Following a fluke parking lot meet, Julian Prolman, a skilled art and fashion creative from San Francisco, ended up with his work on Madonna’s Instagram.
And just like that, the longtime philanthropist was able to take his charitable efforts to the next level. Upon connecting, Madonna immediately offered to help Prolman raise even more money for the Chema Vision Children’s Centre, to which he donates though his Ministry of Tomorrow eco-fashion house.
In a quick span, 21 celebrities (including Usher, Halle Berry, Lionel Richie, Evan Ross and of course Madonna) created custom expressions on tote bags provided by Prolman’s business. He also partnered up with with pal Rodney Burns, owner of L.A.’s Church Boutique. Together, with the help from Christie’s, they’ve started auctioning off the bags, with every cent going to the aforementioned Children’s Centre, located in Kibera Kenya.
We had a chance to connect with Prolman, who explains the unexpected meeting that changed his life, why he’s in no rush to develop a signature artistic aesthetic, and why his charity component is so important.
What made you decide to pursue art as a career? What would you be doing professionally if it weren’t art?
Ever since I was little I was always in a constant state of motion, with way too many ideas paired with an intense drive to create my thoughts in physical form. I feel like art is just what’s meant for me in this lifetime, it’s what I am excited and driven to do.
If it wasn’t art or music it would be boxing. I was a semi-professional amateur boxer and was boxing since I was 13. If I hadn’t left for London to pursue my education in art and fashion, that would have certainly been the route.
How did you develop your artistic style and how would you describe it?
My artistic style is still developing and will forever be evolving. Most notable artists are famous for their recognizable signature aesthetic. I think this comes with time. You can identify a Basquiat, Picasso or Alex Grey right away when you see their work. I have yet to discover my unique and particular signature but I’m also not looking for it. If it comes it comes.
I believe we have the ability to create from a point of infinite imagination where a style is one of many forms of expressions that we can tap into. I don’t want to limit myself to a style, rather a message. I seem to be very passionate about using art and fashion as a vehicle for alternative narratives questioning “truth” and inspiring activism.
Why do you find San Francisco to be such a great place for emerging artists?
Growing up, San Francisco was an explosion of arts and culture from all over the world. It’s such a great place for emerging artists because inspiration comes from a world view that emanates from a multitude of artistic expressions.
What are the biggest challenges for you personally in the San Francisco art community?
I would say my challenges are not specific to the San Francisco community, rather to the global community.
What I’m doing is trying to recreate what we as humans have been programed to consider desirable. A program that is rooted in billions of dollars of advertising money that makes us all believe and agree to ideals that are carefully crafted to create the symbols of success, as well as directing our aspirations.
My challenge is how to use what’s considered “cool” and redefine its ideals to include, in addition to quality and craftsmanship, respect for nature and humankind. This is to hopefully become the foundation of all creation.
How did you initially connect with Madonna, Halle Berry and other household names for Art of Education? Also, tell us a bit about what that is and about the involvement of your eco-fashion house, Ministry of Tomorrow.
I was in a parking lot in Hollywood and I struck a conversation with a guy that saw me pulling art out of my car. He told me he loved the piece that I was holding and that he knew “someone” who would love it. So, I gave it to him and that was that.
Five months later, my friend in London called me freaking out that Madonna had posted my art on her Instagram. The very next day her people reached out to me asking for more art. She found out about the school that I sponsor in Kibera and was the first person to help. She literally came out of nowhere like an angel.
I noticed something special was happening that was bigger than me, so I just wanted to flow with what was happening. I decided to dream as big as I possibly could to help these children that nobody in the world recognizes. I thought how amazing would it be if the biggest celebrities on the planet all let these children know that we are here for them and will do whatever we can to ensure a better future for them. So, I reached out to my friend Rodney Burns and together we created Art for Education. My eco factory in Nairobi produced eco totes where 21 celebrities all created their custom expression on the tote bag and we partnered with Chrtistie’s to sell these one of a kind creations. 100% of the proceeds will be donated to the Chema Vision Children’s Center in Kibera Kenya, allowing for 155 children to get quality education and a nutritious daily meal. For most of these children, this is the only meal they receive. To me, painting is cool and all, but making sure 155 children can enjoy their life is even better—and to merge the two things together is what I want to do with my life.
How did artists and art-related businesses in your community come together to support each other during the pandemic?
During the pandemic, I made sure that all my employees at the bag factory in Nairobi still had a job. We switched from making bags to making masks that we handed out for free in the Kibera slum.
How does the art world in Los Angeles differ from that of other places you’ve lived?
I try to keep my head down in L.A. and just focus on my art world. There is a lot of stimulation out here and amazing artists and it’s easy to get sidetracked in how amazing everything is. I’ve been trying to create from a place of less influence to see what comes out. I’m not the best to comment on the L.A. art scene.
What are some of your favorite charities or businesses that support artists?
I love Naomi Campbell’s Fashion for Relief. I also love Everland Marketing that exists to help forest communities prosper by protecting their environment for their own benefit, resulting in climate change mitigation for the benefit of all.
What are the best (non-cliché) art walls/murals to take a photo in front of in SF/LA/NY?
There is so much beautiful art everywhere, I can’t pinpoint just one place. I always enjoy art in unexpected places.
Dahvi Shira is a formerand E! Online editor, who presently writes for Mane Addicts and her own blog, Skyelyfe. The University of Oregon Magazine Journalism alum and L.A. Press Club Awards nominee—who has also published work with Billboard, New York Magazine, Glossy, Sweety High and MSN’s Wonderwall—has covered everything from Hollywood and pop culture, to makeup, skincare and hair. When she’s not writing or proving that people DO walk in L.A., she’s discovering new music, whipping up killer paleo dishes, working out and chugging coffee like it’s leaving the earth.