Bee the Change

Matt Willey behind Hands On! Children’s Museum with the Scout Bee.
Portrait by Rachel Pressley

Grounded in a personal mission to paint 5,000 honeybees across the U.S., artist Matthew Willey has gone far beyond what he thought was attainable four years ago, when he first established his organization “The Good of the Hive.” 

His updated mission? To paint 50,000 bees around the world.

After a personal encounter with a bee in his Manhattan studio back in 2008, Willey started musing about why people only think about bees in terms of fear — or honey. He researched bee behaviors, learned about Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), and wondered why no one else seemed to be concerned. He read that sick bees will leave their homes to die for “the good of the hive,” and started to view the human population as a potential hive. “Why are we not acting in ways that can serve humanity, like bees do?” Willey asks rhetorically. “We can learn a lot from bees.”

Twenty-one murals and millions of brushstrokes later, Willey’s company has grown into a 15-20 year mission of art and activism. His next collaboration, with Bee City USA, is located in the 7th Bee City in the nation — Hendersonville. Together with Willey and a team of supporters, local Bee City USA coordinator Kim Bailey is working on a Bee Mural Initiative to raise $25,000 to fund a buzzworthy painting on the back side of the Hands On! Children’s Museum on Main Street, plus an eventual pollinator garden out front. At press time, the team had raised around $1,000.

“This will enhance our whole community as everyone contributes — just like a hive,” says Bailey.

To donate, see handsonwnc.org/hive or “Bring the Hive Alive” on Facebook. For more information about Matt Willey, see thegoodofthehive.com.

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