Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Neighborhood Murals Movement Exploding in Tucson

Bronx Wash Mural Participants

In case you've been wondering where I've been these past several months, I wanted to provide some updates. I've been working closely with the colleagues on getting the Tucson-Pima Mural Arts Program up and humming. If you've been in Tucson of late you will see a real transformation taking place, not only in the downtown development, but in the appearance of many new murals. Tucson has always been about innovation and experimentation and neighbors helping each other. This seems to be manifesting itself in a series of neighborhood beautification initiatives: landscaping, parks, water harvesting, community gardens - and now with TMAP community and neighborhood murals.  

Neighbors at an Elder Share

You can read more about these civic dialogue based murals by visiting the project blogs. This summer I worked wit the Northwest Neighborhood Association on the Bronx Wash Mural. We had some great national press for this project on the United We Serve Blog as well as Community Arts Net. Current projects include the Miracle Manor Neighborhood Mural.

Tucson loves murals and community engagement. As one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in the Americas this place is rich in folklore and tradition. This has been an extraordinarily busy fall as more and more requests come in for community based murals. So check out the project blogs, and stay tuned for lots more reporting on community arts and murals!

Presenting the Mural History Slideshow

Monday, September 14, 2009

Mapping Courage a poetic evaluation of Murals

By Davy Preston Knittle

Mapping Courage is designed to be the commencement of a poetic evaluation of the work of Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program, a compositional homage to the place and to the role of the murals, and a motion towards the consideration of the question: how are the murals linked to the way in which Philadelphians live the history of their neighborhoods? This project is centered on a series of eleven interviews conducted during May and June 2009 with muralists, arts educators, arts administrators and community partners of the Mural Arts Program.

The four poems in the collection that have an intersection or a street address listed below the title are written from the perspective of a particular mural and from the space that it occupies. In the case of these poems, I paid a series of visits to each site to observe the role of the mural in its space and to reconcile both the history of the mural and the significance of its content with the way in which it takes part in the daily interactions and processes of its surrounding neighborhood.

Mapping Courage engages in an experiment in public voice that draws from both the peripatetic exercise in public character and the virulent respect for public space exhibited by Brenda Coultas in her collection, A Handmade Museum. Another principal source of inspiration was a number of collections of poems and oral history narratives put together by the Mural Arts Program’s former Special Projects Manager, Lindsey Rosenberg. Her project that resulted in the book My North Philly proved to be of particular assistance. The language of a “poetic evaluation” of the work of Mural Arts is hers as well. She was unprecedentedly helpful in imbuing this project with its particular focus, and in validating its methodology.

As Coultas experiments with creating the figure of the public poet, so too was the work of this project both, as muralist David Guinn reminded me, to “live with the murals in a casual way” and to simultaneously observe the casual usage of the space of and around each mural. To this end, I owe the fundamental background of this project to Jane Jacobs and to her seminal work The Death and Life of Great American Cities in which the figure of the sidewalk calls into question the patterns of visibility and attentiveness of the public character. I kept Jacobs’ awareness of the space of the sidewalk and of the identity of the public character in mind when considering the area around the murals, (of the four murals that are explored in this collection, one borders a sidewalk, one a public park, and two border or sandwich parking lots) and the way in which the murals themselves can adopt the supervisory role of a public figure in their respective neighborhoods.

Muralist: Amy Hillier, PhD

What do you wear for fighting fires?
For collecting records for restitution?

Block by block: the viral spread
a composite house for history,
a map by oral letters: door to door.

Whose documents harbor the record
of Mother Bethel’s inception?

Whose 1899 story of the Seventh Ward was
whose safety in the color line, problem
seconds before the 20th century?

Who affixed a method delta, exit signs, safety
in number lines, to the personless,
acerbic edge of the present Seventh Ward,
to the song of the singular district?

Ask Queen Village’s no man’s not here in
the national soundstage of human by human
diagrams of sidewalk use

Whose documents of ownership sought
centennial release to the public domain?

Street deeds, where before,
they named the people homeward.

(Mural by David Guinn)


For Duke, the
hose turns on
to fill the
green bowl

There’s a boxer
in the dog run where
Eliot shreds hedges,
on aphid patrol,
and offers detritus grass

Duke and his brother,
are red collared,
eating grass blend animals
and morning glories.


