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These 10 beautiful murals show how a once violent town found redemption through art.

Street artists have transformed this notoriously dangerous city into a tourist attraction for art lovers.

These 10 beautiful murals show how a once violent town found redemption through art.

Comuna 13, a neighborhood in Medellín, Colombia, is not where most people would have gone for a walking tour 10 years ago.

In fact, travelers were actually told to avoid the area because of high murder rates and the lingering influence of powerful drug lords in the 1980s and '90s.

But today, Comuna 13 has a totally different story: Local artists have created a vivid street-art scene, and murals cover almost every wall. Now Comuna 13 is one of the most visited neighborhoods in Medellín, and it's showing the world how art can change things in a big way.


"Ojoi Realizada Por Eyes." Artist unknown. Image via Joel Morales, used with permission.

During the 1980s and '90s, powerful drug lords like Pablo Escobar controlled multiple comunas. They made Medellín one of the deadliest cities in the world.

A staggering homicide rate of 381 per 100,000 people during the worst of the drug cartel cast a shadow over the community. Youth were susceptible to a seemingly unbearable cycle of violence and guerrilla warfare, and things seemed incredibly hopeless.

The walk for most from home to downtown is the same as walking up 28 steps. Image via Jinna Yang, used with permission.

But recently, the community tried a new tactic for reducing crime: art.

First, local government leaders sent free paint to the homes of at-risk youth to give them a creative outlet. Then local businesses and schools followed suit. They wanted to add a renewed sense of identity — and a bit of color — to the daily lives of the community by commissioning local artists, and their idea worked.

Integrating resources for art in the community was just the beginning, though. The local government also worked diligently to implement urban renewal efforts meant to help Comuna 13 distance itself from its violent past. Infrastructure efforts, the implementation of escalators around the comuna to help residents avoid the steep climb to work, and lowering the tolerance for drug-related crimes have also contributed to making the community a safer place to live.

A young boy walks home in Comuna 13. Image via Jinna Yang, used with permission.

Medellín now sits at the lower end of the world’s most dangerous cities — 49th out of 50 — and the murder rate has dropped to 26.8 per 100,000 inhabitants.

"Taking people off of the streets and reducing violence is a large task, but giving people the resources to do art is a tool that helps to make the process a little easier," Colombian native street artist Perro Graff told me.

"With art, you’re given a way to become a part of the movement for peace with no judgment by using your talent to express what’s happened in the community."

Check out 10 of the many beautiful murals in Comuna 13.

They show just how much talent exists in the community, and how much has changed in the past 20 years.

1. This visual masterpiece was painted by Perro Graff.

Image via Joel Morales, used with permission.

2. This wall features a piece titled "Opip" by Poe13.

Image via Joel Morales, used with permission.

3. Jamie Solomon snapped a photo of this unnamed but gorgeous mural by Chotas.

Image via Jamie Solomon, used with permission.

4. There's also commissioned art around the staircase at the popular Charlee Hotel.

Image via James Evans, used with permission.

5. And mind-twisting pieces like this, also seen at the Charlee Hotel.

The walls of each floor are covered with the work of local artists. Image via James Evans, used with permission.

6. The hotel also features underwater scenes.

Artists use inspiration from the comuna's transformation to complete their artwork. Photo via James Evans, used with permission.

7. And even the hotel's hallways are covered in incredible work.

Developer James Evans hosts a quarterly showcase for local artists to showcase and sell their work. Photo via James Evans, used with permission.

8. Children walk to and from school surrounded by artwork by their neighbors.

Children walk on a street in Comuna 13. Image via Jinna Yang, used with permission.

9. They can now look toward a brighter future.

Image via Jinna Yang, used with permission.

10. Best of all, this piece welcomes guests in the entrance of Comuna 13.

Unnamed artwork by Seta Fuerte that reflects the statements of peace by residents during the deadliest years in the comuna. Photo via Joel Morales, used with permission.

It is meant to remind everyone of the comuna's strength and resilience and of their desire for peace. The art overlooks a neighborhood that has overcome so much and continues to push forward.

Comuna 13 has become a popular destination for street art fanatics. Image via Jinna Yang, used with permission.

The art movement has picked up so much traction that real estate developers are even moving to Medellín to promote tourism.

"The Charlee Hotel was founded on the basis of community and art," said developer James Evans. "Each floor is painted by different local street artists, and we have rotating art shows that are on display as well."

Evans' property in nearby El Poblado is one of many helping to make Comuna 13 a popular destination for travelers, bringing more money into the area and creating a chance for the local street art to become profitable for those behind it.

"It’s like a little mini renaissance going on — complete with fashion, art, and a growing sense of pride from the people that have lived through it all," recent Comuna 13 visitor Jamie Solomon told me.

Comuna 13 is an incredible example of what happens when the government values creative outlets: Everyone wins.

Unnamed street art by Jomag. Image via Jinna Yang, used with permission.

During the darker days of Medellín’s history, residents took a stand by hanging white banners and towels outside their homes as statements of peace. Now, large murals welcome visitors to the neighborhood in the same way, reminding both residents and visitors of how far the neighborhood has come and how far they still have to go.

At its best, Medellín has shown the world that supporting the arts and humanities can help to build a community that thrives. When people are allowed to express the depths of their past and the possibilities of their future through art, amazing things can happen.

via Pixabay

Talking about politics at work can be a really touchy situation. It's good for people to be able to express themselves in the office. But it can lead to serious tension when people don't see eye-to-eye. It can be especially difficult when a company takes a hard line on a controversial issue that employees are forced to stand behind.

So Basecamp, a project management software company based in Chicago, has just decided to ban talking about politics at work altogether. It seems the company tried to foster an open atmosphere but it backfired.

"Sensitivities are at 11, and every discussion remotely related to politics, advocacy, or society at large quickly spins away from pleasant," co-founder Jason Fried wrote in a post on the company website.

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via Pixabay

Talking about politics at work can be a really touchy situation. It's good for people to be able to express themselves in the office. But it can lead to serious tension when people don't see eye-to-eye. It can be especially difficult when a company takes a hard line on a controversial issue that employees are forced to stand behind.

So Basecamp, a project management software company based in Chicago, has just decided to ban talking about politics at work altogether. It seems the company tried to foster an open atmosphere but it backfired.

"Sensitivities are at 11, and every discussion remotely related to politics, advocacy, or society at large quickly spins away from pleasant," co-founder Jason Fried wrote in a post on the company website.

Keep Reading Show less
True

Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."