Cern Wonder: Charity Painting

Cern Wonder: Charity Painting – Shawn Carter Foundation


I met Cern while filming the Graffiti Fine Art Documentary in São Paulo. At the time it was great being around another New Yorker, someone who knew that “how you doin’?” was a rhetorical question. Now that I am back in NYC, we have been getting together trying to figure out new ways to combine our ideas and art.


An opportunity came when Cern was asked to paint a canvas for Jay-Z’s charity the Shawn Carter Foundation at a “carnival” event. We envisioned a black tie event with carnival themed decorations. That turned out to be a foolish underestimate as it was quite literally a huge carnival. The event took place on Pier 54, which is a concrete strip jutting out into the Hudson River: a perfect location for a legit street carnival.


The nature in which this project unfolded brought about various challenges. Cern’s location was great with the slide and ferris wheel in the background but the area lacked lighting. Cern made do with a headlamp but that didn’t help cinematically. I knew that I would boost light artificially in post but feared losing good shots to noise and grain.


The other issue was getting coverage of the carnival itself. My freedom to roam and film the whole event was on shaky ground as celebrity events tend to be more cumbersome for photo/video guys. There exists a legitimate concern about people selling sensitive images to news and gossip outlets. For those who know me personally, this is not my style but nevertheless it is something others in this field and I have to deal with consistently. It took a few hours to gain proper clearance and did not leave much time to film carnival activities. As my own harshest critic, I’m not perfectly content with some material used in the film as it is out of focus or not perfectly framed. Interestingly however, the positive response to the video has served as a personal lesson about audience and what matters to them as opposed to the filmmaker.


After a decent sized break from filming due to editing my GFA documentary, it was great to be in that environment again. I had been photographing in the interim but never really sank my teeth into another film project. Collaborating with Cern to mix art, film, hip-hop and NYC has been a lot of fun.



The canvas featured in this visual art short is now up for bid with all proceeds going directly to the charity.


Please direct all interest to the foundation at or calling 212.292.8500


Cern Wonder

by Jared Levy