Thursday, June 10, 2010

Salina, Kansas

After a two-day break to do laundry, pay bills, and wave at a few friends, I'm on to the next mural project - this one in Salina, Kansas. Salina is a captivating town known nationally for its Art Center, annual Smokey Hill River Festival (which the mural project is an offshoot of), and proximity to the Land Institute. It's a comfortable place and a town that reminds me of Lawrence, especially as I peer out of the window of the loft apartment I'm staying in on Santa Fe Street.

The Salina project is being organized by the Salina Arts and Humanities Commission. It's a smaller scale endeavor than the MAAA Tonkawa / Newton project. And although I'll be here only about two weeks, working with my assistant Debbie Wagner and community volunteers who need a breather from the River Festival, I'm really excited about the design and location of the mural.

The research and design process for Salina had to take place this past winter since I knew I was going to be in Tonkawa leading up to my residency here. During the winter, I visited three times where I met with local arts leaders, gave a presentation at the Salina Arts Center, and collected research materials. Folks at Arts and Humanities and I agreed to focus the mural design on an evocation of Salina's unique cultural scene - how this small mid-western town has developed such a rich arts environment.

The final design (below) I'm calling "Waiting in the Wings." The design and the title are metaphors for the education and development of individual artists, and Salina's conscious process of building and shaping the cultural community over many years into what it is today.

Using a theater metaphor was particularly appropriate here since the mural will be painted on the wall behind the outdoor stage at Campbell Plaza on Santa Fe Street.

Here is how I described the design when it was presented earlier this year:

Created for the wall behind the outdoor stage at Campbell Plaza, this design was developed around the ideas of mentorship and creative exploration. The composition is divided into a brightly lit and colorful 'center stage' and shadowed more monochromatic areas 'off stage - waiting in the wings.' Framing the mural on the left and right ( black rectangles now) will be representations of theater curtains. The young boy on the right and girl on the left seated in chairs are adapted from the relief above the the entryway to Lincoln School.

They are mentored/inspired/ guided by teachers who pass along tools (to be added in the final mural) to help them along as they develop their art. Accompanying these figures 'waiting in the wings' are other figures walking along high wires of artistic exploration. At the edge of the light and shadowed areas of the design, there appear new much larger representations the boy and girl (suggested specifically by Sawan Patidar) as they cross over onto the lit 'stage' with tools of self expression. (As you recall, most of these figures are based on Salina folk who posed for the mural). The center 'stage' section of the mural is based on a detail of a tile relief on the United Building designed by Charles Shaver.

Meant to convey a sense of dynamic beauty and possibility, the large shapes of the tilework are divided by emanating rings of light that originate from the act of artistic creation within the boy and girl. Behind and above the tilework are references to the city waterworks and one Salina's majestic grain elevators.

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