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?

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