Thursday, December 27, 2012

New mural projects in Texas and Nebraska in 2013

The Mid-America Mural Project will be going to Texas (spring) and Nebraska (late summer) in 2013! Any community within those states is eligible to apply. In addition, each project will hire a mural apprentice. Links to the RFP's and apprentice applications are below.

Texas Mural Project RFP
http://www.arts.texas.gov/jobs-opportunities/rfp-texas-community-mural-project/

Texas Mural Apprentice Application
http://www.arts.texas.gov/jobs-opportunities/temporary-position-mural-apprentice/

Nebraska Mural Project RFP and Apprentice Application
http://www.nebraskaartscouncil.org/public_art/nebraska_mural_project.html

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Hurricane Sandy Poster

Here's a new poster I designed for the Sandy Storyline Project,  a participatory documentary about Hurricane Sandy and efforts to recover and rebuild.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Studio Open House

Saturday, December 22nd
noon - 6 
411 East 9th Street
Peek into the world of an itinerant muralist and come see new stencil prints from the Occupy Movement and Kansas Un-Representaives series. Many items will be for sale including mural postcard sets, Kansas Murals books, stencil prints and more. Visitors can also bring an item (think car, clothing, suitcase, furniture) to have stenciled for just $10. Special this year will be the work of Ashley Jane Laird, who's recent prints and drawings take on the legislature's attempts to role back the rights of women.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Artwrit article on Community Art in Mid-America

Here's a link to Kyle McKenzie's (assistant on the mural The Butterfly Effect) latest article for Artwrit on Huffington Post. It's titled Community Art in Mid-America and includes portions of an interview Kyle did with me in September.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/artwrit/community-art-in-midameri_b_2145030.html

Sunday, November 4, 2012

R.I.P. for Quinton's murals "Sunflower Cycle" and "Ignorance, Pride and Fear"

Some murals don't last forever, especially when they're done for a retail business.

Back in 1992-93, I painted my first murals in Lawrence at Quinton's bar and deli on Massachusetts St. I was in grad school at the time, but my commitment to it was fading. I was having a hard time finding purpose solely in studio work - I wanted to make art for an audience outside of academia and art galleries. Then one day another painting grad student, Connie Erlich, mentioned to me that this new bar in town was looking for someone to paint a mural outside in their beer garden. I went to visit the bar. After some haggling, we agreed. I would get to use my own design. The owners would pay for paint and for lunch while I worked. 

"Sunflower Cycle" 1992
Sunflower Cycle (which came before the bike shop down the street), was an idea I had while working on a farm in upstate New York during the summer of 1990. Over the course of that summer, as I worked planting garlic and harvesting broccoli, I saw giant sunflowers grow, bud, blossom, and then slowly collapse under the weight of their mammoth seed heads. They marked time, were beautiful and seemed to emerge in the fields like lighthouses among the waves of vegetables. I made drawings of them and imagined painting a mural of their cycle on an old semi-trailer parked in one of the fields. I never got around to it (I was asked to paint giant garlic on the semi instead), so when the Quinton's opportunity came along, in my new home in the 'Sunflower State,' I had the design pretty much ready to go.
"The Garlic Express" painted in 1990 at Rose Valley Farm in Rose, NY
There were no classes on mural painting at KU, no internet to find a tutorial, and no muralists in the area that I knew of,  so figuring out how paint the 17' x 35' foot wall was a serious challenge. Fortunately, there was one good book at the public library. It was aptly titled "The Mural Manual" written by Mark Rogovin. A great primer on organizing and painting community murals, it gave the most practical step by step advice and I still use it today. With the Mural Manual as our guide and help from my friends Irene and Angus, we went at it.


Mural helpers Angus and Irene

At the time, there were few murals in town. Sunflower Cycle, which could be seen all the way from 6th Street, really stood out and people were excited. So much so that the owners of Quinton's wanted more. This time they wanted a mural for the inside of the bar and this time they were going to pay -$800. I was beside myself. I'd never been paid close to that much for an artwork. When I asked what they were thinking of as a subject, they said  "We love what you did out back, so do whatever you want." Really.

Where Sunflower Cycle was a design I'd been carrying with me since my time on the farm, the mural inside was going to be a new idea taken from my thoughts about grad school, Lawrence, and my new interests in the great Mexican muralists Orozco, Rivera, and Siquerios. Ignorance, Pride and Fear was a pretty straight forward idea - 'We're all trapped in psychological boxes of our own making that feed off of ignorance, pride and fear' - but it gave me the chance to paint big figures in a style akin to Orozco, I hoped.

