Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Great Turning Conference

This October 17-20, 2007 at the Geneva Point Conference Center, Moultonboro, NH there will be a fascinating conference entitled The Great Turning: Education, Leadership and Activism for a Life Sustaining Civilization. The conference is being sponsored by the Audubon Expedition Institute of Lesley University

The conference purpose is to “pose critical questions about the challenges and opportunities we face as we work toward a life sustaining civilization, and the different ways we choose to respond to them. The conference will focus on the strategies of environmental activism and environmental education. Participants will engage body, mind and spirit in collaborative dialogue with each other and with the Earth. As we learn from this dialogue, we will explore our personal and professional commitments to act on behalf of a just and sustainable future.”

All sectors of society are involved in creating a life sustaining civilization. In addition to environmental educators, activists and students the conference is open to all citizens who want to participate in the conversation.

The keynote speaker of this unique gathering is Winona LaDuke. Michael Shellenberger, Ted Nordhaus, Bill McKibben and Musician Dana Lyons will also be participating.

There are several workshop and conference strands revolving around the themes of
Environmental Leadership, Justice, Teaching and Learning. The theme of the Great Turning asks us to consider what alternative structures and shifts in consciousness are necessary to move from an industrial era to an ecological one.

We are clearly at a historical turning point in terms of the environment. Any one who has seen the Inconvenient Truth knows this. Global climate change is here, and the time to change is now. We have the knowledge and know how to change things. So what is stopping us?

Other great conference elements include a dynamically facilitated conversation about how we are responding to environmental issues and envisioning new ways of working. (all day Thursday and Friday) – led by Jim Rough from the Center for Wise Democracy and Jim Rough & Associates, Inc.. Each evening there will be time to tell and share stories while gaining knowledge and appreciation about environmental issues and action through sharing our stories.

Finally, something I am really excited about is the Participatory Mural I have been asked to facilitate. This large scale mural will be a visual collage of the Great Turning. Using projection, creativity, and paint, we will create an artwork as a group, and record of our visions for a sustainable future. I’m asking people to bring images that inspire you to include in the design. For those of you who can’t attend feel free to e-mail me images in advance.

Conference fees:
Regular registration is only $200 for an exciting array of speakers and events over three days! Housing rates vary from $50 to $100 per night, and include all meals. For more details on fees and housing, see our website.

For more information: e-mail, or see our website at, then click the Great Turning Conference link on the left. See for more info on housing. You can also call Louisa Carl, Conference Coordinator at 207-338-5859 ex. 25.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

San Anto Cultural Arts Community Mural Program


Comprando y Prestando

Location: 1424 Guadalupe - Corner of Guadalupe and San Jacinto
Mural Dimension: 35’ X 16’
Lead Artist: Mary Helen Herrera
Blessing and dedication date: May 4th, 1996

Description of mural: As a single mother living in the Alazan-Apache Housing Projects, Mary Helen Herrera always had aspirations of developing and showcasing her natural artistic talents. After reading about the mural project in El Placazo Barrio News, Mary Helen was soon on her way to developing her first mural, Comprando y Prestando. Located on the west wall of El Parian, a Westside neighborhood mom and pop retail and service market, Comprando y Prestando depicts a culturally and environmentally rich people sharing, buying and trading with one another. The mural symbolizes the dream of an economically self sufficient community that relies and survives on the gifts granted to us by our mother earth and nurtured by the inhabitants of this land. This mural was featured in a music video by Tejana musician, Patsy Torres.


Location: Corner of Chupaderas & Guadalupe St
Lead Artists: Cruz Ortiz & Juan Ramos
Mural Dimension: 18’ X 20’
Blessing and dedication date: July 16, 1994

Mural Description: Educacion was created as a response to the perceived gang violence and drive-by shooting epidemic of the Westside during the early ‘90s. As San Anto Cultural Arts’ first mural, this piece sends a message of hope and dignity through socio-cultural identity and education. This mural was restored by Juan Ramos and re-blessed on August 28th, 1999.

