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UNTYING A KNOT: A MODEL FOR MAKING COMMUNITY MURALS

LEAH SAMUELSON 2009


UNTYING A KNOT: A MODEL FOR MAKING COMMUNITY MURALS

2009


Acknowledgements Untying A Knot:

A Model For Making Community Murals is a module written by and

based on the field experience of muralist Leah Samuelson, created as basic instruction for community artists. Her work was completed while obtaining her Master’s of Arts Degree in Urban Studies at Eastern University, and in conjunction with the arts intervention, non-profit organization BuildaBridge in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The author wishes to thank the Turks and Caicos National Museum, director Dr. Neal V. Hitch, and the Pine Cay Foundation for their support in the mural projects on which most of this research is based. The author wishes to acknowledge pioneers in community mural making who documented their science: Mark Rogovin, Marie Burton, Holly Highfill, Eva Cockcroft, John Weber, Jim Cockcroft, Jane Golden, Robin Rice, and Monica Yant Kinney.

Further Information This publication was produced by BuildaBridge. Further information or additional copies are available through:

BuildaBridge 205 West Tulpehocken Street, Suite 2 Philadelphia, PA 19144 United States


CONTENTS Introduction.........................................................

1 Untying A Knot.......................................................... 1 Who Is This Model For?.................................................. 2 Why Make A Mural?....................................................... 3

1. Project Goals...................................................

5 Transformations......................................................... 6 Capacity And Sustainability............................................. 8

2. Mural Making Process....................................... Preparation............................................................. Basic Supply List....................................................... Production.............................................................. Practical Tips.......................................................... Follow Up...............................................................

9 10 13 14 14 15

3. Roles Of The Artist.........................................

17 Artistic Roles.......................................................... 18 Advising Roles.......................................................... 22 Supporting Roles........................................................ 27

4. Challenges For The Artist............................... Living Conditions....................................................... Status Quo Sabotaging Change............................................ Poor Communication And Transportation................................... Cultural Misunderstanding............................................... Internal/Political Fractures............................................ Artistic Integrity Vs. Maximum Participation............................ Fatigue.................................................................

Conclusion............................................................. Other Sources........................................................

32 32 34 35 36 39 40 41 42 44

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Untying A Knot: A Model For Making Community Murals

INTRODUCTION Untying A Knot Consider likening a community art project to a building project, with workers, building materials, a blueprint, and an imagined result. The comparison begs identification with either of the familiar additive or subtractive processes. Additive processes compile materials and fill atmospheric space with something new, like a new building, or a clay sculpture pieced together one lump at a time. Subtractive processes carve into an existing mass to creatively transform it, like a stone sculpture or a landscaped property. The lengthy process of community mural making is less like compiling or carving, and more like rearranging community components: human resources, skills, expectations, paint pigments, and local images. Communities with high levels of risk factors or those regaining consciousness after a disaster have these community components in a tangle. Engaging a community and the artistic process in attempting to make an image is a tangled process. Undertaking a mural is untying a complicated knot in a long cord; it takes focus and direction from a few specialized directors. It involves tugging and looping in opposite directions in a sort of inelegant dance, pushing and inviting community institutions toward an end goal.

Introduction

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Untying A Knot: A Model For Making Community Murals If the cord represents a community’s artistic potential, the point of untangling in this illustration is not to spread the community out, but to fit it for the use for which it was formed. An unintentionally knotted cord is often kicked into a corner where its tangles curiously worsen. A knot is not entirely a problem. The process of looping and un-looping its segments can yield a blessing to a community. A sorted or strategically knotted cord collaborates, builds, and interfaces with anyone ready to create. Community-based mural work not only unties problematic knots, but reties positive ones; ordered, cooperating parts formed into a pattern can be beautiful and useful. This metaphor points to the intrinsic value and abilities of a community, and the need for a visiting collaborator to fill the role of servant-detangler in the community arts context. Visitors often see and do things locals would not, and they are in a position to offer encouragement from an outside perspective. They do not come to clear away debris or compile assets, but to affirm and attend to the existing components that can be arranged to reveal a beautiful work of art.

Who Is This Model For? Mural facilitating can succeed in the hands of a professional artist, but this model is a basic introduction, useful also for creative leaders in social service or youth work. Community murals are prompted by a variety of interests and can be used to satisfy specific group goals. All mural projects share a human priority and aim to enrich a neighborhood and encourage participants. Relationships developed through the mural making process, and among later viewers of the work, are the reasons for the types of community projects described in this manual. Anyone with energy and these priorities may benefit from engaging in the mural process described here. Murals accommodate any number of visual styles, sizes, and artistic preferences. The subject matter of murals can be historic, aesthetic, educational, or diagrammatic.

Introduction

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Untying A Knot: A Model For Making Community Murals The instructions in this manual assume of readers a medium-high level of experience in drawing, painting, or design. It is geared toward an artist visiting a community expressly to facilitate a project. While someone with design experience is needed to draft an image plan, a designer can collaborate with teachers, scientists, parents, therapists, counselors, youth workers, religious leaders, or student leaders in leading a project. If inexperienced artists are leading a mural project, it is suggested they go over this manual with their experienced design collaborator. The experience and intention informing this manual are short-term painting projects lasting one week to one month. Projects could be repeated and developed into regular programs run by permanent community members or artists-in-residence. This manual is intended for use in tough places in the world where ideal equipment and procedures are not readily available. Unconventional problem solving and supply substitutions are a regular occurrence.

Why Make A Mural? The act of working on a mural can be therapeutic: through the exercise of painting, and in drawing people into teamwork. The motor control, focus, imagination, and direction in making a mural provide a micro-example of a way to move through obstacles and achieve goals. The challenge in creating a mural is its own knot. The process of unraveling it requires unraveling a bit of the community's knot, and allows community members to participate and practice in the start-to-finish detangling project. A mural requires the consent and participation of community members in a variety of posts. A novel project brings opportunity for collaborating in new and encouraging ways. The immediacy and availability of visible public art, especially on a large scale, gives an entire community equal access to the pride and intrigue of a painted picture. Its beauty can be intended for those not privileged enough to regularly afford beautiful food, surroundings, and vistas; and its provocative messages are unavoidably visible for those who often choose what to see and what to ignore.