Irene and Angus helped again, this time posing for two of the three figures by curling up underneath the kitchen counter in my apartment. To help paint, I asked my friend Mike Han, who was an undergrad in the painting program at KU. We transferred the design to the wall using an overhead projector and then painted in the mornings before the lunch rush. The figures were symbolic types - a student, a businessman, and a farmer each trying to break out of their boxes. I was concerned that the owners might balk at such a dark theme, but to their credit they stuck with it. That was twenty years ago.

"Ignorance, Pride and Fear" 1993
A few weeks ago, Ignorance, Pride and Fear was painted over to make room for beer advertising, while Sunflower Cycle has been gone for a couple years now, spurred by the city's new smoking ordinance which forced bars to build elaborate outdoor decks. First Quinton's built a two story deck that obscured a large part of the mural, later it was replaced entirely with a painted rendition of the  Boulevard Brewery in Kansas City.

Today, a much newer, and in my mind more significant, mural is in danger.  The Pollinators mural on New Hampshire Street, which serves as a backdrop the Lawrence Farmer's Market, is threatened by a proposed new upscale development.

"Pollinators" 2007
This mural is particularly important to Lawrence and the region.  In addition to it being a unique celebration of and monument to great African-American artists from Kansas, Pollinators has risen to become an identifying feature of our local food movement and a beloved symbol of the city. It is also an important outreach of the Spencer Museum of Art, which commissioned and owns the mural.  I believe that losing Pollinators would be a tragedy for the community and those working to celebrate and remember our shared cultural heritage.

"Sunflower Cycle" wall 2012
"ignorance, Pride and Fear" wall 2012
Losing the two murals at Quinton's, and the threat of losing the Pollinators, means that Lawrence loses a few more places where art can occupy civic space amongst the wealthy interests of developers and the sloganeering of advertisers. Whether they are murals I have worked on, murals by other Lawrence artists, public sculpture, graffiti, or improvised art interventions, we need to take care to protect our downtown from this kind of cultural erosion. Without public spaces for art, we lose part of our particular, personal, idiosyncratic Lawrence character and style.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

"Reject Brownback" posters available

Hot off the presses, these very sharp 11" x 17" posters are available for just $2 a piece. You can find them at the Lawrence Percolator or directly from me - just email me how many you'd like.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

"Seeds" mural restoration begins

Today we began restoring "Seeds," a mural I completed in 1996. Feel free to come paint a few strokes, beginning this Saturday, on days when the temperature is over 55 degrees. Below, a glimpse of how the fresh new color looks...

Before
After

And here are a couple photos taken in 1996 during the painting process.


Friday, October 5, 2012

Arkadelphia Mural Dedication

Join us for a ....
Celebration of the new 
Arkadelphia Community Mural
Sunday, October 7th
2:00 - 4:00 pm

705 Main Street
Arkadelphia, Arkansas

more information at 


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Brownback Print CENSORED!

*UPDATE* The Blue Planet informed me that they did not agree to censoring this piece and do not condone or support its being taken down. The piece was taken down by Greg Ready of Gizmo Pictures as you can read below.


C E N S O R E D !


This print was taken down by the owners of Gizmo Pictures today. If you care about free speech especially when it involves criticism of those in power, please call and or visit Gizmo Pictures (upstairs above the Blue Planet) and let them know how you feel. Below is the text of the email I received from, Gizmo co-owner, Greg Ready informing me that the piece was to be censored.

"Dave,
This is Greg Ready. I'm not sure if we have met or not, but I am part owner of Gizmo Pictures and the Thacher building where your artwork is being displayed in the Blue Planet Cafe. We have chosen to take down the picture of Sam Brownback burning out of respect to his daughter Liz, who works for us. This decision has nothing to do with politics or our belief in your freedom of speech through art. Liz is a valued employee and friend to us and I (we) felt strongly against subjecting her to having to look at a picture of her father burning at her place of employment. It should also be noted that this decision was made by me, with the backing of my business partner Jeff, and not at the request of Liz.

I hope you will understand. If you wish to discuss this further, feel free to call either phone number listed below, e-mail or drop by my office at Gizmo (upstairs from the Blue Planet). 
Thanks."

Contact the owners here:

Jeff Carson and Greg Ready, owners of Gizmo Productions
785-267-7878  
greg@gizmopictures.com
jeff@gizmopictures.com

Sunday, September 30, 2012

New show at the Blue Planet in Topeka

I've got a new show of stencil prints at the Blue Planet, 110 SE 8th, in Topeka. It'll be up for the whole month of October. The work comes from two different series I've been working on over the last couple of years. One is a series of portraits of Kansas politicians gone awry, including...