David painted
a sparrow,
a sparrow.

His golden retriever
sized to the bird,
without threat
goes without touching

Shadows suggest
the weight of
the willow pulls behind,
their steps retrieve
their shadows.


David painted around a
window in the house

below which
Duke and Eliot
masticate their tails.

Midday sitters
turn off the faucet, and

David says that
a sparrow can stand
under this tree too,

to feel out his need for water,
his stamina for visitation.

(Mural by David McShane)

A hero is no masker of declaratives, he
Oxygen Man, lassoes the wonders of wave radio
emits frequent figures for disbursal, finds

field fossilists discovering a dinomine,
a forest of swimfrogs who
eye clowns, or clownfish, watch
for a listener public framed by radioglow.

Oxygen Man cedes a dance party on
the experimental network’s
Peanut Butter and the Cat’s Pajam a
jam when the juice box republic gets down.

Through the frequency floor he
floats codes between discoverables, an
invitation in his signature math an adage
of remember your two-step to the city.

Tangerine trees sparkle, parse our artist
whose speakers flow upstream, downgear your sneakers
to hold court, a six-count shag to the broadcast basic.

Look out between sevens and eights where
underwater conductors use traction tread
sounds to funk lines to walk it out,
Oxygen Man, bop for break beats, light the way

Hamster havoc traffics in brass noise, but his
iron hands command the palm of calm and
he radios the sea to send another cowboy

Sleep will check the cats who get done
when the done gets the attention of the
heroes are the raiders of the lost art of broadcast
when the wizards of wave radio wish you well.


Friday, August 28, 2009

Graffiti Controversy and Terminology

Tucson, AZ - Graffiti is a huge issue here in this creative city as you can read in the Tucson Weekly.

It’s one of those flashing light cultural indicators that we need more hip after school, evening and weekend community arts programs.

I was always more into chalk as a kid. We got busted at 15 for spray painting shadow stencils in memory of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We were supposed to use a soapy tempera that would wash away, but we had a thing for spray paints – they were fast, you could gesture while blending colors, throw in some stencils and the sky was the limit. We spent many hours scrubbing off the spray paint after being confronted by elders in our community. That was the end of my experimentation with aerosols. Surrounded by a family and community who were paying attention, it wasn’t long before my energy was redirected towards art classes, sign painting and illustration.

Things haven't changed that much, there are just tons more rebellious, intelligent, talented kids with too much time on their hands. Tapping into this energetic brain trust isn’t that hard, you just need structured, participant driven, meaningful programming that promotes dialogue and stewardship and results in something tangible and meaningful. That might be a magazine, radio or TV show, theater production or mural. It might even be a aerosol mural, or paint and aerosol.

In other words it’s not the medium an artist is working in, but the thought and craft put into the work. Pose 2 , and Bansky are two examples of aerosol artists taking it to a higher level. Trust me there are thousands of others whose masterful artwork would blow your mind.

My concerns around aerosols are primarily environmental. The mist is harmful to individual and global health. The empty cans are hazardous waste. I’ve been researching and talking a lot with colleagues about the “greening” of art supplies. The only thing that is clear is we need to use our materials wisely, and conserve at every step. The waste produced by our work should be carefully considered. Many feel that the making of art may be of greater value than the carbon imprint created through the materials we use. This is a separate conversation, and one that will continue.

My paint skins in an adobe brick experiment.

That said there are craftspeople who use aerosols responsibly, and others who are careless. What we as community artists teach is care and respect for our materials, stewardship for the places we live and attention to craft. The same is true for every teaching artist I know.

So lets be clear and not talk about “Graffiti” as a monolithic phenomenon. There is a difference between aerosol artists and “Graffiti”. If one attributes aerosol classes and murals to vandalism, then we could use that same line of reasoning to assume that these kids are also responsible for other aerosol applications like nicely painted cars and airplanes. Clearly the classes intend to promote stewardship, dialogue and responsibility, and redirect energy from a trend towards isolationism and fear. Dolly Spalding describes this well in her article “Urban Art” for the new hip Tucson zine’ Zocalo.