Introduction

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Untying A Knot: A Model For Making Community Murals Our undying fascination for understanding and reflecting our world drives us to make marks of all kinds. Using bits of nature to mark on other bits of nature still shows in cave art; we want to marvel at the manifest imagination of the ancients as much as we want to contribute to the visual world ourselves. Mural supporters and nonsupporters alike cannot help but watch and comment when a painting is in process.

Introduction

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Untying A Knot: A Model For Making Community Murals

1

PROJECT PROJECT GOALS

Transformation is the positive outcome of relationships built on mutual care and thirsting for growth. It is the hallmark of things worth doing. Mural project goals come in three sizes of transformation: individual, communal, and societal. Effective change should breed more change. Group projects should infuse structure for sustained, flexible, and capable growth in the direction started.

Notes to the artistTake note of feedback from participants that exhibit transformation. Keep copies of notes, thank you letters, or articles that describe a felt change. Also record the feedback of honest detractors to aid in discovering ways to improve the process. The artist should purchase project supplies locally. This permits future project organizers a level of knowledge about supply cost and location.

1. Project Goals

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Untying A Knot: A Model For Making Community Murals

Personal Transformation Hope is the imagination to see what could be. If someone can consider what is and then envision a replacement or rearrangement, she can begin to solve her own problems. Painting is the act of making something visually blank into something full and meaningful; it is practice for hoping. Volunteers working on murals rehearse hope whether they know it or not. Working side-by-side with students gives an artist -mentor the chance to point this out and encourage. Transformed students talk of their participation, of their contribution, and of their next project.

An exampleIn a project journal kept during the making of a school mural, one student recorded “I never knew I could paint. Now I want to make others paint too.�

Community Transformation A collaborative project provides the interface for individually transforming participants to experience working together. They can teach one another in the long term, after the project is over, how to carry lessons of hope and cooperation into life. Mural facilitators will find a wealth of existing creativity and willingness in a community, but sometimes no place or project for gathering. Through the arts, a community's ability to solve its own problems can be put to the test.

1. Project Goals

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Untying A Knot: A Model For Making Community Murals An exampleA community mural on the island of Grand Turk was painted on a long, decrepit brick wall peppered with exposed nails, wiring, and occasional wooden planks. It was an eyesore revealed by Hurricane Ike. The beautiful and familiar images a vocationally diverse group of volunteers painted over it brought viewers to a critical awareness of the need to reconstruct their island. Passersby commented on the beauty of the island, the beauty of the mural, and were amazed at the effort that produced it.

Societal Transformation One mural will not affect a societal overhaul, but it will plant a seed of transformation. That seed is proof of life. A successfully completed project stands as a testament to possibility. It is a remaining seed to remind community members of their internal assets made manifest.

An exampleOnly retrospection reveals societal transformation. Recently however, drinking mugs for sale in The National Museum gift shop were outfitted with images of a new, centrally located community mural. The seed of life on the island spread to the homes of tourist from thousands of miles away. Someone may ask about the identity of the image. The answer is the people of Grand Turk made this—they have celebrated their life with a strength that reaches out.

1. Project Goals

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Untying A Knot: A Model For Making Community Murals

Sustainability and Capacity Building A facilitator has failed if there is no interest or ability to repeat or further develop a community project. Identifying leaders, locating art supply sources, training interested parties in art skills, and connecting excited, hopeful contributors with progressive local institutions, can strategically equip participants to continue in ways that are best for the community.

An exampleI worked closely on a mural project with The Turks and Caicos National Museum. Its director was developing a national art and culture museum. He had a vested interest in identifying artists, supporters of the arts, and building public trust. Everyone who worked on the community mural gained access to museum leadership for future connection. Museum facilities were used to teach Saturday skill workshops. Here, highly interested volunteers developed skill with personal instruction. These individuals should have been able to plan their own project after I left. They have the option to appeal to the museum to fill in structural project gaps.

1. Project Goals

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Untying A Knot: A Model For Making Community Murals

2

MURAL MAKING PROCESS

Preparation is 75% of the mural making process. Shoddy foundations compromise developing projects to completion. When inevitable challenges arise, the allies and information sources established in the beginning will help put a project back on its feet. Physically making the mural is only 20% of the process. The last 5% is followup with a celebration ceremony and continuing communication with supporters. The most important aspect of making a mural is determining or discovering the reasons for the project. These will guide the preparation process. The second most important aspect is determining what message the mural is to convey. This will guide the production process. The reason and direction for the project set at the beginning should be consistent with the tone of its dedication at the end.

2. Mural Making Process

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Preparation 1. Identify StakeholdersKnowing the people and organizations who desired and conceptualized the project will explain what a facilitator is doing on the scene. An artist’s interpretation of her audience's need defines the project’s funding, its location, its advertising, and its participants. Stakeholders are often learning institutions, foundations, and local governments and businesses. They are more invested and have more influence in a community than a visiting artist. An artist is responsible for most project planning, but stakeholders' agenda should guide decisions. 2. Identify Community AssetsA facilitator guides the making of a mural, but a community's assets do the making. Assets are the people, the inspiration, and the physical stuff of which the mural is made. Knowing the assets on a project is like knowing your medium as an artist. The following assets are indispensibleStudents– Students are in a state of learning, and are sometimes required by teachers to participate. Immigrants- They are also in a state of learning or taking risks. Often on the fringes of society, immigrants can be eager for a forum in which to contribute their talents. Natural Environment- This is the familiar backdrop of a community's context. Its unique beauties or elements are popular choices for subject matter. Ecotourism and natural conservation are motivational concerns in many communities. Folk Stories and History- Wanting to see our reflection is the reason people make paintings. Internalized stories that describe values and origins are recognizable as “us”.