Secretario De Xenofobia
Inspired by the new Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach who is best known as the architect of anti-immigration laws in Arizona. Back here in Kansas, he’s been fanning the flames of immigrant paranoia in legislation that would require proof of citizenship if someone looked “suspicious.”

 The Feral Senator 
Another Kansas original, state senator Virgil Peck who, during a March 14, 2011 senate hearing, said (when referring to a state program to manage feral hogs) that "If shooting these immigrating feral hogs works, maybe we have found a [solution] to our illegal immigration problem." 

 Reject Brownback
After enduring one horror after another, from a draconian tax-cut plan that will cripple the state to the elimination of the Kansas Arts Commission,  I came to the conclusion that our governor was powerless to stop the destruction he is wreaking. Like some giant movie monster, he flails around pleading for someone (us) to stop him from doing more damage.

The second series in this show comes from work I've done in support of the Occupy Movement. These prints were used in rallys, protests, and as illustrations related to Occupy. I'm proud to have been a contributor to the Occuprint  group which has been the main venue for getting my posters out to the public. 
My poster as an illustration for a Barbara Kingsolver 
essay in the Occupied Wall Street Journal.
The most widely circulated of these was "Tip of the Iceberg." This was my response to the dismissal by many of Occupy as just a New York thing. It’s based on both a metaphor, that Zuccotti Park is an iceberg, and on a veiled analogy to the Titanic disaster. What’s not spelled out in the image, but helped drive my process, is the story of the Titanic and the hubris that led to its sinking. In early versions, I had a little ship about to hit the Zuccotti iceberg, and even tried out text like “Beware Captains of the 1%”. In the end I felt like I was complicating my main idea – that the movement is much larger than the encampments -  so I took out the Titanic references.
 


 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Kansas arts funding in jeopardy - AGAIN

Artists, Educators, Arts Advocates, and Arts Administrators, 

The future of public support for the arts in Kansas is in jeopardy. Your action is needed now.

In order for Kansas to receive funding in FY14 (July 1, 2013-June 30, 2014) from the National Endowment for the Arts and Mid-America Arts Alliance, the Dept. of Commerce must submit an partnership application to the NEA by October 1st. If they do not, Kansas will not be eligible for this funding until FY15 at the earliest. We must demand that Secretary of Commerce, Pat George, submit this application by October 1st.

There is a second problem. Although the legislature appropriated $700,000, there has been no plan given or public accounting for how these funds have been or will be used. We must demand an accounting for these funds and insure that a large portion is going to non-profit arts programs around the state. If these newly appropriated funds are not used for arts programs, the governor and others may cite this inaction as cause to move the funds to another agency and kill the possibility of renewing public support for the arts in the foreseeable future.

Please contact Secretary of Commerce, Pat George, immediately and urge him to:

1) Submit the partnership application to the NEA by October 1st.

2) Account for the $700,000 appropriated by the legislature for the Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission in the current fiscal year. Demand that it be used for non-profit arts programs.

Secretary of Commerce Pat George

email -
phone - (785) 296-3481
 
Kansas Department of Commerce
1000 S.W. Jackson St.
Suite 100
Topeka, KS 66612

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Occupy poster featured in Art in America

The June/July issue of Art in America includes a discussion about the Occupy movement and features my poster "Tip of the Iceberg." Check it out here -
http://www.scribd.com/doc/103097469/Art-In-America-Debating-Occupy

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Mid-America Mural Project - Arkansas

After a four-day trip to visit with applicant communities in Russellville, Conway, Arkadelphia, Hot Springs, and Fort Smith, the Mid-America Arts Alliance has selected the site for the Arkansas Mural Project.

Congratulations to Arkadelphia, Arkansas!

http://www2.cityofarkadelphia.com:8080/CityOfArkadelphia/departments-1/water-utilities/Tank.jpg

Beginning in early August, this small town situated at the foothills of the Ouachita Mountains in south central Arkansas will be host to the fourth chapter of the Mid-America Mural Project. Follow the progress of Arkadelphia's mural, and read about the previous projects in Tonkawa, Oklahoma; Newton, Kansas; and Joplin, Missouri on the Mid-America Mural Project blog.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

An Artists in Schools program for Lawrence


*Update* A slightly different version of this  essay was published in the Lawrence Journal-World. You can read it here http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2012/jul/06/program-allows-artists-share-talents-schools/


Lawrence, ‘City of the Arts.’ It’s interesting how this slogan has stuck around long after the Convention and Visitors Bureau changed it to the curiously similar rearrangement, Art of a City. The reason, I think, is because we want it to be true. We want to be a city of the arts, and so we measure our efforts against that title. Easier said than done. In a state that completely eliminated its arts funding last year, being a ‘city of the arts’ in Kansas is like being a prime skiing destination. 
One of the late 1990's banners that proclaimed Lawrence as 'City of the Arts.'

