Conversation, curiosity and a cup of coffee brought the worlds of Michael Hyancinthe, an eight-year US Navy veteran, and Tyler Way, an artist and creative director, together in 2010. Just one year later, TO Heart was born with Hyancinthe and Way as co-founders.
Based in Grand Rapids, TO Heart is a non-profit organization with a mission to help veterans heal and tell their stories through the media of art, design and fashion.
“There is something powerful about creativity and the way it allows us to share our most personal thoughts and feelings. Many times many of us who face PTSD or other traumas we’ve faced since our service, a lot of that is contained within, âHyancinthe says. âSo the opportunity to express yourself and share what is in you through art and creativity, we think is a very powerful tool. ”
By their signature HERO series, a veteran is paired with an artist and during a two-day collaborative design process, they have in-depth conversations and brainstorm ideas that articulate the veteran’s desired message to the world. The process is documented by photos and videos. Once the concept is finalized, the veteran’s story is illustrated on T-shirts, embroidered patches and / or other products available to consumers.
“It starts with having empathy and finding the bonds that unite us, âexplains Way. âI think both sides, as a veteran and an incoming artist, probably both feel that intimidating factor. With the artist, it is this fact that âI did not commit and I did not volunteer to serve my country like this gentleman or this lady sitting in front of me; So there is a general respect for that and there is also this greater responsibility to effectively share their story through this 2D graphic art that will be put on some products.
Since 2011 TO Heart has worked with over 100 artists with plans to expand their network of civilians and veterans with the opening of the TO Heart coffee. The shop will be located on the grounds of the Grand Rapids Veterans Memorial Park Historic Park and will serve as a community space for more coffee, conversation and creativity.