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About: The Writing’s on the Wall

by Hope Katz Gibbs
Founder and president
January 1993 to September 1995

There is the Great Wall of China, the Western Wall, The Berlin Wall, Mahabalipuram’s Animals Walls and Nelson Mandela’s Prison Walls. But what is a wall, after all?

It is a structure you can climb on, climb up, and tear down. Walls keep us safe—or trap us inside. A wall is a piece of a whole. The sides of a house, perhaps, or a metaphor for the structure of our life, our society, our world.

The Writing’s on the Wall is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping children know that walls are just things that can be moved — they just need to wish for it, and make it happen.

“I would wish for peace. That means there would never again be any war. And no one would ever be sad,” says Trend Hardman, 7.

We use art, photography and writing as the medium to teach and encourage children — especially those who are disadvantaged. So in 1993 the Writing’s on the Wall team began taking art supplies, cameras, photographers, journals and writers into underprivileged neighborhoods in Northern California.


• The Children’s Cultural Center After School Program, Marin City
• The Bayside/Martin Luther King Jr. School in Sausalito
• The Tenderloin After school Program in San Francisco
• First Exposures photography project in the Mission District.
• The Capital Children’s Museum in Washington, DC


At each site, we put up the large wooden “Wish House” built by San Francisco architect Jeff Wheeler and dump boxes of art supplies on tables. Each child gets a big cardboard “wish brick” to draw their vision of what they’d to make the world a better place. When they are finished, they place their brick on the house, and when it’s all covered they walk around inside to see the magic they’ve created.

The children also work with professional photographers Jane Grossenbacher (San Francisco), Ken Smith (Marin County) and Jack Dunthitt (Washington, DC) to photograph each other with Polaroid cameras, generously donated by the company. The photogs also pull out their own cameras and document the event.

Toward the end of the session, snacks are served and during this quiet time each child receives a journal to jot down their thoughts and ideas about making the world a better place.

“ I want people to listen to each other,” wrote Miles Toth, 9, of Marin City. “Everyone would put in an idea and then each person could talk about it. If someone disagreed, that would be OK. They could just talk about their ideas.”

Mark Wallace, 12, of the Tenderloin District in San Francisco said that if he could do anything: “I’d give cars to the homeless. Then I’d teach them to drive.”

What would you do?


HOPE KATZ, president and founder
A journalist, poet and fiction writer, Hope has worked at The Miami Herald, New Miami magazine and the George Washington University before starting the Writing’s On the Wall in January 1993. She has won several writing awards from the Florida Magazine Association, and is listed in Who’s Who of American Business Women and International Who’s Who.

MICHAEL GIBBS, art director
Michael is a Washington, DC illustrator and designer who has created the logo, book and look for the project. His work appears regularly in The Washington Post, United Airlines’ magazine, Mid-Atlantic Country magazine, Teacher magazine & Education Weekly.

JEFF WHEELER, architect
Jeff is a San Francisco architect who designed the “Wish House,” on which the children’s art is displayed. The house is a freestanding, mobile structure that travels with the project.

Jane Grossenbacher, San Francisco, CA
Ken Smith, Marin County, CA
Jack Dunthitt, Washington, DC

Corporate donors:
Amity Press — rubber stamps
Classic Printing — silkscreen T-shirts
Fiskars Scissors
Just Film — film, color processing
The Lee Jean Company — T-shirts
Marin Ceramics — clay, firing, glaze for artist / photographer / writer medals
Office Depot — art and office supplies
The Great Frame Up — frames, cardboard for wish bricks
The Polaroid Foundation — cameras and film
Yasutomo & Company — art supplies

Patricia Edwards, art director, Marin City Fine Arts Project
Bob Evans, special exhibits director, Capital Children’s Museum
Rumu Sarkar, U.S. State Department, pro-bono legal services
Judi Shills, coordinator Capital Children’s Museum
Sebene Selassie, co-director, Tenderloin After School Project
Collette Sweeney, director, First Exposures/The Eye Gallery
Elisse Webster, director, Children’s Cultural Center
Gerard Zack, Zack & Riggs, pro-bono accounting services


More The Writing's on the Wall, Inc. Articles

"I get by with a little help from my friends," says Hope, who gives special thanks to:

• MICHAEL GIBBS, website illustration and design: www.michaelgibbs.com
• MAX KUKOY, website development: www.maxwebworks.com
• STEVE BARRETT, portrait of Hope on Bio page: www.stevebarrettphotography.com

Contact HOPE KATZ GIBBS by phone [703-346-6975] or email.