Our final project was the most challenging yet the most fun: designing a hypothetical public art project. The objective was to combine everything we learned from mural history, Mural Arts Program's practices, and our experiences at Lea Elementary. We were asked to choose a social issue we cared about and address it through public art, a relevant site in Philadelphia, a design, a community we aimed to work with, and an intended community engagement process. Each student focused on a different topic, ranging from Syrian refugee crisis and green energy, to drug addiction and gender-based violence on college campuses. We went through multiple stages of researching, designing, critiquing, and revising, while applying the Mural Arts Program's socially- and community-oriented model to the issues we felt most passionate about and engaging ourselves with the city of Philadelphia.
For me, the end of this class was definitely not the end of this conversation about art and social change. A lot of questions were raised. For example, how do we balance the relationship between the represented and the representing in murals? How do we ensure the most effective and democratic community meetings so that every resident’s voice is heard and respected? How do we tell the story of the community engagement process and its significance behind a mural when viewers often just pass by and see the final product? Socially-engaged art is still a relatively new field, and there is certainly much more to explore. The class “Big Pictures: Mural Arts” is only a beginning.
Please visit the Fall 2015 class’s Tumblr blog>