2. Mural Making Process

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Local Professionals- Business people and scholars are motivated by thinking forward. They often recognize the potential societal value of community projects and are well connected to others who might volunteer support. Learning Institutions- Schools, libraries, and museums are full-time proponents of community development. The academic, experiential, and skill learning in group projects naturally complement their missions. They have access to facilities, funds, and groupings of people that can be useful.

3. Design an Image Based on Reasons and Message for the ProjectProduce an image that can be physically passed around. Waiting to talk to the participating audience before getting anything on paper results in ambiguous conversation about an image and opens the door for a debilitating diversity of ideas. 4. Identify Specific Audience and ParticipantsName the groups and individuals if possible who might help paint the mural. Recognize the potential strength in a varied participant pool, and remember that actual participation may evolve throughout the process.

Note to the artistKeep a log of prospective participants’ names and phone numbers. Do not rely on your memory for when, where, and whom you meet. You will be introduced to dozens of people in the course of a single project. Take note of people’s specific interests and community positions.

2. Mural Making Process

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5. Incorporate Feedback into the DesignTailor questions about design, details, colors, and subject matter to participants and stakeholders according to their experience and interest. Make it clear in your conversations you are open to ideas, but you will create a deadline of final decisions, after which major changes would be counterproductive. Keep in mind community input contributes to ownership of the project and work to incorporate input with aesthetic integrity. 6. Design a Program to Meet Goals, Engage Volunteers, and End AttractivelyActing as an event planner and curriculum writer, set times, dates, and content for training, setup, and painting. Your program should specify the order in which the portions of a mural are painted and who should execute each portion. Schedule enough time for setup and clean up. Be flexible when progress does not go according to plans, but always move forward. Plan time at the end of the painting for touch ups or the artist’s finishing touches.

An exampleFirst-time painters might only feel comfortable painting a first coat on mural subject matter. The artist can later train adept volunteers, or execute details like shadows and highlights herself.

2. Mural Making Process

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7. Assemble SuppliesWrite a comprehensive list of all tools and paints needed. Make sure enough supplies per volunteer are prepared and waiting on site before work starts. Or, early/first arriving painters can help organize and prepare supplies.

A Basic Supply ListLadders and scaffolds Projection device and extension cord Tarps or protective coverings for floors and tables Enough cotton rags for one per person Paint smocks Large bucket of water Large empty bucket A level Strong tape or blue painter’s tape Meter stick Measuring tape Chalk line and extra chalk for straight lines Pencils and paper for last minute ideas Chalks or oil crayons for drawing on the wall Paint rollers, sleeves and trays One small (1—2 cm) and one large (7 cm) brush per person Copies of the design for reference All needed colors of paint Tools for opening/closing paint cans Several stir sticks Small, hand-held containers for paint; enough for three per person Several medium size buckets with lids for mixing paints Drinking water

2. Mural Making Process

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Production 1. Executiona. b. c. d.

Prepare the surface Produce the image design Project and trace, or draft the image Paint the image Practical Tipsa. Prepare the surfaceWash and prime a mural wall with water-based primer. Paint a coat of a medium colored paint as a base before drawing the design on the wall. It is rarely desirable to begin a painting on a white surface. b. Produce the image designThe clarity and integrity of the design can make or break the mural. An experienced designer should consider the age and technical skill of her volunteers. Engineer a dispersed composition to allow volunteers to paint simultaneously on different sections and heights. Borders and patterns create manageable areas for children. Make multiple color copies of the design. c. Project and trace, or draft the imageIf you have an electrical source and an extension cord, using an acetate and an overhead projector or a jpeg file and a computer projector, project the design at night and trace its contour with chalk or crayon. Use multiple colors for a complicated design. Chalk is preferable if you need to wipe the drawing off; oil crayons are preferable if you’re expecting rain. If you do not have an electrical source or space for projecting, draft the design onto the wall using chalk or oil crayon and the gridding method. Instructions for the gridding method can be found in any how-to drawing book.

2. Mural Making Process

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Untying A Knot: A Model For Making Community Murals d. Paint the imageFor most walls exterior latex paint is a sustainable medium. For walls larger than 3x5 meters, consider purchasing much-used colors (primers, base coats or frequently occurring) in 20 liter or 5 gallon quantities. Purchase other colors in 4 liter or 1 gallon quantities. Store leftover paint for future use. Novice volunteer painters are often tentative and desire the mural facilitator to demonstrate pouring paint, painting technique, and filling proper color areas.

2. PromotionReport progress to Press and Supporters. Funding stakeholders and local news organizations benefit from progress reports once there is something to be seen. Take time to get to know individual participants, learn how their personal stories intersect with the project and encourage them to voice their experiences with the project.

Follow Up 1. Conclude With Dedication/CelebrationPlan the final event of the project as a celebration. Invite everyone who played a part as well as local officials whose presence will authenticate the community's acceptance of the mural. Publicly thank everyone who gave permission for the project, donated supplies or hospitality, or physically participated. Choose someone to make a small speech about what the mural means to the community and their responsibility to maintain it. 2. Assess Lessons Learned And Best PracticesLook through program notes and debrief with leaders on the project. Write a formal report of things you would do differently next time and things that worked well.

2. Mural Making Process

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3. Follow Up With Supporters And Participants Showing Interest In RepeatingCommunicate specific thanks in writing or in person to everyone involved. Ask about plans for further projects. Exchange business cards with project leaders and supporters. Make it clear future contact is welcome.

2. Mural Making Process

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3 ROLES OF THE ARTIST An artist facilitator finds beyond drawing and painting. flexible and able to stand public project requires the will function alone.

3. Roles Of The Artist

herself filling a wide variety of roles, with duties Some of them are to be expected, but the artist must be in unfamiliar posts. Working inside a community on a integration of these roles窶馬o aspect of the process

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Artistic Roles 1. ArtistThe community mural facilitator is responsible for the ultimate appearance of the project. Knowledge of color mixing, brush handling, basic paint chemistry, and composition should win out at key points in the process, especially at the end. Volunteers' painting contributions may not be optimal, and an artist sometimes has to improvise or find alternate artistic routes in order to arrive at quality results.

