Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Great Turning Mural Project

Last week my partner Jodi and I traveled to New Hampshire to attend the Great Turning Conference; Education, Leadership and Activism for A Life Sustaining Civilization. The conference was organized by the Audubon Expedition Institute at Lesley University. We honored to be invited to facilitate a group mobile-mural. The goal was to create a visual collective record of the ideas, conversations and spirit of the gathering. The project stared on Wednesday as we gathered ideas and explained the project to people as arrived to register, greet old friends and introduce themselves to new faces. We would have until Saturday afternoon to finish the mural.

The mural was one way for people to contextualize the ideas generated in a series of four workshop strands; Environmental Justice, Environmental Leadership, Ecological Teaching and Learning and the Great Turning. Between attending workshops, or hearing inspirational speakers such as Winona LaDuke, Bill McKibben, cultural ecologist David Abram or the music of Dana Lyons participants would come to eat in the cafeteria next to the mural site. Before or after meals people would add ideas, sketch or map out images and look at and discuss what people had created. The design emerged slowly as people wove their ideas together. Words became images, and images were transferred to the mural. By the end of the day Thursday we were finally painting. It was great during the moments when musicians would come to the site and start playing music and singing truly animated the process. Part of the magic of this process is when people get a chance to paint and talk about the Great Turning, and what it meant to them. By late Friday night the mural was nearly finished.

Participants came up with lots of ideas that are represented in the mural. Here is a sample of what people said the Great Turning was to them;

“Agricultural Policy is based on Military Policy/ agriCULTURE vs. aggroCULTURE/ Deconstruct Empire/ sustainability/inclusion/ participation/ democracy/community empowerment/ contemplation/ meditation/ Fire, Challenge, Heat/ Biological and Cultural Diversity/ Culture of Waste/Local Living Economies/ Reallocate War Funds/
Earth is our homeland/ security through Love/ courage in community/Homeland Security /vs insecurity/ Building from the HeartLand/ The great turning: Winona “the most important thing we can do is find a place and be there, stay there, do your work there, (not really a quote but the essence. vigil-presence, becoming part of the story of the place/ transformation/radical shift in perception/ bring your heart into your brain/ cycles of nutrients/ joy/ awakening/ Love Centered/ opening hearts and minds to connect with the truth of interdependence of all life. Humans claiming our animal natures/ ancestors and future beings/ Lake within a Lake/Being Outdoors/ Pollinators/ Trees/ Kids in Nature/ Dance and play together/ rain to river to oceans/ prints/ clarinet playing outrageously”

There are two panels to the project. The first depicts a green blue tree in fall. In the center of the tree is a heart within a heart, a phoenix rising alongside a “Great Turning 2007” banner. On the right we the local Old Country Store, being animated with a mural, in the midst of farms, vessels in the foreground collect maple syrup and corn. On the left we see a rainbow of life emerging from the multi armed monster of addiction and greed.

The second panel has a bear, representing a protective spirit, and based on a participants childhood dream. The bear is holding, and protecting the earth. We see turtle ina a lake within a lake, in the mountains are people building community listening to the earth, on the left we see the web of life binding together the circle of life.

The high light of the process is always watching as people open up their creative minds, There is a buzz that grows around the murals as people combine ideas, becoming engaged with the colors and brushes animating the area. If people say they can’t draw we encourage people to create idea maps, to doodle, to have fun. Its always amazing to see what happens when intelligent warm people join together to create a work of art in a safe, non judgmental learning environment. It is my hope that some of this rubs off into peoples’ personal artistic lives.

Our work in healing and mending the earth, in being part of a great turning, is a lifelong process. Creativity is a vital part of the transformation that is necessary to adapt to the earths changing climate. Like it or not the time has come for significant change in the wy we live our lives. As we imagine the world we want to live in, the process of recovering our understanding of the places we live, in creating new communities and industries, the arts will become part of our daily lives. Throughout this project I was reminded how important it is for artists of all disciplines to be called upon and honored by organizations working towards social, cultural, economic and environmental justice and transformation. Artists are the glue that tie together our many voices, concerns and organizations. This mural was a great illustration of just how effective and powerful that process can be.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Michael,

Thank you for posting this, and for facilitating with Jodi such a lovely - and critical - process for those who participated in the Great Turning Gathering. I like the reminder that stories are told and carried in images as well as words. I anticipate remembering story after story as I look back on these images, these touchstones.
With peace,