Butterflymush: Finding Her Inner Activist
Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, she became a butterfly – Barbara Haines Howe
The journey is always better than the destination, and the goals we set for success never look the way we envisioned. Andrea Acevedo AKA Butterflymush has been finding her creative voice as life has thrown its punches; by moving with purpose, and letting her humble heart of gold guide her. But don’t let the idea of delicate and colorful wings fool you, she learned ‘The Art of The Hustle’, and is claiming her space today.
When I met Mush in 2018, she had built a fan base through social media, after the success of her first NYC solo show in August 2015. For this mother of 2, a new angle became apparent, and she began dipping her toe in the waters of street art. We recorded Episode 8 of 'In The Spray Room' for Sold Magazine at that time, and learned about her Colombian roots and Miami upbringing; playing with letter styles she learned from older kids who were tagging and skateboarding.
That culture and creativity took her to art school where she soon felt confined, and decided to drop out. The 'Get Money' ambition of the 90's landed Acevedo in the NYC strip clubs. After multiple attempts to leave that addicting lifestyle for good; she piled on extra side jobs, getting married and starting a family, before finally diving head first into a full time art career. Which also meant being an entrepreneur, small business owner, and her own boss.
We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty – Maya Angelou
The hard lessons learned on the pole are deeper than a Cardi B verse, and Andrea carried them into her business relationships, think: ‘Spot Your Customer 101’.
Her body positive work appealed to women, but turned off more conservative galleries. Suggestions to tone it down, or try subjects more appealing to both men and women; all were met with a chuckle. It wasn’t her art that needed to change, she had to find her customer; an audience that would love her original style, in whatever package: For every customer who isn't into you, there are 100 more that are.
Not until some encouragement from Dirt Cobain, did she put her women and message on the street for everyone. After pushback from the "art world'' for not being high brow enough, street art was another way to gain visibility. But it didn't mean she wouldn't experience the same male-dominated culture. Love and acceptance of self can go a long way.
Fast Forward to early 2020, Mush was preparing for her 2nd solo show at The Storefront Project; choosing this space because it was female-owned and operated. A fresh collection of work, along with a drink sponsor, custom desserts and treats, give-aways, a perfect night was planned and well prepared for. Not only did things not work out, the timing couldn't have been worse for anyone. Andrea internalized the timing of the pandemic, and knew it was selfish to be disappointed at her own loss when so many were losing much more. At the same time she was being filled with uncontrollable rage at what was happening worldwide.
She focused her attention on health care workers, first responders and inspiring women like Linda Sarsour and AOC. She gave away free coloring book pages on her site for the kids to color, just like everyone she was doing what she could to 'keep it together during this difficult time'. But activism pushed its way to the forefront; she put down her paintbrush, and picked up the protest posters.
Foley Square, NYC.
Friday, May 29th, 2020.
The worldwide protests surrounding the murder of George Floyd brought Andrea out of lockdown; she headed out alone to the first night of demonstrations. It wasn't her first time, she was familiar with a peaceful protest.
The positive chants turned to anger, the air changed. A woman climbed on top of a cop car and starts tagging F-T-P. Anger turned to rage. Shit shifted, and her instinct told her to get home to her kids, but Andrea was hooked. The artist would undergo metamorphosis, and an activist was born.
The local groups and organizations started forming, and Andrea reached out to lend her letter style to flyers. Some activist were formerly incarcerated, some Harvard graduates; all born and raised New Yorkers part of the various grassroots movement that she was completed drawn to and inspired by. Butterflymush was the designer of over 200 digital flyers, and the relationships blossomed. She would create 3-5 flyers a week, and have to turn around the details in a hurry. It motivated her activism more.
She knew her imagery could be used to empower women, and she believed as a feminist you should also stand for every under-represented group oppressed by a male-dominated society. For the last year, Andrea never said 'No' to a worthy project, and gave her creative energy to every issue she could tackle.
Andrea was asked to paint for multiple Community Fridge programs including Queensbridge and the East Village's Overthrow Boxing Club. She organized clothing drives for the homeless, participated in countless marches and sit-ins for under-represented groups from BLM to sex-workers right, LBGTQ+, to equal pay for all. If she could lend a hand in any way, she knew it was for the right reasons.
But how many changes can a butterfly make?
What Andrea would come to understand during the last year of extreme circumstances is that her art WAS her activism, and the two symbiotically could co-exist. Using her voice and being the outspoken "CRAZY FEMINIST BITCH" that we are all learning to embrace within ourselves. She has an ability to speak for others that might still be afraid. Not every insect comes packaged with such dynamic personality. There is something about this special butterfly that every woman can relate to, and irresistibly like-able too! Her daily IG stories captivate as much as any reality show out there, I stand by that. The vigilant protesters and activists of today inspired her to stop painting for a time, but she is painting with more purpose than ever today.
The role of the artist is to make the revolution irresistible. - Toni Cade Bambara
NOW Artists: Not On Our Watch.
Summer 2020 was also the birth of a Sold Magazine initiative: 'Not On Our Watch'. I invited female artists and savage supporters of NYC street art to a safe-space online. Hosting respectful conversations of support and advice, while listening actively and being helpful resources to each other; sometimes we just needed time to connect at the end of each stressful covid week. Often the discussion would stem from how we could make positive changes within ourselves in order to move the culture forward, while supporting everyone's individual voice. My intention was that every individual grows within their own art and message, while lifting each other up: By Artists, For Artists. We discussed every aspect of what a professional female artist has to endure, to what harassment she will inevitably encounter on the street.
As Editor, I took pride in showcasing the women who work in the streets; but I could no longer ignore the struggle for better treatment is something we must continue to demand viciously. That constant push is not for everyone, and is why public art is so powerful in the hands of a woman.
Andrea quickly became an outspoken member, and I asked her if she would design a logo that represents the group. Like a superhero herself, she came up with a perfect image. But what is the fun of just creating a digital logo, and not painting her on a NYC wall under the Williamsburg Bridge for all to see?
With the help of East Village Walls, and the cloud skills of an angel, Isabelle Ewing and Butterflymush brought the first public creation of our NOW superhero in true street art collaboration spirit to 47 Pitt Street, NYC on July 19, 2020.
Not sure how long it would go untouched, we documented it well to remember the day. But later that week, a representative from the TrailblazHer Run Co. reached out to include the mural as one of the stops on their 5K walk/run through NYC! Comfortable being handed a microphone, Andrea was happy to speak to this amazing group of female runners who were so excited to hear our message! (Look out for more NOW projects and events coming up).
Andrea Acevedo has been SPREADING her wings and her metamorphosis has been beautiful to witness. To observe her changes and evolutions publicly during the most challenging times is modern day performance art.
A Slutmom? yes. A fearless activist? yes. A retired stripper? yes. A not so basic bitch? yes. A snack? ... Maybe, but she is always booked and busy. With the many words and phrases Butterflymush uses to accommodate her distinct imagery and eyelashes, none encompass her persona more than, "GIRL$ JUST WANNA HAVE FUND$"
... a bit of humor, a bit of deadass serious New Yorker. Until all voices are heard, respected and treated humanely; you will catch her out on the streets standing up for women everywhere.
Happiness is like a butterfly, the more you chase it, the more it will evade you, but if you notice the other things around you, it will gently come and sit on your shoulder. – Henry David Thoreau
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