An exampleI taught a two-week, after school mural workshop with a class of eleven -year-olds at a primary school on the island of Grand Turk. The painting went up on the exterior side of their auditorium building—the most prominent structure in the school yard. One of the students' roles was to choose local insects to include in the scenes. They learned projection and tracing techniques to transfer images onto the wall, but I selected photos of the insects to trace, based on clarity and composition, and led the students through the sizing and positioning of their transfer. My experience with painting helped me guide students through paint mixing and control of color intensity. At the onset of the painting sessions, the group did not have any black paint. To fill the black portions of butterfly and ladybug bodies, I directed students to start with a base coat of blue. Color theory taught me blue is a suitable starting point for black, and those sections were enhanced by their base coat when students later recoated them with black.

3. Roles Of The Artist

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2. DesignerA community's project sponsor often has a specific wall and mural subject matter in mind.

The

sponsor,

however,

seldom

has

personnel

with

design

training

for

composition, style, or proportion and scale. A designer needs to understand and interpret a sponsor's and community's wishes and visually transmit them using sound design principles. This can mean changing some of what stakeholders say they want in order to accomplish their other goals. The mural facilitator has to be ready to defend and explain her design decisions based on sound experience.

An exampleI facilitated a twenty-by-nine meter community mural in a downtown area. Local artists and business owners provided feedback on my design mock-up before painting began. The design was limited to a few blues, greens, and turquoises. Most people said the color scheme was too limited, or not bright enough. As the designer, I campaigned to keep the limitations because of my experience with the complications of executing and viewing large scale works in a myriad of colors. A limited color palette in good arrangement can communicate strongly and clearly. Even the few colors used proved to be enough to confuse participants as the group tried to keep their supplies organized.

3. Roles Of The Artist

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3. Scientist/Explorer/ConservationistNatural subject matter is popular for its beauty, familiarity, and metaphoric or historic healing powers. Discovering what species and types are native, what elements are admired, or powerful trends in the ecosystem require investigation. Even societies living close to nature may leave knowledge of natural science to a few local specialists. In these cases a facilitator needs to conduct strategic interviews, take photographs, and read ecological publications to ascertain facts about the seasons and environment. An exampleWhen trying to select trees for the mural, I found many locals knew only vernacular

or

inaccurate

names

of

regional

trees.

histories, and behavioral facts were also hard to find.

Images,

plant

My online and

on-land searches brought the most information. A pointed conversation with the director of the Department of Environment and Coastal Resources gave me a singular body of information on mangroves. After the mural was completed, I accompanied my mural students during the school day on a nature hike to identify mangroves. Their school teacher led the hike, but invited me to join because she herself knew nothing about mangroves. As a result of my research, I had become the nearest expert.

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4. InnovatorA non-native facilitator is sometimes called on to make a mural in a community because the task is unfamiliar to the host. Any step of the mural making process may be without precedent in the host community. A facilitator may have to invent pathways to achieve even the smallest goal. Through observation and inquiry, similar or parallel processes can be discovered in local life and referenced or channeled for mural goals. Even a native facilitator making a first-time mural has to design new methods of engaging and directing a community and its supplies.

An exampleOur public mural project measured twenty meters long. Hand drawing an image onto the wall would have been too time consuming and impractical for novice volunteers. I decided to project the design and trace it at night with oil crayons, but could not find a projector on the island. A local museum provided the solution—they lent their LCD projector, their scanner to convert the design to a .jpg file, and a generator to power the laptop and projector on site. All the equipment was placed on the back of the museum pick-up truck for positioning correct distances from the wall.

3. Roles Of The Artist

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Advising Roles 5. TeacherExecuting a mural alone and leading a group through the process are two different experiences. Knowing how to paint is not enough; the facilitator should take time to demonstrate and instruct participants in skills such as color mixing, brush handling, cleaning materials, and consulting visual references. Teaching methods include modeling, inquiring, and pointing out strong and weak performance. Technical and artistic skills are transferred and evaluated in this role. An exampleBefore any

student

or

group

began

painting,

I

gave

a

brief

demonstration of one good technique for gripping and using a paint brush. I explained holding the brush far back on the handle gave me more

control

over

a

variety

of

angles.

I

demonstrated

the

perpendicular approach to the painting wall and a good amount of paint to maintain on the brush. Some students immediately employed the advice in their work, while others began with a typical tight, low grip, high pressure approach. I could stop those with the tight approach and ask them to attempt another method—the one they had seen demonstrated. This gave them a chance to reflect on what they had seen, or identify that they had not really learned anything, and to manually shift to a new technique. Students who tried new skills right away often displayed greater dexterity and a pre-existing aptitude for painting. I could give those students tasks of increased difficulty and perhaps provide them small, advanced lessons in those tasks.

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6. Event OrganizerThis aspect can be challenging or distasteful to studio artists who are familiar with indulging their own timing in isolation. For better or for worse, event organizing is in some ways the most prominent role of a mural facilitator. Making public art is an event; if you want community members to show up and participate in the making, you have to plan the event like a party. This means individually, and often in person inviting people to take part. Work and school schedules have to be considered. Daylight hours and weather have to be considered. A rough list of those expected to show up dictates how many supplies should be readied. Supplies need to be purchased, transported, set up, cleaned up, and stored each night. Contributors need to be thanked, and inappropriate detractors asked to leave.

An exampleA local photographer and historian toured me around his town for two days meeting local artists. We introduced our project and attempted garner supporters. Weeks later when production was about to begin, we toured again with personal invitations to participate at given dates and

times.

We

visited

schools,

businesses,

restaurants,

and

pedestrians. When few invitees showed up, I called known art students from local schools and recruited neighbors from the steps of shops around the corner. Four visits to the local radio station had produced a couple of event advertisements on the air, but the only adults who came during our two weeks of painting were the ones I had casually run into while doing other projects on the island. Patchy participation was partly due to my mediocre job as an event organizer; the results of improvised solutions became the substance of the project.