The San Anto Cultural Arts (San Antonio, TX) Community Mural Program (CMP) is a nationally recognized Mural/Public Art program that strives to identify, train and mobilize artistically inclined youth, adult and elder residents of our community to create murals / public art pieces within this impoverished community. The CMP is based on a crew system where a Laed Muralist / Designer is teamed with 4-6 Hard Core Crew Members. Lead Muralists / Designers are artistically talented community residents or are former Hard Core Crew Members who have gained enough experience to lead there own mural projects. The Hard Core Crew Members are area youth or adults with an interest in art who are recruited through word-of-mouth or at school presentations.

The crew system ensures that the mural project does not solely create murals for “art’s sake”, but teaches community artists the skills necessary to perpetuate this art form throughout their community. The mural process encourages participants of different ages, communities and socio-economic backgrounds to collaborate, develop friendships, and learn from each other while developing their humanistic, life, and art skills. The crew collaborates and works together on all stages of mural planning and preparation. Additional community members may participate in the presentation and painting stages. The mural process ensures that the mural project does not solely create public art spaces, but serves as a tool for fostering human and community development.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Participatory Murals 1: West Philly HS Mural

By Michael Schwartz

“The popular education movement seeks to address world literacy. We use the word literacy in the broadest of definitions. Popular Arts Education utilizes the language of imagery, words, movement and sound to pass on knowledge. “Pop Arts Ed” takes into consideration the holistic environment. This pluralistic approach to pedagogy seeks to liberate students from oppressive systems of education, assimilation and cultural memory wiping. We listen to oral traditions and mythology to decode a peoples’ story. Through the integration of local aesthetics and stories combined with borrowed techniques and artifacts from other cultures we integrate ideas and concepts into a single work of art. This might be a mural, sculpture, film, theater work or game. Popular Arts Education is an approach and can be adapted and eventually taught by participants.”

- from A Popular Education Workbook for Teaching the Visual Arts by Michael Schwartz

This mural was created in the summer of 2006 by a group of 20 high school students as part of the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program Mural Academy ( They had 3 and a half weeks to design and paint in addition to writing and creating individual works of art. This was a democracy in action mural, the students had to use consensus based decision making to create the work.

Location: Interior West Philadelphia HS / 4700 Walnut Street
Artist Facilitator: Michael Schwartz
Classroom Teacher: Kiana Thompson
Assistants: Courtney Apple

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Re-imaging Communities Programme

Here is an interesting development on the community murals front. I have mixed feelings about this - on the one hand it’s great to see a positive transition to messages of hope and peace, on the other hand I think politically motivated murals also have a place. What do you think?

Re-imaging Communities Programme

Re-Imaging Communities is a three year programme that will help all communities in urban and rural areas to focus on positive ways to express who they are and what culture means to them. The programme aims to replace divisive murals and emblems with positive images and to develop mural art and public art such as sculpture, street furniture and mosaic. In order to help achieve a peaceful, inclusive and stable society, we believe that communities and agencies need to work together to remove the barriers, such as flags, emblems and offensive murals, which divide communities and act as a source of conflict.

This programme will encourage local communities to work creatively in tackling these issues, connecting the arts and artists to areas not usually associated with them and allowing art to enrich communities. They will be locally tailored and community driven.

- Source:

£3.3m going to replacing murals
Monday, 10 July 2006, 12:31 GMT 13:31 UK

The government has been giving more details of how £3.3m is to be spent replacing paramilitary murals in NI. It has said the scheme will be open to all communities.

NIO Minister David Hanson said the Re-Imaging Communities Programme would give people the opportunity to reclaim public spaces for their community.

"We want to improve prospects, build community capacity, improve public service and ultimately free communities from paramilitary influence," he said.

Culture Minister Maria Eagle said the programme would have a positive impact on communities.

"The purpose of the 'Re-Imaging Communities Programme' will be to engage local people and their communities in finding ways of replacing divisive murals and emblems with more positive imagery.

"New murals and public art will transform parks, housing estates and built-up areas across Northern Ireland, celebrating the aspirations of the whole community and helping people feel part of their own local community."

