When Israeli artists Maya Gelfman and Roie Avidan sought to become the change they wished to see in the world, they separated themselves from everyday routines and adopted a feeling of mindfulness, the main concept behind their public art project, Mind the Heart.

The project, which originated in the streets of Tel Aviv, serves as a reminder for people to be aware of the beauty around them and to live in the moment.

“Our senses are bombarded and in overload all the time, but you are not living in the present, and it’s a shame because each moment is precious and could be your last,” Avidan said.

Red yarn hearts were strategically located in areas of Tel Aviv to garner the most attention, Avidan said. “Just because you’ve been in a place a long time doesn’t mean you really know it, and you should pay attention.”

The red yarn heart represents a small, tangled, dripping thing, imperfect and the sum of its history — like all of us, Roie Avidan says

Each red heart, although flawed, represents the complexities of life and its numerous imperfections.

After waking up to the realization that every person needs three basic ideals to be productive, Gelfman and Avidan decided to come up with their own principles to maximize their creativity every day: the creation of something new, meaningful human encounters, new experiences, a connection to nature and great food.

Despite their comfortable lives in Israel, Gelfman and Avidan wondered whether they were living up to life’s potential.

“It’s like having a feeling in your gut that something is missing and you are running after life instead of dictating what you want to do,” Avidan said.

The two dismantled their studios and narrowed their possessions to one laptop, half a suitcase, a few art materials and a camera before traveling to the United States from Tel Aviv.

“We decided that if we wanted something new to happen, that we would have to let go of everything we know,” Avidan said.

Gelfman and Avidan, who now live in a van, use people and everyday conversations as inspirations to dictate what they do and to break people’s preconceived notions, including their own.

Since arriving in the United States, the two have taken their 9-year-old public art project to numerous cities while collaborating with organizations and individuals. Mind the Heart, opens Friday, Oct. 6, in Decatur and will run until Nov. 6  in partnership with the city, the Decatur Arts Alliance and Core Dance.

Avidan and Gelfman distributed 100 red yarn hearts to locals while Avidan took photos of them. The participants then had 48 hours to place their hearts at or near locations significant to them, then submit photos with explanations of the importance of the locations.

People in the Mind the Heart project’s Heart Community show their hearts and their spots of significance.

Avidan planned to display the photos Oct. 6 at the Decatur Arts Alliance, 113 Clairemont Ave., alongside the work of residential artists.

Since the project launched, it has taken multiple forms, including soundbites that artists recorded while working on the streets. The photos have been archived at www.mindtheheart.org and are regularly curated for public exhibits, including a large exhibition planned for New York next August.

People in the Mind the Heart project’s Heart Community show their hearts and their spots of significance.

In Georgia the Israeli artists met with students at Kennesaw State University’s School of Art and Design and provided a master class about Mind the Heart and the philosophy behind the project Friday, Sept. 22.

“The students were wide-eyed throughout the entire presentation, which was amazing to see and witness,” Avidan said.

Gelfman and Avidan also produced a mural in collaboration with Core Dance in Decatur. Avidan said the mural reflects Core Dance’s place in the community and represents the use of a dancer’s body to create a moment of art.

Maya Gelfman and Roie Avidan compose a mural in collaboration with Core Dance, which is also part of a series called “De/Construction,” derived from a Kabbalah story in which, by shaving off letters from a word, one by one, you can vanquish a demon.

Gelfman and Avidan will travel for the next year to share Mind the Heart, including stops in Savannah and Florida.

Serendipity also plays a role in the artists’ journey and in the next phase of the project, Gelfman said. “We don’t know where we’re going and instead allow our encounters with different individuals to dictate it.”

The artists plan to use interactions on social media such as Facebook and Instagram to help determine where to travel.

“That’s the beauty of the project, however, and what we set out to do,” Gelfman said. “The project creates an opportunity for conversation, and, in a way, you can say this whole act happened because we try to incorporate more mindfulness in our own lives and try to use sensory tools to take the experiences of where we are and reflect it in the piece.”

Mind the Heart on Social Media