Such was the metamorphosis of the Water Building mural.

Teaching Artist/Muralist Rocky Martinez with Ninety-nine year old Frank Pesqueira

This successful mural is a colorful testimony to transformation and the democratic process. The project involved our community in a public dialogue and design process that reflects an ability to make decisions as a group or people. Projects like this promote civic pride and participation.

Implicit in the work of many community muralists is the idea that we can bring together a broad cross section of the community to create a visual representation of our common hopes and aspirations. After more than 20 years of doing this work I still am exhilarated by the response of people during community events. By creating a place where all voices are equal and cherished we practice what it means to live in a pluralistic society. Labels and ideology are momentarily transcended giving us the opportunity to delight in our shared humanity. Where we come from, our dreams, aspirations, challenges, songs and recipes. These opportunities to share and learn from one another involve trust and relationship building. That takes time, care and responsibility. That’s part of what community artists are doing, and we invite you to join us.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Camp Sabra Hamsa Mural

Hamsa Mural ©2009 Michael B. Schwartz/ Camp Sabra

Camp Sabra is located midway between St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri at the beautiful Lake of the Ozarks. Their peninsula sits on the Gravois arm of the lake, near Eldon, Mo. This is a very special place and community. My partner Jodi Netzer and I arrived late on a Thursday. The next day we were greeted at meal time by the entire camp with a welcome cheer. This is a very spirited camp that likes to sing, dance and create.

As people came up and introduced themselves I explained that I was here to lead a mural. It was easy to solicit ideas for the project and I invited campers to be a part of the process. As these conversations developed I created a series of sketches of a Hamsa. After priming the boards I worked with a group of campers sketching the flora and fauna all around us in our journals. We practiced the art of observation drawing, prepared color charts and experimented with the paints we mixed. The color theme of the mural revolves around purples and yellows, when mixed we get beautiful shades of gold. We selected the best images from our drawings and transferred them to the mural with charcoal and paint.

On the third day of the project the camp took the cautious step of closing after several students fell ill. Jodi and I found ourselves alone in camp, but determined to finish the project. We wanted campers to return to a beautiful, powerful and protective image.

The Hamsa, with five fingers like the books of the Torah, was the perfect image. Above are seven red strands, with images of the camp in the background. The history and meaning of these ancient symbols can have many meanings and interpretations, but all include reference to protection and health. For example some say the seven red threads can relieve pain and protect one from the evil eye.

The string’s meaning is based on a connection to Rachel, one of Judaism’s four matriarchs. For centuries, Jews have tied on their wrists red string that’s been wrapped around Rachel’s tomb in the West Bank. The red strings also refer to our connection to our ancestors, and calling upon them to assist in our protection.

The mural was created on panels that were then placed adjacent to the entrance of the dining hall. We worked to the last minute, installing each panel, sealing edges, touching up every detail and finally putting a protective sealer on the work.

We had accomplished our goal of creating a mural that would serve not only as a source of healing and protection, but a gift for returning campers.

On Monday after 10 days at the camp we had to push on to the next scheduled project. We hope to return Camp Sabra next summer to create another mural for the rest of the entrance of the dining hall. We were honored to share in the spirit and history of the camp and so warmly welcomed that we now also feel a part of this place.

Sunday, July 5, 2009


Summer is a great time to read. If your passion is community murals you're in for a special blog treat. I’ve been rereading “Towards a People’s Art: The Contemporary Mural Movement (1977) ” by Eva Crocroft, John Pitman Weber, and James Cockcroft. So I was jazzed to see a sort of compendium book just released entitled “On the Wall: Four Decades of Community Murals in New York City” by Janet Braun-Reinitz and Jane Weissman of Artmakers. The release of this book following the elections and conversations about a new WPA is perfect timing. There is a fantastic conversation that accompanies this book on the New York Times blog.

So it’s in this spirit that I offer you, my dear readers, a bit of delicious summer reading. My friend and colleague muralist, author and teacher Mike Alewitz send me this speech by Meridel Le Sueur (1902-1996) delivered in 1988, by video, to the Alliance for Cultural Democracy conference in San Francisco. Meridel Le Sueurs' powerful voice continues to inspire and teach us. She literally had a powerful, compassionate, commanding voice and presence.

