Community sponsored mural for county child abuse center, 2003
During my 2 year tenure as the Columbia Arts Guild president in St. Helens, Oregon, I organized many community art opportunities and projects. This is one of those projects. Local artists of all ages were invited to help participate. The purpose was to paint something calming on the walls of the newly opened county child abuse center which generally catered to young children in extremely stressful situations. Creating a friendly atmosphere here seemed like a very good use of our creative efforts and time.
I confess that I am something of a community organizer, or rabid art activist as my friends always say, as I am always connecting good causes with good people. Designing collaborative mural opportunities has always been a really rewarding thing for me because it makes overwhelming projects that most folks are too afraid to take on become completely do-able when I show how easy these kinds of things are to do. As a “big picture” kind of thinker, I just happen to be good at providing that bridge.
There are so many positives to these projects: I find that it gives the layperson a chance to participate in something larger than themselves and it also gives back to the community which is valuable for all involved. The trouble is it usually requires someone willing to do the organizing, but with my background in mural painting I find that I am just the right person to get these kind of things going.
It’s also important to encourage that community work be tackled by people of every age. Art should not be perfect and it should not be just one style or all tight and structured! It should be a snapshot of who you are as an artist at that moment, even if that means you happen to be 7.
With a bit of gentle guidance you can help those of all skill levels to find success in different ways.
Often times it is the positive experience of being part of a project that is the most successful. It creates future volunteers and cultivates a civic mind set.