When chalk circles and rectangles filled with the words “Happiness Here” started appearing on sidewalks in June, New Yorkers became reminded that joy is everywhere and anywhere you look - under trees, next to subways, beside garbage bags. And as the street art started to spread smiles across the internet and onto a TIWILNY post, people became aware of the man behind it all: The Mazeking.
Named after his fascination with drawing mazes growing up, the artist is currently nominated for a TED Prize honoring his mirthful work, and has created nearly 100 happiness spaces across NYC, each with the written suggestion to “step inside.” Here, TIWILNY steps inside the inspiration behind the art in a conversation with The Mazeking himself.
Read the interview here.
Describe the moment when the Happiness Here idea first manifested.
Now that’s a question. I was in Chicago studying art in grad school, and I had to create a final project. All I knew was that I wanted to do something public. On the eighth day of brainstorming what I would do, I was on the subway going to class and it finally clicked - I got the happiness idea.
How have people in NYC reacted to the art?
People always ask, “Is it free? Can I use it?” When I was making my second one ever, I was doing it in the middle of a closed street, and a guy came up to me and said, “This is a waste of time. I don’t need happiness. No one can ever be happy.” But that didn’t stop me. And I’ll always remember the time a seven-year-old found a circle and spent nearly two hours in it. At the end she asked me, “How did you find a way to make happiness live in the circle?” and I thought that was brilliant.
What do you hope your art does to people?
I want it to provoke conversation, like “What does happiness mean to you? Are you happy? If not, why not. If so, why.” I want you to go inside your own self and find what’s truly profound about you, and be at peace about that.
Do you seen an end date on this? How do you envision it evolving?
I hope to make it global, create Happiness Here spots in all different languages. I already have Chinese ones in Chinatown. And I’d love to make three permanent ones across the NYC parks.
NY is an amazing maze. It’s a grid system, but it’s not, and you have to explore the possibilities, who are the right people to talk to, and how to find what you truly want here, like running through a maze. I didn’t think anyone in NY would care, honestly. They’ve seen everything. But people have been so receptive. I’m blown away by how kind, generous, awake, and present people are here. Even on the toughest days, I love this city.