"An Injury to One is an Injury to All" Mural, Mike Alewitz

No matter your political perspective this writing helps fill some important gaps in community art history. In this period of great hope and transformation looking back at our roots is critical as we decide how best to proceed.


by Meridel Le Sueur

I bring greetings from the Middle West and also from Time. On February 22, I'll be 88 years old. I've been a writer, an artist in the Middle West, trying to find out what the true image is of our time and our country.

I believe that now is the most wonderful period of my life because for the first time we can think of a global world: a global world of art, a global world of expression, a global audience, a global people. Global was not a word in my time that you even spoke about. It wasn't in your consciousness to be global. Today the consciousness, the rising of the global people, is so wonderful, so tremendous. Such energy is released and we are released as artists from servitude to the establishment, to the death force of imperialism.

Engels said in 1877 there were only two subjects for the artist, for the creator. One was the moribund dying society, 'the corpse' he called it. The other was the newborn, being born out of the corpse, the new people, the new consciousness, the young child, the image of humanism.

Now we see this actually happening. It's no longer a theory to say "the rising of the working class " as we used to say in 1916 in the First World War. It seemed like a dream. Today you look at your television in the evening and you see the people rising. You see the children throwing rocks at the army; you see the brutal resistance of the dying class, 'the corpse' as Engels said.

Imperialism is dying. I don't think they have any way of even saving themselves. They're committing suicide by cutting off the food, causing famines, exporting our products to other countries and selling them back to us. It would be like an Alice in Wonderland death if it wasn't so horrible.

I don't belittle the dangers of the bomb at all, but even these dangers very often bring us together in unity, in a global unity and certainly in a consciousness of the dangers. We see now that we didn't even dream of the viciousness, of the deadliness, of the willingness to risk complete global and cosmic death; of the capitalist class. The middle class is also falling down into the working class and betraying its interests. They have too much to protect to move against death. Death is the only product of imperialism today. It's an obvious problem. They tell us they are going to kill us, and they do kill us.

So the artist has a great wonder and a tremendous influx of new life and at the same time has a great responsibility, because he must bring his skills to the rising people who contain the creation of the new world. It no longer exists in the middle class. It no longer is any good to get the grants. They just want you to perfume the sewers. They need artists to bring perfume to the terrible stench of their death. It isn't doing the artist any good. There is no place to go except to the struggle of the people today. There is no place for the artist. There is no artist arising except from the struggle of the people.

We see now that all culture comes from the people, comes from the struggle of the people. In America, middle-class culture has obscured the great vigor of American people's culture. I came up from the farm culture. When I was young there was farm music, the farm songs, a great culture of the Midwest farm and the democratic forces in the Middle West, and radical organizations like the IWW.

The IWW is something for you to look at because, there, culture was part. It wasn't separate. It was something you just brought out. Culture was part of the struggle. You could only be a poet or an artist if you were a worker, a revolutionary. The IWW taught me that culture is part of the struggle of the people. It's not separate. They never had a meeting they didn't open with poetry. They painted. They had cartoons. Their culture was immense, but more than that, it was a culture of the people. I once saw a group of IWWs learning poetry, learning Walt Whitman, in preparation for going to prison because they didn't have books, so they learned poetry. When going to the same prison they each would learn a different poem so they could bring their culture to prison.

Culture was part—it created a tremendous audience. In 1913, John Reed worked on a tremendous production in Madison Square Garden, put on by the strikers of Patterson. We used to put on affairs here from the farm. We had music, poetry, books. There is a tremendous culture, which is almost unknown and is now in danger of disappearing, like the black culture, like the ethnic cultures of the Norwegians and the Scandinavians.

This is coming up in our culture like a Vesuvian release of energy and its just beginning. Recently in the Austin strike, there was a wonderful example of the artists emerging out of the struggle. They've had a mural, which the reactionaries destroyed.* They had wonderful music. They had theater that just came out of the struggle. This is where it comes from. Go where it is. Go there. That's the only place there's life. That's the only place where there are any kind of images.