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7. MentorAnywhere, and especially in the tough places in the world, children often do not have access to a relationship with a caring adult. Working side-by-side and face-toface for several days on a painting, a mural facilitator has the opportunity to show herself a trustworthy teacher and advisor to students. Children deeply desire attention and direction. Taking time to show them new things and watch them try their hand sets up a mentoring relationship. An exampleWhile focused on painting her portion of a mural after a long day of school, an eleven-year-old student found in the progressive project an opportunity to share her thoughts with me as she stood by. They were just stories and impressions, emotions and small details from her day. Nothing stood out in her conversation. But five days later when this student missed the final day of the mural workshop, she sent a hand made card to me through a classmate. It explained she had a prior engagement for that afternoon and thanked me and my co-teacher for spending time with her. She had drawn a girl's face flooded with tears and described how much she would miss our friendship and conversations. She said she never had friends like that before. Short-term mural projects do not allow for long term mentoring or counseling relationships. A facilitator is often limited both by time and numbers—one person cannot mentor one hundred students at once. In the time invested with students, however, the calm and focus of the project will naturally create a mentor dynamic with a leader. In the time allotted, a facilitator can behave with the integrity and care of a mentor. It may be the most healthy attention a student receives for some time.

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8. DisciplinarianPassersby or students participating on a mural may act out in a way that endangers the project, the students, or themselves. Regardless of the degree of experience with classroom management, a facilitator in these cases is called on to safeguard those present.

An exampleMy mural workshop at the primary school on Grand Turk could only accommodate a handful of students. Others curiously hung around the class and vied for attention. Their running, jumping, and crashing into things and people became rough and distracting. Asking them repeatedly to leave the room and closing the ill-hung doors without door knobs took some time and invocations of the principal's punishment, but resulted in restoring order and focus for the students.

Another exampleSome students forgot to bring work clothes to cover their school uniforms at the beginning of the workshop. At their own risk, they decided to remain and paint carefully. I warned everyone to control their brushes diligently. Partially by accident but eventually as teasing, two students painted all over a girl's school uniform. I was wary of punishment she might receive at home. I explained that she was responsible for forgetting her paint clothes, but reprimanded the other painters for their disrespect. They were not allowed to paint for the rest of the day because they failed to demonstrate respectful control of their paint tools.

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9. VisionaryA community may want a mural in their town but not know what they want as subject matter. In this case an artist can serve the community by combining observation of cultural surroundings with a message weaving the present to the future. The artist needs to explain the virtues of her idea to stakeholders and describe the project idea with accuracy and enthusiasm. This is particularly important when time is limited and a clear direction with swift momentum are of the essence. A well-chosen vision comes from sensitivity to existing cultural currents and will find corresponding themes and events in the community as the mural unfolds. These can be integrated in discussions, promotions, and the recruiting of participants. Community members will recognize and own the larger themes, and consequently the mural.

An exampleThe principal of a primary school had been approached by The National Museum about the prospect of a mural, but was not entirely sure about proceeding and did not have plans for its appearance. I pitched a carefully crafted idea about painting scientifically accurate local trees for environmental, cultural, and aesthetic reasons. The few trees in the school yard were stripped bare by the recent hurricane and the country's national tree was in danger of extinction from an invasive insect. From a distant street, the proposed painted trees would appear to blend in with the existing scenery. It could be simultaneously restorative, educational, and visually edifying.

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Untying A Knot: A Model For Making Community Murals

Supporting Roles 10. Cultural HighlighterPublic art, especially that which aims to aid in community transformation, should reflect and direct the dreams of local culture. Troubling aspects of life as well as triumphs should be recorded and interpreted. Community members have this expectation of their public art whether they know it or not. An artist must absorb and satisfy as much of this demand as possible as a visitor and a servant leading a project. Local and historic artworks can be investigated as resources. Listen to stories and themes in conversations. Conduct a literary survey of the culture before visiting. Recognize the dual nature of identity in light of the past and future—by American motifs this can be called the “wind and road� identity. Many American systems recognize the naming of winds according to from where they originate and naming roads according to where they lead. (A southern wind blows from south to north. Interstate 75 south runs from north to south.) Assess an image's effectiveness based on both wind and road identities and receive people's feedback on how it conveys their past, present, and future.

An exampleThe National museum was sponsoring a large, public mural and wanted it to be about gaining strength from the island's past to construct its future. The museum director noticed the community had little awareness or admittance of cultural identity. The mural stakeholders and I decided to make a collage of images from historic and contemporary photographs. I interviewed artists and business owners around town about what icons evoked the island. For the mural design I spliced stylized images together like puzzle pieces to show ancient ships in motionless collision with modern industry, and past harvesting methods with contemporary hurricane repair efforts. Onlookers commented on its

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Untying A Knot: A Model For Making Community Murals likeness to the essence of their island. There was not much feedback on its message for the future, but the fact that the mural was painted on the only remaining wall of a building decimated by the hurricane prompted people to say it brought life and hope to its surroundings.

11. Advocate/PresenterThe local organization that sponsors a mural has its own reasons for initiating the project. Those reasons and the interpretation they give to the mural will remain after the facilitator goes home. A facilitator should understand this agenda, and if she can support it, should cast a similar light on the process. There is always talk surrounding public art. It ranges from news coverage to barber shop gossip. An artist may be called upon to give a speech on camera or explain the project to someone in line at a grocery stand.

An exampleThe National Museum was concerned for its island's economy as it related to tourism and historic preservation of unique structures. It also desired to bring local arts into general consciousness. It secured funding from foundations concerned with natural conservation and hurricane relief. I was asked to report on mural progress to sponsors using a Microsoft Office PowerPoint presentation. Brunches and lunches followed where I was asked to share my views of the future with donors and promote the museum. Work on the mural site was interrupted for newspaper and television news interviews.

