity, but his belief that art can help bring about social change.
Britto’s ties to St. Jude date back to just after his arrival in Miami some three decades ago. That’s when he got to know Thomas Abraham, son of Anthony R. Abraham, a highly successful Lebanese-American businessman who was a friend and colleague of St. Jude founder Danny Thomas. Abraham, who died at age 100 in 2011, was a founding board member of St. Jude. His son is an Emeritus member of the St. Jude board.
One of the first sights greeting patients and families in the Patient Care Center lobby of St. Jude is a mural painted by Britto called Seasons of Miracles. Unveiled in 1994 by First Lady Hillary Clinton, it was commissioned by Thomas Abraham’s Star Art Foundation in honor of his mother, Genevieve Abraham.
Britto has done much more for St. Jude over the years — volunteering, selling Christmas ornaments and making other donations. In 2020, he created a limited-edition print titled One World, with St. Jude receiving 5 percent from retail sales of the artwork. The print paid homage to the frontline healthcare workers who have borne so much of the burden of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s been a real true privilege to learn and be able to participate with such a beautiful organization,” he said.
His own life, he said, has been “almost like a dream.” Britto wants to use his good fortune to help kids at St. Jude.
More than that, he wants to give them happy faces.