Thursday, June 10, 2010

Murals Hitting a Brick Wall

Recently Destroyed Mural in a Texas School

I’m not sure what going on in Mural-land these days, but there sure seems to be a ton of press of murals hitting a brick wall, if you excuse the expression.

In the mission district of San Francisco muralist Simon Norris ran into a little snag when attempting to paint a community mural over an existing work of art. The story seems to end well in that a collaboration has emerged and everyone learned something about mural etiquette. I have to say, hats off to the artists in this one, for being open to change and modeling a win win solution.

Outside of Houston, Texas, a the school principal had a beautiful 14 year old mural destroyed. Now they want a brand shinny new one. Several parents pointed out that the mural had become an integral part of the school culture and life.

Shifting over to Prescott, Arizona, as widely reported, muralists there were told to lighten up the skin tone of faces in a school mural. "It is being lightened because of the controversy," said Mural Director Wall in an interview by Arizona Republic writer Dennis Wagner. Wall added that "they want it to look like the children are coming into light." Apparently the artists decided not to comply with the school principal’s edict to lighten the children's faces. You can read many hundreds of comments to this story. The story ends well when (almost) everyone acknowledges they made a huge mistake. Nope, no racial profiling here.

Next we go to Boston, MA where the economy is to blame. For the past two years students have been working on the "Strong Past...Proud Future" participatory mural project. Now they have hit a snag, money.

It’s exciting to see the whole person engagement methodology being employed. Now funding has become part of the project itself. So here is a chance for you to participate and experience the power of community arts! Start by clicking here and let's help these youth see their project through!

Murals continue to be a great way to foster community, and national dialogues. As the participatory mural movement expands there are bound to be growing pains. It’s easy to destroy a mural as a knee jerk reaction, and all too often artists don’t know, or simply choose not to deal with the hassle of invoking their rights . On the other hand muralists and organizations make mistakes, and that’s natural, we all do. That’s where elders, teachers and best practices come in. We are not the first generation of muralists to participate in democratic art making. The great thing is is that these elders exist in almost every city large and small. You just have to seek them out.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Week 9-10: Our Mural is Finished

The 4 B's - 8' x 30' © 2010 Wakefield Muralists/ Michael B. Schwartz

Over the past several months students from Wakefield Middle School in Tucson Arizona created a service based mural for their school as part of their 6th period elective under the direction of teaching artist Michael B. Schwartz. What emerged is a beautiful 6’ x 30’ mural for all to see and enjoy in the 6th grade hallway. This project was initiated by Wakefield Middle School teacher Maricella Carranza with the assistance of principal Wade McRae. The theme, and title, of the mural is the 4 B’s; Be Safe, Be Responsible, Be Respectful, Be a Learner. Students artists were Jasmin, Crystal, Monique, Ana Lizeth, Myranda, Ariana, Diana, Carlos, Francisco, Jesus, Gabriella, Mark, Rafael, Wenceslao, Daniel, David, Estrella, Sarahi, Yaritza, Brysenia and Jorge.

Each of the students developed a part of the mural, and then we worked to combine these images into a design we all liked. We see the three flags, Arizona, Mexico and United States behind A Mountain. Surrounding them are images of a heart and butterfly springing out of books. We also see an Azteca temple that descends to a truck that drops off students in front of the school, overseen by a teacher with arms stretched out holding a glass sphere that represents knowledge. She is pointing to another eye, symbolizing what we have yet to learn. We also see a computer with people shaking hands, representing using the computer to forge peace, and below we see a globe next to the Wakefield Knight, the school mascot.

This design had to be approved by a committee that we established before the project started.
The five panelists suggested some minor changes to the design. Once those changes were made we had to learn about scale and proportion. We used a grid to transfer our design. This was a new experience for students, but after several class lessons our design had been transferred. We worked in small groups, dividing the class up between people who worked in the classroom and the mural site. Students in the class worked in acrylics and watercolor, gravitating towards the media that best suited them. Only one or two of the students had worked in acrylics so this was a true exploration of mixing colors, mark making and learning how to create images with this new media. As you can see from these sample paintings students had a great time, and each developed their own personal creative statement.

Throughout this project we had to work as a team. Some clear leaders emerged in this project, and almost all the students had something they could teach to others. “Where were you last year” one student excitedly asked their teaching artist. For a variety of reasons many of these students had not had an art class in many years, and they were thirsty to learn new techniques, about the history of murals and to participate in such a large project.

At the end of the year we had a pizza party and talked about the project. Almost everyone wanted to do another mural, and to see more murals in the community and their neighborhoods. Each student carefully preserved their work in their portfolios and received a drawing journal so they could practice what they learned over the summer. As Crystal said “this mural is going to make people feel better about our school and show the neighborhood we are not such trouble makers. Next year we want to do a mural with Mr. Schwartz in our lunch room.”

This project was made possible with support from the Tucson Pima Arts Council Arts in Education program, the Tucson Arts Brigade and A Whole Lot of People for Grijalva. We thank them for their ongoing support and commitment to arts education and the youth of our community.

Watercolor by Gabriela

View of Mural from the other side.

Reporting Live From Wakefield/ Reporte en Vivo Desde Wakefield

The Wakefield Muralists Spring 2010

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