In the lobby of our Raleigh, NC office, we have what we call The Open Gallery, which features a rotating series of exhibits for associates, visitors, and the local community. Installations are chosen for their relevance to openness, collaboration, and community—all hallmarks of our open source roots. We work with different organizations and artist collectives in Raleigh to bring new artwork to the public every 6 months or so.

For our current installation, we worked with Brittain Peck, a local illustrator, designer, and painter, in collaboration with VAE Raleigh. VAE is a hub for a diverse network of artists, a venue for artists to advance their careers, and a voice to influence positive change for the creative community.

For this installation, Peck combines his skill as a painter with his interest and commitment to building a more open and equitable world. Four large portraits depict the ways that open sharing of knowledge and technology can forge connections, build community, and improve everyday life.

Peck shared initial sketches of a few different themes and directions. We worked together to find the best match with our open source values. Once we narrowed down the portraits and stories, he then moved to 4 blank 5-ft by 6-ft canvases. He then sketched on the large canvases in blue paint, followed by layers of more and more detail.

For the final 4 pieces, one portrait shows a 14-year-old William Kamkwamba, who built a windmill out of scrap metal and bike parts to provide electricity and irrigation for his family and neighbors in Malawi. Unable to read English, he built the windmill by referencing diagrams in electrical engineering books.

Two more portraits depict a local program that supplies solar-powered LED lights to communities without electricity—1 shows students preparing the lights, the other shows a young man using the light to read in rural Brazil.

The final portrait is of a Native American activist using social media to empower Native individuals and communities to participate in a national dialogue in ways that have never before been possible.

Open source principles went beyond just the stories behind the portraits for this installation. The level of  collaboration with Brittain has been different than any other Open Gallery installation. It was new and uncharted territory for both of us, and I think we learned a lot from the experience—and from each other. Transparency and open dialogue really impacted the final work, and the outcome was better because of it.