But, in spite of the ‘austerity measures’ coming from Topeka, there’s a buzz in our arts community these days. With the success of Final Fridays, a new building for Theater Lawrence under construction, and the integration of art studios and gallery space into the new Poehler development, we are getting closer to living up to the old slogan. This is good news for Lawrence and Lawrence artists, although if we want to maintain the current momentum, we are going to have to develop a more sustainable environment for artists to work in. That means jobs.

But what kind of jobs, where is the need?  Where in our economy can artists be of value that hasn’t already been filled? New opportunities become clear when we refocus our view of what it is that artists do. The problem is that we tend to overlook the potential of our arts community because we see art mainly as an end in itself, existing within the forms we are accustomed to at the gallery, theater, and concert hall, and not as wide spectrum of transformative processes that illuminate and explore the world we share.

Artists encourage curiosity and experimentation, forge new connections between disciplines, heighten our awareness of the overlooked, challenge our assumptions and received knowledge, and reimagine ways of using raw materials. As important as these qualities are in the world of art, they are also fundamental building blocks of creative problem solving, ingenuity, and critical thinking.

If only there was a way to tap into these artist’s insights and methods and share them with a broader audience, especially an audience of imaginative young people. There is, and that’s where new work for artists can be found. For decades across the U.S., communities have been putting artists to work through what are commonly known as Artists in Schools programs.

These programs vary in their reach and focus, but most share a basic structure. Based within a non-profit organization, state or city arts commission, AIS programs serve as connectors or agents between professional artists and schools. After going through a rigorous application process, artists develop hands-on, interactive workshops that complement and enhance established curricula in science, math, history and other subjects. Teachers then choose the artists/programs that best fit with their plans. 

A quick overview of two AIS programs shows their far-reaching impact. In Kansas City, Young Audiences maintains a roster of nearly eighty artists that offer over one hundred fifty different workshops, while the Fayettville/Cumberland County AIS program in North Carolina has a roster of seventy-five artists that offer more than one hundred programs. Check out their websites to see the great variety of  interdisciplinary workshops they offer.

AIS programs work, I know from first hand experience. In 1975, while I was a fourth grader at Miller School in Evanston, Illinois, an artist named Ruth Felton came to visit as part of an AIS program. She was a muralist who led my class in the creation of a mural (see photo below) about healthy food choices for our cafeteria. It made an impression. 
Here I am (middle right - brush in mouth) with my classmates. From the book "Toward a People's Art."
Many years later I find myself on the other side of the equation working as a teaching artist in AIS programs across the country from Tempe, Arizona to Greenville, Mississippi. And like me, many other Lawrence artists have worked with AIS programs elsewhere. I think it’s time that we benefit from their work here at home.

An Artists in Schools program for Lawrence makes sense, if for no other reason because we have one of the highest concentrations of working artists in the country. Let’s draw on the talents of Lawrence’s exceptional artists and inspire our young people to achieve greater heights. A Lawrence Artist in Schools program would help keep talented young artists in town, boost our local economy by creating jobs, and most of all fuel the creative young minds that will soon become the heart and soul of our community – a place we all hope to embrace as a true city of the arts.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

"Seeds" Mural Restoration

*Update*  The Lawrence Percolator is taking donations for the Seeds restoration. Make checks payable to LCAVA / Percolator with "Seeds Restoration" in the memo line.
Send to:
Eric Farnsworth, Percolator Treasurer
1022 New Jersey
Lawrence, KS  66044

This is turning out to be the summer of mural restorations. First was the recreation of Guardians of the Arts downtown, next I traveled to touch up the 2002 mural Ad Astra in Hutchinson, and now, due to wall repair at Cork and Barrel, the 1996 mural Seeds is in need of a full repainting.

Seeds was conceived in the mid-1990's when the Community Mercantile was located at 9th & Mississippi. It was a community-based project that involved participation of over fifty neighbors, employees, and shoppers in both the research and painting of the mural.