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Untying A Knot: A Model For Making Community Murals

12. SecretaryWithout straightforward, logistic organization, a mural project cannot be initiated or sustained. There is a good deal of paperwork involved in grant writing, letter writing for permission to paint, keeping receipts for expenses and supplies, cataloging reference images, writing progress reports, updating stakeholders with emails, making travel arrangements between sites or business meetings, listing participants' contact information, keeping a project log, and keeping up with paperwork from home. A traveling file holder is necessary as these documents should be on hand at any time. Access to the internet is ideal, but organized paper records are sufficient as an alternative.

An exampleWhen I was invited to work in the Turks and Caicos, my task was to facilitate murals in three locations on two islands. I set aside ninety minutes of office time each morning for online communication. I put all sketches, observations, designs, and phone numbers in one notebook I kept with me at all times. During a two month stay in the country I maintained thirty-five contacts and ticketed and took nine flights and six boat transports.

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Untying A Knot: A Model For Making Community Murals

13. TranslatorMultilingual skills are optimal for an international worker. Most places you visit will not speak your first language and most cities in the world include people speaking dozens of languages. Immigration and the cosmopolitan nature of cities result in community members sometimes not being able to speak to one another. An exampleAn immigrant group was the fastest growing community on Grand Turk. The national language on the island was English, but immigrants most often spoke Creole and French. Half of mural volunteers were immigrants and half of this group did not speak English. As the mural facilitator and a native

English

speaker,

I

needed

to

hear

ideas

and

communicate

instructions with these volunteers in French, and do my best to learn basic Creole. This allowed us to collaborate on the mural and formed a basis for beginning friendships.

14. JanitorThe messes paints make are obvious. In addition to daily clean up of brushes and general work space, classroom spaces and related scenes may need to be cleaned.

An exampleI taught formal Saturday paint workshops to augment skill learning. Set-up and clean-up resembled a school classroom project. It required wiping tables before and after class, sweeping, collecting piles of paint rags, snack wrappers, and other garbage, and in one case, mopping up after a stomach-sick student.

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Untying A Knot: A Model For Making Community Murals

15. Child Care ProviderA project in a public setting attracts spectators and some participants who arrive with young children. Very young children are a part of a community and should be expected on project sites. Parents or caretakers should, but do not always, watch their

children.

Facilitators

have

to

constantly

monitor

dangerous

or

messy

supplies, and maybe monitor children. An exampleA family arrived on site to a volunteer day at a public mural project. The father explained only his five-year old son wanted to paint. I told him a parent needed to stay and guide him through participating. His mother stayed on site with him for a moment but disappeared when I turned around. Left with the five-year old boy for the rest of the afternoon, I assigned him a suitable painting task (to paint over dried drips of every color at the base of the mural) and an older student volunteer as a supervisor. Assisting the youngest participants in getting to a restroom was difficult because there were none near by.

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Untying A Knot: A Model For Making Community Murals

4

CHALL CHALLENGES LLENGES FOR THE ARTIST

Living as a temporary visitor in the tough places in the world has serious challenges. Being unprepared can result in an artist's failure to complete a project or prompt her to quit a scene altogether. Confidence, goodwill, and intelligence are necessary tools for entering a cross-cultural arts project, but they need to be supplemented with training, preparation, and local help in order to sustain someone in the challenges listed here.

Living Conditions Everyone has latent expectations that the accommodations they encounter will be similar or interpretable through their prior life experience. While basic lessons of fairness and safety should be retained during travel, other familiarities of lifestyle will probably be absent. Life eked out of difficult circumstances cannot afford what some would define as optimal arrangements. Mobile art facilitators should be prepared for coed housing,

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Untying A Knot: A Model For Making Community Murals perhaps even coed rooming with strangers. When sharing sleeping space, cooking space, work space, and bathroom facilities, boundaries have to be established clearly and early . Assuming the worst or the best from new bedfellows is counterproductive; instead, personal boundaries should be set in one's own mind and followed by a conversation with others in the group about proper behavior and duties. Reach an agreement about alternating bathroom use, assigning food purchase and preparation, cleaning, laundry and personal space, appropriate language and time spent in dimly lit evenings. Protecting self-interest often motivates a conservative beginning to boundaries but if a stay lasts several weeks, loneliness can change priorities toward reaching out. Integrity and adherence to boundaries can be maintained through contacting a trusted friend and finding honest accountability. Expressing needs and experiences within the safety of friendship can prevent the uncontrolled externalizing of things left unexpressed. A fixed project goal and corresponding action that benefits all involved parties should outshine the temptation to engage unwisely with anyone romantically or financially. Standards of hygiene and access to clean running water differ around the world. Places in drought or systems supplied from finite cisterns have limits on water usage. This can mean few, if any showers, and maybe no dish or clothes washing in fresh water. Electricity is a precious energy source in most places that prevents using clothes dryers, hair dryers, or excessive lights or computers in-home. Toilets with seats, toilets that flush, and toilet paper may be last seen at a major airport. Anyone unwilling to adjust her own habits of hygene without complaining should stay home. Cleanliness can be managed with small bottles of instant hand sanitizer, pocket tissues, all-purpose soap and shampoo, and durable clothes that do not need dry-cleaning or ironing. Fresh produce, meat, and drinking water are not guaranteed. Many cultures highly value their ability to host and will sacrifice to serve their best available meals; but when an entire city, town or village is out of water and food, everyone does without. Bottled drinking water may be the best, though an expensive option for

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Untying A Knot: A Model For Making Community Murals hydration. Functioning city plumbing often does not hold drinking water potable for anyone, and usually not for foreigners. Carrying a personal bottle of water when traveling for even a few hours is a good way to ensure one will have anything to drink. Packing vitamins and protein bars to last an entire trip can supplement (or if necessary, replace) meals and is the best way to ensure enough nutrition for days of hard work. Work locations in tough places are usually not climate controlled. Extreme temperatures, wind, and bright sun can tax a project to a halt. Indoor locations without electricity become unworkably dark when wind or rain force shutters closed, and rain leaking through a roof or a window ruins any portion of a project touching the floor. The key to this kind of problem solving is ingenuity. Rocks can be used to hold down papers on windy days, and twigs to stir paint when supplies are dropped in a sewer.