New murals which have been painted in loyalist areas of Belfast recently include portraits of football legend George Best, the building of the Titanic, decorated soldier Blair Mayne and David Healey scoring for Northern Ireland against England last year.

A UDA mural in Tullycarnet has now been replaced by that of Catholic war hero James Magennis, who received the Victoria Cross.

Frankie Gallagher, from the Ulster Political Research Group, which is linked to the UDA, said replacing murals in Tullycarnet in east Belfast had already been a success.

"We were ahead of the game to say something positive," he said.

"It was a big risk at the time and we were quite frightened and apprehensive at times and wondered how would this be taken.

"But after we did it, people in Tullycarnet, pensioners and right down the age scale were proud of our estate and the message we were sending out."

Belfast Alliance councillor Tom Ekin welcomed the new funding, adding that the money would be well spent "if it helped people to move on from the past".

"I think murals have reflected a time in our history and they must change as time has moved on," he said.

"More people are starting to say, indeed, the whole city, the whole of Northern Ireland is reflecting this, change is happening."

However, SDLP North Belfast assembly member Alban Maginness said people should not be paid to remove paramilitary murals.

"It is clear that any paramilitary murals designed to intimidate or mark out territory should be removed," Mr Maginness said.

"Indeed their very existence is illegal. That is why today's announcement really beggars belief.

Old masters change murals: Northern Ireland's political street art is one of the main tourist attractions for visitors to its principal cities of Belfast and Londonderry.

In the second of two reports, the BBC News website's Marie Irvine reports on the moves to change the face of some of east Belfast's loyalist paramilitary inspired art.

Paul Hoey is a self-confessed "bad boy".

At least that's how he introduces himself to me with a rueful grin when I meet the lanky loyalist for a tour of the political street art of east Belfast.

Hoey is referring to his past. He is simply wise enough to acknowledge that in some eyes he will never escape the label he earned as a former UVF prisoner who served five years in prison during Northern Ireland's Troubles.

Now, like so many ex-paramilitaries, he is involved in a variety of community projects.

Paul is meeting me to explain the reasoning behind the decision - made over the last year or so - to transform some of east Belfast's hard-edged militaristic murals into softer canvasses.

The new emphasis will be on celebrating the achievements in sport, literature or music of the "sons of Ulster" rather than the dogs of war.

There's no doubt they are a tourist attraction and they help generate income for the wee shops along the road.

Traditionally, the art of the paramilitaries in this part of the city, like many others has been obsessed with the insignia and weaponry of the paramilitary world.

The painted images often feature balaclava clad men, in guns and camouflage uniform.

Although the murals are striking they are also a fairly frightening clue to the darker side of conflict for visitors and those passing from one part of town to another.

But Paul Hoey says they are not about staking out turf or intimidating outsiders.

"They're just a legacy of the last 30 odd years. It's not about marking out territory - if it was there could be another 50 or 60 murals up."

In fact, he says, the UDA's murals along the Newtownards Road at the locally nicknamed "Freedom corner" continue to be a major draw for visitors.

"You get busloads of tourists stopping there. You see people trooping out and getting their photos taken in front of them.

"There's no doubt they are a tourist attraction and they help generate income for the wee shops along the road."

But it is changing some of the murals that is dominating discussion at present.

A year or so ago, after much community consultation a decision was taken to remove some of the old warlike UVF and Red Hand Commando murals in favour of a softer approach.

Paul explains the thinking: "If there is somebody coming to invest in east Belfast and there's a militaristic mural on a wall near where they are thinking of opening a business, it will put them off."

To date five murals have been changed and another is under consideration.

"They won't all come down, that is a nailed on certainty," said Hoey who adds that many people in the UVF are waiting to see if the UDA will reciprocate its move and take down any of their murals too.

Among the new images are paintings of footballing legend George Best and the children's writer C.S. Lewis.

Belfast born singer Van Morrison is understood to have turned down a request to feature his face on a mural.

