A Smile Is Universal: Paying It Forward Through Art

By Julie Mathis • April 15, 2015

A Smile is Universal

Bren Bataclan, an artist from Boston, has been accepting smiles in exchange for his art for more than a decade. As part of his “Smile Movement,” Bren leaves his cartoon inspired paintings around the world for people to take for free, as long as they promise to smile at random people more often.

Bren has brought smiles to people across the world, from his hometown to all 50 US states, and to people in places as far away as Afghanistan, Cambodia, UAE, Uganda, Vietnam and dozens more countries. The lucky finders of his paintings typically keep their part of the bargain, sharing forward the smiles and logging stories on Bren’s website, where he learns the fate of his paintings, many of which have been shared in homes, hospitals, community centers, schools and even prisons.

Bren’s work reminds us that a smile’s force is unstoppable in the face of age, race and gender. A smile bestowed by a stranger can do more than just brighten someone’s day—it can remind us of what’s important, offer compassion in times of need, help the sick heal and challenged children flourish. A smile can help a person overcome demons, see light at the end of a tunnel, cheer communities following tragedies, and even nudge along budding relationships.

Bren’s mission reminds us to never underestimate the power of a smile… it’s as simple as that. Why not pay a smile forward today?

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