*P-9 Mural Dedication, 1986

The new images are coming from these struggles. The farm struggle recently here, for example, was one of the greatest uprisings of culture in the Middle West. The grief, the tragedy, the images... People, farmers, committed suicide. They were looking for images of their struggle: seeing their struggle as a long history, for the first time, as inevitable.

In the thirties, the workers and farmers saw that the factories would open up again, saw that there would be again prosperity even. Today, they know there is not going to be a "good" war. They know the factories are not going to reopen. The work has been exported to cheap labor in foreign countries. The steelworkers know as they are struggling and struggling to open those mills. The worker knows that there is going to be no "good" war. That there is no prosperity. That there is not going to be an end to exploitation. This in itself is a great cultural vision, a vision that is true, a vision that is possible. It is not only possible, it is necessary; it is the only continuation of the struggle of man to exist.

So I feel wonderful for you young people. It's a wonderful thing to be here now, stripping some of the illusions of bourgeois culture—the illusions of getting into those galleries, the illusion of becoming a prostitute to bourgeois culture. It’s not possible anymore, except maybe for a few. The grants are being cut off. They're not going to give out these grants anymore. They didn't work. You didn't come in and perfume the sewers. And thank God, we're not going to have those kinds of grants anymore.

What we need now is something like the WPA where a democratic culture can be supported, and a democratic audience. One of the great things about the WPA was its raising of the audiences' consciousness. There was an audience for art; there was an audience for murals. We started here a farm collective, a painters' group for the farmers to paint during the winter and have farm exhibits, this is where your audience is. The middle class is not a rich audience anymore. They don't have the images anymore. They don't have the truth.

The hearings (Iran-Contra) were the greatest thing to show you what the middle class does to support the lie. Culture is used to support the lie, to cover the lie. Language is used to cover the lie. In those hearings, language became a tool to cover not only lying, but the death and destruction of our whole society.

So this is what is happening. It's revealed. It's not a secret any longer. They can't keep it a secret. What those bastards do in the morning is on TV in the evening. It's impossible to be secretive. They tell upon each other, in fact. They can't keep a secret from each other. You are living in a time when the front door is open, the road is open.

You don't even hardly have to choose—it's between life or death. It's between what supports creative culture and what is death to it. It isn't even a choice. It's inevitable. It's just there. You have to live it. You have to be it. You have a chance to become part of this struggle. As the Communist Manifesto ends; the only people who will save the world are those who have nothing to lose but their chains.

This is what we see in the colonial countries. People driven to hunger, to death, who literally have nothing to lose, who really rise up on the horizon on all scenes. Those great meetings are not any longer the little meetings, but the meetings of millions of people demanding life, demanding the image, the true image. So this is what you have now for your life; to go into this great life, this great new force.

We used to say, "Workers of the World, Unite." Well now we have no choice. It's inevitable. They have to unite or die. So it’s not a dream any longer. It's not a hope any longer. It's a presence, a wonderful living presence.

I'd just like to read a piece of mine that I wrote years ago, and this I hope would be the keystone in the temple of your meeting together:

Let us all return.

It is the people who give birth to us, to all culture, who by their labors create all material and spiritual values.

No art can develop until it perpetuates and penetrates deeply into the life of the people.

The source of American culture lies in the historic movement of our people, and the artist must become voice, messenger, organizer, a wakener, sparking the inflammable silence, reflection back to the courage and the beauty. He must return really to the people, partisan and alive, with warmth, abundance, excess, confidence: without reservations, being cold and merely reasonable; or craftiness, writing one thing, and believing another; not being a superior person, even superior in knowledge, in theoretical knowledge, an ideological giant, but bereft of heart and humanity.

Capitalism is a world of ruins, junk piles of machines, men, women, piles of dust, floods, erosions, masks to cover rapacity.

To these stinging sounds the people carry their young, in the shades of their grief, in the thin shadow of their hunger, hope and crops in their grief, in the dark of the machine, only they have the future in them.

Only they.

Google Doc Organized by Mike Alewitz and Denny Mealy.

A remarkable writer and life-long agitator, the biography of Meridel Le Sueur can be found at

*P-9 Mural Dedication/ 1986. Mural by striking meat packers - Local P-9. Dedicated to then-imprisoned "terrorist" Nelson Mandela. Destroyed by UFCW union bureaucrats.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Long Live Northland Poster Collective!

