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All aboard the Okavark to create sustainable peace

Muskegon artist Eric Kravako talks about creating sustainable peace through art, symmetry and balance of life, and why his purpose is to lead an army of artists in a revolution through strength of family.
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More Kravako quotes

"What is ultimate happiness, actually? What does it feel like? Honestly, I’m feeling it a little more and more while here [at ArtPrize]. Now the dream’s we’ve been talking about and working for are becoming reality. This is where we begin.” 


"What you’re going to see is a show, and you can watch it grow and grow. If you create the bonfire of the peace, the positivity is so strong that it will grow. I’m the guy, I gotta do it."


"If you build it, they will come. I’m here to recruit holy fusion and bring people together, sustainably, harmoniously, creatively."


"I would never do you wrong. I want people to be able to see that trust is within me. I want to restore what I call the holy fusion. See, Christ took off walking. We took off in a bus. We’re in the 21st century here with technology the way it is, maybe it is a resurrection."


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The Okavark

The Okavark /Ryan Yuenger

Eric Kravako on top of the Okavark

Eric Kravako on top of the Okavark /Ryan Yuenger

Interior of the Okavark

Interior of the Okavark /Ryan Yuenger

Anybody seeking to escape the chaotic madness and vote pandering that is much of ArtPrize, specifically near The BOB, hop on board the magic bus.

“How much are tickets for the next ride?” jokes one admirer as he entered.

The bus is a completely gutted and renovated, fully functional 1998 Bluebird Freightliner bus called the Okavark by its creators, the Kravako family. Entering the bus-turned-mobile art studio, classroom and mobile home, I was immediately overwhelmed by the amount of passion and love that clearly went into building it.

“The Okavark’s interior was hand crafted “one piece at a time,” says family leader and ArtPrize artist Eric Kravako. “We cut each board ourselves, and had to go get each board from the local lumber yard. One board at a time, or whatever we could afford.”

The bus, while not Kravako’s official ArtPrize entry, is the centerpiece of their space in the BOB parking lot. The interior includes all Cedar floors and walls, custom tables and beds, a back porch and a finished cedar rooftop with custom guard rails, all of which allows the family to take creation on the road and spread their message of sustainable peace by holding art classes out of the bus.

The construction of the Okavark, which is simply Kravako spelled backwards, was built over the last two summers, and its trip to ArtPrize is its maiden voyage. Kravako, who is also an art teacher, sees this as the first step of a much bigger goal for him and the rest of society.

“I want people to consider themselves a part of this movement for sustainable peace I’m trying to create,” says Kravako. “To do this, we all need to be smart in the way we use things and fully give ourselves to our purposes.”

Also at the forefront of the Kravako way of life is the idea of balance and symmetry, not only in the physical sense but spiritually and philosophically. He wants to be a force of balance in the world with his movement in the Okavark.

“I want to join every artist as if it’s an army,” says Kravako. “Let’s take the drawers, the sculptors, all the artists and just form an army, and I want to lead it. I need to be the guy who leads this. I really do."

The sustainable peace, according to Kravako, can only happen once an individual is at peace within themselves, which can be a very difficult thing to attain, he says.

“The balance is what allows you to concentrate further and further. And if you get yourself under control, then you can really help family,” says Kravako. “It’s so easy to give up on the balance once you feel negative energy from people, and that makes you want to go the other way. But if you face them, it helps you grow, and it also helps the world.”

Kravako’s entry for ArtPrize, which he also says is a gift to Grand Rapids, is a family portrait titled “Family Piece,” which also has several meanings.

The literal meaning of the name is that it is a family portrait created on many pieces of canvas that have been stitched together, allowing for the portability of the painting. Another meaning the title takes on is that it is a piece created by Kravako and his family.

The last and most meaningful interpretation involves the sustainable peace Kravako describes, as well as creating a sense of family and community through the Okavark movement.

“That’s why Kravako is cool,” says Kravako.” I feel like we can invite people in to be a Kravako, to be part of our family. I feel there’s integrity with family that needs to be restored because to get happiness, you need to go through your family.”

Kravako also explains that he wants to live a life the mirrors that of Jesus Christ in some ways.

“When I’m gone, and not by your side, I still want you to feel my presence. I want you to feel the comfort that I’m out there, just helping you. And then the next time I see you, and it could be a year from now, I want you to feel like you’ve only been to the grocery store and back,” he says. “No one is ever done growing, and that’s why I’ll never give up on anybody.”

If this ArtPrize money falls into the right, most deserving hands, real good can be done. After spending extensive time with the Kravako’s on the Okavark and seeing their dreams begin to come true, I couldn’t think of hands any more deserving than these.

More than anything, though, go check out the peaceful palace of balance within the disorder that surrounds ArtPrize at The B.O.B. because symmetry and the balance is what makes you able to handle the chaos of everyday life.

“We’re exhausted because our world is so fast paced,” says Kravako. “But we’ll catch up, man. Let’s become leaders by the way we come together.”

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