At the time, it was the most ambitious project, in both scale and concept, I had ever worked on. Based on two interconnected themes, cultivating healthy food and the four natural elements of air, earth, water, and fire, the idea was to create a rhythmic visual poem that celebrated the spirit of Lawrence's emerging local food movement.

The mural was well received and over time became a neighborhood icon of sorts. Then in 2001 the Community Mercantile moved out and Cork and Barrel moved in. Some of you may remember what happened next. Cork and Barrel decided to remove the mural, but before they could finish the task dozens of local artists and neighbors rallied in protest and saved it. Here's a link to the front page Journal-World article that told the story - Beloved merc mural saved from oblivion

Now, eleven years later, Seeds needs another kind of intervention. Repairs on the wall have just been completed leaving the mural with a disfiguring zig-zag pattern of concrete patching.


The good news is that both the owner of the building and the owner of Cork and Barrel want the mural to be restored. Funding the restoration will be a community effort. I estimate that $3,000 will cover all of the expenses (including a new coat of Nova Color paint for the entire mural)  for what I hope to be a two-week project. If we can raise the funds soon, I'll be able to do the work in July, otherwise it will have to wait until next spring when I'm back in town from working in Arkansas. As soon as we have the funding, I'll be inviting any and all to come help paint and restore Seeds to its full beauty.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Give Take Give

I am excited to announce that I've just started a new project supported by the Rocket Grant Program called Give Take Give.


It's all about this......


Find out more at  - 
http://givetakegive.blogspot.com

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Recreating "Guardians of the Arts"

Nineteen years ago I was twenty-six and working as the produce manager for the Community Mercantile at 9th & Mississippi. At the time, I was trying to find my way as an artist after having left graduate school in frustration, knowing that I didn't want to pursue academia but unsure how an artist could survive without it. Looking back, I was at a crossroads - in one direction there was a chance at a career in the natural foods industry (at six dollars an hour), in the other direction there wasn't much at all except a glimmer of an idea that included me on a scaffold painting murals...somewhere.  I chose (or did it choose me?) the less lucrative, surely irresponsible path. Thank goodness.

The year before I'd made two murals at new bar called Quinton's and was anxious to do more. But unlike the pretty much solo efforts that those were, I wanted to delve into the kind of community-based projects I'd been reading about in the book "Toward a People's Art." The opportunity came when Lawrence's second annual Harvest of Arts festival was announced. As a part of the festival, I proposed doing a 'Community Mural' in one of the downtown breezeways on Massachusetts Street. It was a cinch, I thought.  Supplies would be donated and labor would be volunteered. All we had to do was get the design approved by the Arts Commission, Historic Resources Commission, and City Commission...

I didn't realize it at the time, but I was about to get schooled in what it meant to work in public, including all the media scrutiny and bureaucratic red tape that comes with it. The day after the project was listed on the City Commission agenda, this was the lead editorial in the Lawrence Journal-World

Fortunately, the LJ-W didn't have the authority to make or break the project and others in town made that point as in this letter to the editor a few days later -

Needless to say we eventually got the approval. The mural team was an interesting mix of friends, co-workers,  and complete strangers who had responded to the flier I had put up around town asking for volunteers. Our final design was an unlikely gathering of figures drawn from different cultural traditions that were embellished to represent the Arts. It was a bit of a mishmash but got the point across that these were symbolic representations of Music, Performing Arts, and the Plastic Arts (making stuff with your hands). In mid-September, we set up the scaffold and squared-up the design.  On our first day of painting, I shook and mixed concoctions of Valspar latex paint. like a hot-shot bartender, while others slowly brought the Guardians to life, inch by inch and color by color.
 
  

That was nineteen years ago. Since then, kids have grown up with the Guardians, a generation of drunks have stumbled by it (and into it), and countless photos have been taken of people in front of it. I've seen it so many times that it has become invisible in a way, no longer something I did just something I know, a landmark and a point of reference in time and of a place. Then in 2011,  the wall of what is now the Signs of Life building began to shed the concrete shell that the mural was painted on.

Clay, the owner of Signs of Life, emailed me that major repairs were needed and that as part of them the mural would be completely covered by a coating of opaque white sealer. I wasn't sure what to do. Should I just let the mural go since it had had a good run, or should I see if there was support for recreating it - from scratch?  Using the flier of 2011, a blog post, I asked if people wanted the mural to be repainted. They did, big time. And not only that, the Chamber of Commerce, yeah that's right the Chamber of Commerce, organized a fundraising campaign to pay for the paint and other supplies. Diamond Everly Roofing donated the scaffolding, and I gave my time.

