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.

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