Work hours might have to be adjusted away from sunny hours or work

spaces moved to avoid afternoon rains. Friends and neighbors are experts at living in their home town. Ask, observe, and learn how to work with the environment.

Status Quo Sabotaging Change People do not like change. The appearance of an art project may threaten local artists. Public beautification may threaten local investors with an interest in keeping the area shabby. Beautification can arouse envy in a nearby neighborhood. Struggling social workers may be threatened by an arts project that succeeds where they have failed, or piggy-backs off their groundwork. The uncertain outcome of community art prompts neighbors to say they liked the place the way it was. Any of these groups may warn an artist the project will not work. However, among all these obstacles, there is a more formidable opponent to change: the invisible hand of status quo. The way a community's economy functions is tied to its social life, which is tied to its government, its religions, its schools, its collective memory, and its leisure. Making a small change at a school makes ripples in all other parts of life. The stability afforded by status quo is an asset to a community, but it 4. Challenges For The Artist

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Untying A Knot: A Model For Making Community Murals also functions as a hindrance when it blocks what some of its members would label progress. The more a spectrum of community members are invested in a public project, the more they will defend its progress to neighborhood detractors.

Poor Communication and Transportation Accessing

resources

is

especially

challenging

when

community

channels

of

communication and transportation are dysfunctional. It has happened that during a mural project, the host country's head of state was indicted for fraud and resigned. The country's constitution was suspended until further notice, and government workers went unpaid for weeks. Government grants promised to the project were out of sight. City water was unavailable for ten days. A store manager responsible for helping with obtaining paint supplies was out of touch for a week. Flights to and from the country were regularly cancelled or changed. Societies living in the aftermath of disaster, or under regular strain of poor economy, politics, or environment deal with changing access to resources every day. Alternate sources of supplies and project timing need to be a part of project plans.

An exampleThe director of The National Museum learned the purchasing manager of the hardware store was a brother to the principal of the primary school location of a mural project. To obtain needed supplies, the director arranged a deal with the purchasing manager, regarding a supply discount in exchange for purchasing new grant-funded doors for his sister's deteriorating school auditorium. The deal helped with supplies, but there is yet to be found a contractor to offer a bid on replacing the school's doors. The grant money lingers close to expiration.

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Untying A Knot: A Model For Making Community Murals

Cultural Misunderstanding Meanings can go astray in “normal” conversation between people from different cultures. A “yes” answer may mean I agree and I will arrive at your invitation and I will be in charge. Or it may mean no, but I am unwilling to say “no”. Four o'clock may mean quarter to four, or it may mean five-thirty. “I'll be there” may result in attendance, or it may turn into “I wanted to be there”. It could also have played out in someone having arrived, but not seeing enough recognizable people to make him feel welcome, deciding to just pass by. A culture's style of expressing commitment and time orientation is unique. A facilitator may not be familiar with her host culture's values and styles. Leave room for unexpected timing and participation levels. Do not lose patience with people because of misunderstandings. Look for proof positive of goodwill. An adult volunteer who never showed up may feel he was a contributor because he sent his nephew to participate, regardless of who recognized the nephew as the family turnout. Who can answer the question, “What is good art?” Expectations of contemporary art differ from person to person and place to place. Attractive color schemes, scale of works, and acceptable subject matter are entirely subjective but rarely conscious choices. The natural choice of a facilitating artist can be an unthinkable option for a host community. Disappointments and arguments can spring up from unlikely sources. An exampleOur community mural included a scene of youths around a table playing dominos— the national game. The mural was executed in all blues and greens with some white areas. The line of dominos painted on the white table top were a solid bright green. An adept volunteer and budding artist was concerned that the dominos be realistically colored white with black spots. Altering the domino color would have meant changing the table top and each of the forty-two segments contiguous to the

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Untying A Knot: A Model For Making Community Murals table. There was also no black on the mural for making small spots, which would have been invisible on the roughly textured wall meant for distance viewing. His vision of dominoes being white and black lead him to ask every day about “fixing� them on the mural. His morale lessened throughout the week as this and other suggestions seemed unheeded. Gender roles and power dynamics precede every interaction from start to finish of a project. Every community has its own definition of gender roles. A facilitating artist should understand her own culture's definitions but be ready to work under her hosts' expectations. A

woman directing men or a man washing paint rags may

violate normal customs. Every variation on task completion will find welcome in one place and not in another. Safety and respect for all involved are most important. Visitors have to decide for themselves how cooperative or how unconventional they wish to behave. Do not let gender role disagreements overshadow the opportunity to collaborate on other levels. Maintain a similar sensitivity to culture and dedication to the project when religious or class differences threaten your views. If a community supports change and wishes to bring change through the mural project, let the image do the talking. An exampleOn Grand Turk, my appearance and gender fit a familiar local role that meant any time I was alone in public, especially on a mural site, a man would introduce himself and proposition me romantically. I learned to keep my personal life private and direct conversation to the mural project or the man's own story of living in the area.

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Untying A Knot: A Model For Making Community Murals Another exampleThe director of The National Museum and two of his employees were men. The director would not allow me, as a female to assemble scaffolding, and instructed his employees to do it each day. In the director's absence, the employees, though younger than me and officially supposed to

assist

me,

touched

me

when

speaking

to

me,

questioned

my

instructions, and issued me instructions in a manner they never used with the director. These two men were immigrants and consequently viewed by locals as second-class citizens. However, their proximity to the project and to me as the facilitator afforded them the opportunity to weigh in on decisions and play central roles in a public project.

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Untying A Knot: A Model For Making Community Murals

Internal/Political Fractures and Competing Interests Every place has a story of human interaction happening before, during, and after a mural project. When a project starts, the location may be part of a controversy. The image of a mural may fan the flames of an existing conflict, or stakeholders may use the project to vie for their interests.