It’s not often that I report on issues outside the world of community murals, but it seems that every day now history is being made. I was shocked and saddened to hear that after 30 years Northland Poster Collective is closing it’s doors. In the early 90’s I maintained a small office for the Alliance for Cultural Democracy (ACD) at the collective. I would help out here and there as needed in between ACD tasks. The collective has produced numerous designs for progressive causes over the years, and you will still be able to purchase some of them after the storefront closes. None the less my heart sank when I read the news. Ricardo Levins Morales worked for 30 years overcoming one obstacle after the other, keeping the ship afloat. NPC has been a constant source of inspiration in an art world all too often consumed by greed, inflated ego’s and elitism. Against the backdrop of the art-industrial-complex Northland produced inspiring images that have become hallmarks of the progressive movement. Standing up against corporate greed is never easy, but Northland did so with grace and humor.

If your fast you can still purchase items at half price. It’s not the last chapter by any means, there is life after Northland and as Ricardo writes “we will see you on the picket line”. And that we certainly will.

We will never be disappeared.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Arts for All Mural Project

Sonoran Bioregion, Tucson, AZ - Recently I worked with winners of a “Graffiti Art Competition” that was facilitated by Arts for All (AFA) located at 2520 N. Oracle Rd.
in Tucson. Young artists throughout Tucson were invited to submit designs, the winners would be paid to do a mural for walls in the AFA parking lot. A group of community jurors met to select seven finalists. The winners went on to develop large to-scale color designs that again were approved by the jurors.

I was asked to help facilitate the transfer and painting process. This was a first for emerging muralists Roberto, Amy, Arisa, Josh, Jesus, Jello and Lizzy. The artists brought their individual creative sensibilities and experiences to this project and that shows in the final work. Working with them was fun, encouraging as they would switch from aerosol to paint, at first reluctantly, but acrylics have a way of growing on you. Some of the artists stayed in one media, they all created bright, vibrant, beautiful and clear images.

One of the fascinating things about this project was the intergenerational pedagogy. Artist Carol Kestler, who helped conceive this project and was a mentor of mine for many years, imprinting countless lessons on what in means to be a teaching artist. Carol founded Arts Genesis over 30 years ago, and has helped to train dozens of community teaching artists. That experience, richly informing my career, was imparted to a new generation through the Arts for All Youth Mural. This is the very essence of community art. One generation practices, gathers, builds upon and passes on the knowledge of past cultural workers.

We met weekends for several months transferring the designs and adding layers of color. We used a mix of aerosols and acrylic paints slowly covering the wall. Each session started with a short meeting where we had a chance to check in, scan mural images, write in our journals and talk about what we planned on working on next. These meetings were brief, the artists were eager to paint.

The artists explored the potential of acrylics combined with aerosol. In this piece by Jello you can see that each letter has a different surface treatment. The aerosols drip and blend, with the strong black lines gestured in with aerosol and fine-tuned with acrylics.

Video - Muralists describe their work.

Finally be early May just as the summer heat set in we added our final touches and sealed the mural.

The artists spoke about their work at the May 9, 2009 unveiling. They were proud of their work, having set out to accomplish something for the first time and succeeding. Several said that they thought they could do better, or wanted to go back and change some things. Any muralist working from their heart understands the constant desire to improve our work.

A special thanks goes out to the larger support community that made this project possible. In these time of budget cuts this project shows how a tiny bit of money and a ton of good will can go a long way. So thank you to the Arizona Commission on the Arts, the Tucson Pima Arts Council, the Mural Panel and Arts for All staff. A special shout out to Valerie Burnside for getting the ball rolling, Christine, Janelle, Frances for assisting, and of course Harriett and Marcia Berger.