The murals which have been changed are simply painted over, one canvas disappearing under another like the hidden paintings of the old masters.

"They're not lost, we take photographs before, during and after" explains Paul.
"You can also buy copies of those in the Union Jack shop along the road here."

Despite the changes, the wall space where the murals stand is still associated with the UVF and Paul Hoey says this creates a reticence among the artists to be identified in public.

"Way back when the Troubles first started, you had people you wouldn't think would be involved from a variety of backgrounds like school teachers, civil servants, a whole range of different people who've been involved as artists on the murals.

"Obviously, there is the connotation that if the artist is doing UVF murals then maybe that would make him part of the UVF organisation. "These people aren't involved in anything they are just artists but there is still targeting going on in Northern Ireland." It is a peculiar state of affairs for outsiders to think of a paramilitary group commissioning artists to paint pieces but that is exactly what happens. A firm is contracted in to put up the scaffolding, insurance is taken out against accidents and the rough work is completed by less skilled workers before the main artist comes in.

He will sketch and then fill in the final outline, sometimes by hand, sometimes using a projector to scan the image onto the wall. As a result, each mural has a final cost of something in the region of £3,500 to £4,000.

Perhaps it is not a bad price for a one-off original.

Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL). Northern Ireland



A new £3.3 million arts programme aimed at tackling visible signs of sectarianism and racism has been launched by Ministers David Hanson and Maria Eagle.

Speaking at the Belfast Wheel in King William Park at the junction of the Lisburn Road and University Road, Social Development Minister, David Hanson said: “The Re-Imaging Communities Programme is one of 62 actions included in the Renewing Communities Action Plan. I believe that each of these, in its on way, will contribute to a better future for Northern Ireland – a shared future.

”Renewing Communities sets a challenging agenda for change for all of us. We want to improve life prospects, build community capacity, improve public service and ultimately to free communities from paramilitary influence. This will require a genuinely joined up approach from Government, a good example of this we can see in this announcement today.”

Culture Minister, Maria Eagle said: “The purpose of the ‘Re-Imaging Communities Programme’ will be to engage local people and their communities in finding ways of replacing divisive murals and emblems with more positive imagery.

“New murals and public art will transform parks, housing estates and built-up areas across Northern Ireland, celebrating the aspirations of the whole community and helping people feel part of their own local community.”

The new programme will support a wide range of community led projects with grants of up to £5,000 for small projects and up to £50,000 for larger projects. It builds on the success of the Arts Council’s previous ‘Art of Regeneration’ programme.

Maria Eagle continued: “Investment in the arts makes a very positive impact on building bridges across the community divide. The arts bring people with shared and different ideas and aspirations together on common ground in a way which will contribute to a shared future. Government is creating the right conditions to make this happen through schemes like the one we are launching today.

“The Belfast Wheel is an example of the type of community project that the ‘Re-imaging Communities’ programme can achieve. Public art of this kind has a key role to play in raising aspirations and in promoting positive community identity and cohesion. This is important for the regeneration of our communities both urban and rural, bringing hope, pride and economic prosperity.

“As a result of today’s announcement I am confident that we can look forward to many more creative and interesting projects across Northern Ireland,” Maria Eagle added.

The Minister also announced a new £100,000 ‘Place, Identity and Arts’ small grants programme, aimed at fostering arts projects promoted by groups which have difficulties on religious and moral grounds with accessing funding from the National Lottery. This programme is also one of the actions in the Renewing Communities Action Plan.

Arts Council Chairman, Rosemary Kelly paid tribute to the partners in the initiative and added: "The Arts Council is delighted to be taking the lead role in delivering this important programme which places creative regeneration at the heart of work in local community neighbourhoods. The Re-Imaging Communities Programme will help all communities in both urban and rural areas of Northern Ireland to focus on broader expressions of civic and cultural identity and to create a more inclusive and welcoming environment for everyone."

Further details of both the ‘Re-Imaging Communities Programme’ and ‘Place, Identity and Arts’ programme can be obtained from the Arts Council for Northern Ireland (ACNI) .