Everybody's Bees


I’ve been hand-painting big, beautiful honeybees on walls for over a year now - nearly 1300 individual bees at this point! I have talked with several thousand people about honeybees, art, and the world in general. I have painted in liberal communities and conservative communities. I have talked with people that have mansions and people that live in cardboard boxes. I have talked with three year-olds, 90 year-olds and every age in between. And I have noticed something pretty awesome with almost every conversation…

I started this initiative because, as an artist, I couldn’t stop thinking about bees (and this passion has only grown as I have gone deeper into the work), but something else has revealed itself that, for me, has become the true essence of this work - and it is both simple and rare at the same time.

Honeybees are in every neighborhood in the world. They are the only creatures on earth that we ‘keep,’ yet they remain wild. This is why they are so mysterious and awe-inspiring to me. They are in our yards, at our picnics, at the ball games and even in our cars on occasion. They have no political party, racial solidarity, or religious affiliation. They touch us all. They are ‘everybody’s.’  So as we talk about them and work toward saving them, there is no side to take - there is no need to be thinking about ‘what I think’ about them. When people stand and look at painted bees on a wall, they are standing next to each other looking the same direction at something together… something that is bigger than any one of us.  

It is as if the bees are reminding us to relax and remember that it is possible to ALL agree on something… and it can feel good and comforting to do so.

Painting bees on walls seems to bring out the best in people. I believe that the bees deserve the best we can offer as they need us, more than ever, to come together to bring them back to full, thriving health. I also believe that if we can get them back to their optimal state, it will not only be an example of our ability to turn the tides of environmental change, it will release a legion of happy little helpers out into the world to take the healing even further.  Bees do more than we know - and certainly more than meets the eye. And in my limited experience so far, I have noticed that by doing something for them, I have landed a front row seat to observe the beauty of the human spirit.

My intention for the holiday season is to hold the gratitude I have for the people I have met throughout this year. The people that have fed me, housed me, guided and participated in the initiative were more important to this first year than they will ever know. The people that have helped inspire and coordinate murals, donated funds, shared ideas, bought a bee-shirt or print, or simply left me a note to say ‘thank you’ at a mural site, have co-created this year’s murals with me. The people that have stopped and talked to me, or passed quickly saying “nice bees,” have changed my day (at times even my week!). Sometimes I feel alone in the work and, despite the fact that I know I am not, it can play with my head… At times even those that just hang an arm out a car window with a simple ‘thumbs up’ have shifted my mind back to possibility.

So I just want to say thank you. Most initiatives do not make it through their first year, and we have done that with flying colors… literally. But there is an enormous amount of work still to be done.

For all of the holiday shoppers out there, please consider purchasing something from The Good of the Hive online Shop. By giving a product with a bee on it, we keep bees in the front of people's minds... Ya gotta get something for Aunt Gertie anyway, right? ;) 




Matthew Willey