A Note on the Health Impacts of our Trade:

Why do we wear respirators when using air-brushes, solvents and aerosols? We love the effects we can get from aerosol paint can’s, the ability to have large gesture marks and lines, the speed, the way it fills cracks in the wall, the way you can blend colors and get trippy special effects. Unfortunately one of our favorite tools contains propellants that have serious health and environmental risks and are considered hazardous waste . These Chlorofluorocarbon gases (CFCs) were originally used as propellants and then banned in 1978 because they deplete the ozone layer. In the 80’s hydrocarbon propellants replaced CFCs until it was found that they contribute to smog. Since that time new propellants known as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are being used. These include and 1,1,-difluoroethane (Propellant 152A) and 1, 1, 1, 2,-tetrafluoromethane (Propellant 134A).

Acrylic paints have a smaller carbon footprint, but also have their drawbacks. Golden Colors has some valuable health and safety information.

What do you think?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Paulo Freire Freedom School Mural

I was recently invited to facilitate a mural with Kristin Bloom’s students at the Paulo Freire Freedom School in Tucson, AZ. This is a very unique school with a focus environmental and social justice curriculum. It’s a busy place with active parent and community involvement. The school is truly a living testimony to work of the great Brazilian popular educator Paulo Freire (1921-97).

Many thanks to the Tucson YMCA “It’s Time to Talk Youth Forum” for sponsoring this beautiful mural located in the stairwell. Congratulations to the 13 students artists on a successful project!

The students will report on this mural project in their own words.

Paulo Freire Freedom School Mural

“The theme of the mural is breaking down the walls of prejudice and becoming one. A giant mural focusing on peace.

On the left of the mural, two different races are split between a big wall. The brick wall is how we are separated by racism. The heart with the flames represents love falling to bind the whites and the blacks together, bounded by love. Love breaks down the wall of hate and brings us together.

The people represent segregation and the heart is supposed to be crashing down on the wall so it lets the people be together. The people in robes represent how all the cultures came together

The middle one has everyone at Kiva and the pole in the middle is supposed to be everyone coming together into the world.

All the colors blend together and all the major problems were finally solved. The love for each other is painted onto the wall. Our Kiva brings us together. Creating roots to a wonderful world. Kiva itself is a miracle, and all of us together in peace and love. A strong wall, but only love can break it down. One whole community coming together. No one fighting or anything. Everyone at Kiva being one big kind and caring diverse community. No segregation, only integration.

In the third section, there are two faces kissing. The faces are light "white" and dark "black" coffee being poured from Chinese and Native American style cups. On the tea cup the man in the maze is painted on it and the man in the maze is the symbol of the tribe Tohono O’odham in Arizona. The blue teacup is an illustration of a Chinese teacup. It represents different ethnicities coming together and meeting peacefully. No color or person is better. "

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Art, Community, Social Justice, National Recovery

On Tuesday a group of community artists and organizers met at the White House for a historic first. The meeting was facilitated by Community Arts leaders Arlene Goldbard, Caron Atlas from the Pratt Center, Claudine Brown of the Nathan Cummings Foundation and arts organizer Billy Wimsatt. White House "hippster in chief" Yosi Sergant was instrumental in arranging this meeting. This was an opportunity to begin a conversation with the White House on how community artist organizers can contribute to the economic recovery of our nation. We left the meeting excited to start organizing, moving directly to Busboys and Poets.

I will be posting more details of our meeting and ways YOU can get involved. Its going to take all of us to transform our economy, and this meeting is an indicator that we all have a seat a the table. Check out the newly formed Office of Public Engagement. You can read more about this historic meeting in the Washington Post.

On Wednesday several of us headed to "the hill" to lobby. After a number of exciting meetings we are more confident than ever that cultural recovery is just around the corner.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Bronx Wash Community Mural Starts

We've started project blog for Northwest Neighborhood residents where you can contribute your ideas, images, stories and poems.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Murals vs. Zombies

With bank zombies dominating the news my faith in grassroots cultural development initiatives, specifically murals, grows. Murals create place, a destination, and involve a community process that nurtures individual voices and fosters stewardship. Community murals nourish a sense of renewal, hope, belonging and possibility.