The new version of the mural has the same composition and spirit as the original with a few updates. First, the paint is the brilliant and durable, muralist approved, Nova Color. Second, is an update to the Music totem in the center of the mural. No longer are the sound daemons anonymous and drum headed. Now they're all inspired by local musicians who at one time or another have played on the street. See if you can figure out who is who. And the third update was to let the tree branches framing the Guardians grow out of the confines of the mural rectangle to meet their counterparts above.

Recreating the Guardians was a weird trip down memory lane. Between the first and second paintings, I had done nearly seventy other murals, so returning to the the Guardians was like remaking your first cake after having been a professional baker for twenty years. It was a nostalgic and ultimately gratifying experience if for no other reason than the support for its recreation meant that the mural still held meaning for people after all these years. This is important to consider as other public artworks* in Lawrence age and need restoration and upkeep.
*The Mural "Seeds" on the old co-op at 9th & Mississippi will need work very soon.

Thanks to all the original designers and painters from 1993.

And thanks to the great group of new painters and donors who came together to make the recreation possible, including John Ross, KT Walsh, Willie Frick, Diamond Everly Roofing and Ashley Laird. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Ashley Laird's "Turning Back the C(l)ock"

"Arm Your Ovaries" graphite on paper

As Kansas devolves into something of a fundamentalist capitalocracy, artists are playing catch-up trying to communicate and critique its horror and absurdity. Ashley Jane Laird's new show at the Bourgeois Pig in Lawrence takes on the Legislature's attempts to roll back the rights of women, just shy of their right to vote it appears. 




Laird says in her artist statement -  
What year is it? Judging from the work of the Kansas Legislature, in regards to the rights of women, it could be 1960. This body of work was motivated (in part) by the ridiculous and absurd but deathly serious attempts of our elected officials to turn back the clock.

"Sunflower State" graphite on paper

The exhibition is up from now through June 25th at the Bourgeois Pig,  6 East 9th St., Lawrence, Kansas.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

"Breaking Out" at Haskell Indian Nations University

A couple weeks ago I got an email from a student at Haskell Indian Nations University. The student, Zeke Reedy, asked if I might come by and help with a small mural he and some classmates wanted to do for their 'Theories of Decolinzation and Indiginization' class taught by Julia Goodfox.  Zeke explained the project - "The mural would tie in with what we have learned in class. My group came up with the idea of a prison scene with people from various cultures breaking down the bars. This would symbolize how peoples from all over the world have experienced colonization and the breaking down of the bars would be the decolonizing aspect of the class."

Their assignment was due in little more than a week, so without skipping a beat, I met the next day with Zeke and the rest of his group, Harlen Harvey, Feather Wolfin, Tony Mendez, James (corn) Cornshucker and Hill Danni, in the dimly lit hallway of Parker Hall where the mural would be painted. We talked about design issues like composition, content, intent, audience, context, and then practical concerns like the wall surface, transfer of the image, paint, and sealer. That was day one.

Over the following week, we met at my studio to look at some of my past mural studies and then back at Parker Hall to go through the process of how to transfer their design to the wall using the squaring-up method. Such great students! It was incredible to see how quickly and skillfully they were able to transform their idea into a captivating mural design that expressed their message with such clarity.


Translating an idea from words on a page to paint on a wall can be liberating. All at once you have many new tools and a whole new language to communicate with. Where an essay uses only words, the mural can employ scale, color, a physical space, light, and line in addition to words to help shape the story.
For the audience, the experience of 'reading' a mural that is intended to communicate a specific message can be challenging without the structure of paragraphs, sentences, and parts of speech.  But, losing those structures may open viewers to new ways of seeing and comprehending that reach beyond the literal, and deeper into areas of metaphor and symbol.



My limited role in this project reaffirmed my belief that this work is accessible to just about anyone who has the will to do it. Here a group of students who had never done any kind of mural before (at a university that has a very limited art department), knocked it out of the park. In terms of its design and sophisticated use of visual metaphor, their mural is remarkable for a first effort.

The mural titled "Breaking Out" speaks for itself and will hopefully speak to generations of Haskell students and faculty who pass through Parker Hall in years to come. It was my great good fortune to get to work with these young muralists. My hope is that "Breaking Out" is just the beginning of a new series of murals at Haskell, and by Haskell students in other parts of Lawrence. If this one is any indication, we're in store for some serious and beautiful new public artworks.