Friday, April 26, 2013

Songdo mural design

The Songdo project was initiated over a year ago when art teacher Vanessa Vanek (who once taught at Topeka High School) contacted me out of the blue. We'd met years ago at a spring break art camp at the Lawrence Arts Center and then later when her Topeka High students helped on the 2005 Aaron Douglas recreation in Tennessee Town. Now after a stint in Thailand she was teaching in South Korea at a new school, Chadwick International, that she felt could really benefit from an art project that took students out of the classroom and into the community.

We worked out the logistics and settled on a ten day project in April and on a prized location in Songdo's new Central Park (modeled believe it or not on New York's very own). In February we began meeting with Vanessa's students over Skype and doing our own research in Lawrence.

Two major themes emerged: Chadwick International's five core values (respect, compassion, fairness, responsibility and honesty) and Songdo's aspiration to be a leader in the development of a model sustainable environmentally conscious city. 

Students in Songdo acted out the core values for photos and made drawings showcasing humans' interdependence with nature. Back in Lawrence, we had to complete a rough draft of the design to present to the school and IFEZ (Incheon Free Economic Zone) leadership for approval a week before we arrived. Of special concern was that we not include guns or other violent imagery.

The mural design, inspired by the artwork of Chadwick students, is divided into three sections. At the center is a great red crested crane (Korean symbol for longevity) aloft over the Central Park carrying the City (made up of Songdo's most prominent architecture) upon its wings. On the right and left are panels, based on the hand gestures made by Chadwick students, representing respect and compassion.

Both the school and IFEZ gave the design a unanimous thumbs up, which meant we were on our way to Korea... After spending a day exploring Central Park here in Songdo, the mural team decided to add to the design on the right and left side.

A free book kiosk near the I-Tower
This meant going up the stairs on the right. To create balance,  we mimicked the stair pattern (even thought there were no stairs) on the left. These spaces will include a traditional Korean lattice design, with the title "Songdo:A City on the Rise" and a pattern made up of cherry blossoms which our trip was perfectly planned to enjoy.

Ashley squaring up the design

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