There are some great new sites like Mural Farm that give you an online tour of the many murals produced by the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. But even better is going on a bike mural tour, you can meet the artists or even help paint a mural. This is a great example of how murals can help familiarize people with neighborhoods and businesses, spurring on local economic recovery. Clearly just the production of a mural has an economic ripple effect. From paints, scaffolding, brushes, lunches to pay for assistants and artists. Anyone who has worked on a mural can testify to the amount of physical labor - in some cases thousands of hours - it takes to complete a mural. These hours are real work, and as valid as building a straw bail house, rooftop garden, growing local food, or installing solar panels. At this very second artists stand "paintbrush ready" to help revitalize our economy.

Canada is a hotbed of mural activity, and community arts in general. Of the many amazing sites and stories featuring new murals in Canada are the Global Arts and Tourism and Chemainus Festival of Murals sites. I like these sites because they connect mural making to economic revival. The Chemainus Festival of Murals site describes their success:

“More than a quarter of a million dollars has been invested in the mural project by private, corporate, federal, provincial and municipal investors. As a direct result, Chemainus has attracted in excess of one hundred new businesses, 350-450,000 visitors a year and a $3.5 million dinner theatre. From a dependence on a single industry, it has broadened its economic base to offer a range of service and tourist related activities. To everyone’s relief, the mill was rebuilt and modernized, and reopened in 1985. By that time, residents and visitors alike felt that they had proven they could survive the worst of times through their spirit and determination.”
Another great example of using murals to attract tourism and generate economic recovery is Twenty Nine Palms the Oasis of Murals in California. They have received a fair amount of media and for good reason. The murals have spurred attention for the Joshua Tree National Park , located next to the town.

There are many other cities large and small, such as Crescent City California, that offer mural tours and have integrated murals into their overall economic development strategies. I would argue for more murals that practice civic engagement at every level of the conception, design and production of the work if we want to get the full economic and social benefits.

It’s something to think about in these most curious of times, when innovation and creativity are most in need and least supported. Imagine if instead of bailing out zombie banks we invested in cultural creatives and innovators. It would cost much less, produce more and generate long term prosperity, beauty, health and happiness.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

"Una Mesa Para la Gente"

San Anto Cultural Arts

Community Mural and Public Art Program


The re-dedication of the newly restored mural:

"Una Mesa Para la Gente"

The general public is invited to help us celebrate the completion of the restoration of our 14th mural, "Una Mesa Para la Gente." The public art piece was originally completed in 2000 by Cruz Ortiz and Lisa Veracruz. The newly restored mural was completed by Ruth Buentello and Lisa Veracruz. Spend the evening celebrating and being involved in a community blessing for San Anto Cultural Arts’ 14th mural. San Anto will host poets Pancho Mendoza and Victoria Garcia Zapata Klein early in the evening followed by DJ JJ Lopez spinning soulful Chicano sounds.

Bring a shirt and for five dollars artist Cruz Ortiz will silkscreen a Manuel D. Castillo design on your shirt. A special time will be designated for those who would like to share a memory or thought about Manuel Diosdado Castillo, Jr. This event is FREE and open to all. Please join us for our first mural blessing of the year!

What: "Una Mesa Para La Gente" Blessing

When: Saturday Feb 7 ,2009


Where: 402 N. Zarzamora & W. Salinas
@ theYbarra Carwash

San Antonio Cultural Arts

1300 Chihuahua

San Antonio, TX 78207

For more information please contact: Heather Eichling, (210) 226-7466

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

More Eugene Murals

A wonderful email from pippi on January 27, 2009:
I stumbled upon your blog about murals in Oregon, and was so pleased to see so many old friends!
She shares some beautiful murals for us to enjoy.

Tibet mural - Willamette St and 15th. by Jim Evangalista

Down to Earth warehouse mural by Dan Hitchcock. This photo doesn't show all of the mural, as a truck was parked in front of it, but the picture on the truck kind of blends in with the mural and the trees behind.

Another view of Kari's deer mural

Another view of Kari's mural on 4th & Monroe. This mural has changed considerably since it was first painted. I took a picture after she first finished it years ago, but will have to scan the photo to share it.

Kari also painted this mural on the side of the Center for Appropriate Transport, located on 1st and Washington.

And if you are walking down Willamette street from the downtown to the post office, you will pass right by this mosaic mural on the side of the Hilton hotel, across from the Hult Center for Performing Arts.

And finally, there is a great article about the post office murals on the Lane
Community college website.