An exampleOn the larger and economically competitive island of Provo, the Minister of Culture arranged for me to facilitate a mural at a youth center. I met with youth center staff and learned a local artist had agreed to make the 3-D part of the mural. I met with the 3-D artist and learned a local muralist had been promised the painting job at this location but had long since delayed in making plans. Youth center staff was happy to have me execute a mural and work with the 3-D artist as soon as possible. The 3-D artists was personal friends with the jilted muralist and was skeptical of my involvement. She also informed me the youth center and the mural were funded by the AIDS foundation and I should meet with those trustees before proceeding. I met with as many trustees, artists, and youth center staff as I could find. The volunteer nature of my work and the promised involvement of local students softened the antagonism toward my role in the project. I pitched an idea to the trustees and the 3-D artist, received their feedback, met the jilted artists and established friendly contact, and proceeded with the mural.

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Untying A Knot: A Model For Making Community Murals

Artistic Integrity Vs. Maximum Participation Stakeholders want to see an attractive end product come from a mural project. The surest way to make a nice painting is to assign it to professional painters. Stakeholders also want to see satisfied participants. The surest way to encourage community volunteers is to maximally invest them and build their ownership of the project. This creates a conflict because volunteers, who also want to see a successful image result form their efforts, often do not have the skills, nor the time to develop the skills to produce a professional quality mural. An exampleAt the primary school, school administration agreed to let me paint a mural while running a mural workshop for students. They were unsure of which students to lend, unsure which wall to utilize, and unsure of my track record. How could I engage the eleven-year-olds assigned to the workshop, who had no painting experience, and how would the school end up with an image students and faculty could be proud of, one that would strengthen their relationship with the museum? The solution I tried was to train the students in the basics of mural making, and guide them through participating in each of those steps. Any portion of a step they were unable to complete during workshop hours I completed on my own. At the end, this process looked like the students painting in their images with a base coat of custom colors. I spent a week putting finishing touches over the base coats and bringing forth a quality image. Students witnessed every step of the process, and could see their own contribution mingling with the professional touch. This first mural experience was designed to bolster students' confidence and assess painting aptitude. The hope is enough interest was generated to inspire students to conduct further projects. Their level of skill and engagement can increase with each project. 4. Challenges For The Artist

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Untying A Knot: A Model For Making Community Murals

Fatigue Navigating these challenges and fussing over an artistic image are exhausting. The best defense against burning out is taking care of yourself physically and relationally. Prioritize enough hours of sleep, enough drinking water, and healthy food. It is critical that you make regular contact with a friend with whom you can share ideas and gain advice. Be sure to choose someone with the necessary level of distance from and perspective on the mural project; there is often not an appropriate person on site to whom a facilitating artist can complain of cultural and artistic challenges. Keeping your thoughts and emotions to yourself long-term will compromise your abilities for patience and innovation.

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Untying A Knot: A Model For Making Community Murals

CONCLUSION A mural is a great undertaking. The process and end result of a mural can serve and encourage a community. Short-term community art projects are a feasible way for artists to share their expertise and care for their neighbors. Transformation is the byproduct of positive changes created through relationships. Making a mural brings opportunity for transforming relationships. The process of making a mural is three steps- preparation, production, and followup. Preparation is the bulk of the work and sets the foundation for why a project is begun. Initially, a facilitating artist does most of the preparation and follow up herself. Community volunteers participate in production. As volunteer groups gain experience they assume increasing responsibilities along side, and eventually replace a visiting artist. Facilitating a community arts project is as intricate an exercise as untying a confusing knot. Loops and portions of a cord that represent community components and artistic stages interface in varying and repeating combinations. People of different ages, occupations, backgrounds, and worldviews can come together in new patterns and tie new knots of shared experience in beautifying their community with a painting.

Conclusion

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Untying A Knot: A Model For Making Community Murals

An artist has to be flexible to work within a dozen roles, each with a set of challenges in order to foment the coming together of good design, community members, and turning paint into a painting. Listening, leading, and learning from your host community is the real project behind painting a mural. The benefit of an art project is you are left with a collaboratively realized artifact of the community’s growth.

Conclusion

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Untying A Knot: A Model For Making Community Murals

OTHER SOURCES Authorities On Murals Mural Manual: How to Paint Murals for the Classroom, Community Center, and Street Corner By Mark Rogovin, Marie Burton, & Holly Highfill Beacon Press: Boston 1975 This manual provides hundreds of details on the mural making process, from how to draw, to getting insurance, to copywriting an image. Toward A People’s Art: The Contemporary Mural Movement By Eva Cockcroft, John Weber, & Jim Cockcroft E.P. Dutton & Co., Inc.: New York 1977 This volume includes chapters on mural history, philosophy, and practice. Philadelphia Murals and the Stories They Tell By Jane Golden, Robin Rice, & Monica Yant Kinney Temple University Press: Philadelphia 2002 This album contains beautiful color prints and chronicles the development of an anti-graffiti project into one of the world’s premier public art programs.

Other Sources

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Untying A Knot: A Model For Making Community Murals

Other Text References Children Make Murals and Sculpture; Experiences in Community Art Projects By Lilli Ann Killen Rosenberg Murals: Creating an Environment By Mary Korstad Mueller Painting Murals Step By Step By Charles Grund A History of Mexican Mural Painting By Antonio Rodriguez Signs From the Heart: California Chicano Murals Ed. By Eva Sperling Cockcroft & Holly Barnet-Sanchez Mexican Murals In Times of Crisis By Bruce Campbell Chicago’s Murals By Mary Lackritz Gray On the Wall: Four Decades of Community Murals in New York City By Janet Braun-Reinitz Walls of Heritage Walls of Pride: African American Murals By James Prigoff & Robin J. Dunitz Murals: The Great Walls of Joliet By Jeff Huebner Street Murals: The Most Exciting Art of the Cities of America, Britain, and Western Europe Pub. By Alfred A. Knopf New American Street Art: Beyond Graffiti By Bob Edelson

Other Sources

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Untying A Knot: A Model For Making Community Murals

Online References http://communityarts.blogspot.com/ http://www.communityarts.net/ http://www.community-arts.net/

Other Sources

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How to Make a Community Mural  

This manual was written by Leah Samuelson as part of her graduate thesis in the Arts in Transformation concentration in the M.A. in Urban St...

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