Our Connection With Bees Through Art

Honeybee after honeybee painted on buildings around the world -- each one is handcrafted by artist Matthew Willey, founder of the Good of the Hive.https://www.thegoodofthehive.com/

The Good Of The Hive/Anna Walker

Photo Anna Walker/Courtesy The Good of the Hive 

Painter Matt Willey is creating a mural at the Rifle Branch Library. The project will include events every Sunday through Sept. 9 — the scheduled day for mural completion.

Honeybees within the hive ‘think’ collectively. They are hard-wired to understand that their immune system is collective. Their health is based on the health of the hive, not the individual bee. A personal experience with a honeybee in 2008 sparked a paradigm shift for Matt Willey. He realized that human and planetary health are collective, although we rarely act like it. COVID was a reminder that we are truly all connected more deeply than we realize. The global hive Matt is painting is a metaphor for the connectedness of all things. Bees are a symbol for humans, trees, animals, pollinators, water, soil and everything in between…

"A bee is always considering the welfare of her hive. She is wired that way. But humans are wired for choice. So we must choose to see how connected all our problems are."

Healing the planet is a marathon, not a sprint. Eight years into an estimated 21-year project, Matt has created 42 murals and installations with over 10,000 hand-painted bees.


Matt started his art journey at the age of five. He was born and raised in Lexington, Massachusetts. His mother was a painter and since he was the youngest sibling, he became his mom’s helper. Since then, it never occurred to him to be anything but just that – a painter.

Matt Willey had a successful career as an artist – painting for interior designers, being an NBA sports muralist and a portrait painter. He’s lived in Manhattan, D.C., Asheville, and now upstate New York.

It was 2008, in his studio in New York City when he found his true calling. The inspiration was a bee that had landed on his rug.

“For whatever reason, I got down on the floor and hung out with this little bee and I connected with her,” Willey said. But the bee was dying. He said it crawled about two inches over a span of two hours before it died. His connection with the bee made him start researching to learn more about them.

It was then that he set off to share this message — that we as humans are a lot more connected than we think and could actually learn something if we behaved like the bees.

The dying bee in Matt Willey’s studio became the inspiration for his organization, “The Good of the Hive”. The organization is a movement to hand-paint 50,000 honeybees. He said this is the number necessary for a healthy, thriving hive.

He painted his first bee mural in LaBelle, Florida. Willey’s friend had sent him a picture of the side of a honey business he thought would make the perfect canvas.

So how did Matt Willey end up in Rifle, Colorado?

Well, it all began with and thanks to Lydia B. LaBelle de Rios — whose last name in relation to Willey’s first mural town (LaBelle, Florida) project did not go unnoticed. LaBelle de Rios works for the U.S. Forest Service but her idea for this project has nothing to do with her work. She refers to her role in this as an excited community member and has always liked bees. Read more about this here https://www.postindependent.com/news/towns-abuzz-international-artist-comes-to-rifle-to-paint-bee-mural.

The Rifle Library mural project has a few more weeks of work left before completion. Perma-Chink Systems is a very proud contributor to the project. When the president of Perma-Chink Systems, Rich Dunstan, first learned about it from a friend in Rifle he immediately set out to be a part of it.  He thought the project would bring added beauty to an already beautiful community.  

Rich contacted his Rifle branch manager, Samantha Herter, to ask her to support the project. Samantha jumped on the request and met with Alex Garcia-Bernal, who is the education and events manager with Garfield County Libraries. Also in the meeting was Amy Tonozzi, who is the Rifle library branch manager. Perma-Chink Systems voiced support for the project and backed this by presenting a check of $500 to contribute to the project.

L - R: Alex Garcia-Bernal, Amy Tonozzi and Samantha Herter

Left to right – Alex Garcia-Bernal, Amy Tonozzi and Samantha Herter

Matt Willey will be available to talk with all of those who are interested during his time at the Rifle Branch Library. Updates on the project will be provided by the Glenwood Springs Post Independent and Rifle Citizen Telegram.

Last modified on Friday, 18 August 2023 14:18