Yes, I guess there is also a bit of the rebel in me and the “Question Authority” bumper sticker sure makes sense if you want innovation. We have been told that it is pointless to paint a mural on “that” wall or in “this” neighborhood because it will be graffitied. I have to say I believe in fresh approaches to mastering a situation other people feel is hopeless. Sometimes it has been as simple as waiting up until late at night to meet the graffiti artists or gangs to ask what they think of the mural idea and how I can incorporate their ideas/interests into a mural. In my experience, giving respect earns a degree of respect and of course, a bit of the crazy reputation for being bold enough to be “in that” neighborhood or “with those” people has served me. People who are used to scaring people seem fascinated by those who aren’t scared when as I’ve heard it said “They darn well should be.” Again, it makes me laugh. I like trying what others think can’t be done. Years of such experiences now tell me the stories and names that I learn are also good for the neighborhood to learn to understand their fringe. If ideas seem short, I often ask to look at tattoos and scars. Both inevitably lead to stories that resonate with others and connect the visual experiences of our lives. I’ve been willing to persevere and be uncomfortable to learn about others and myself. It’s a good backup art lesson from when I taught art and painted murals with homeless at the food bank Casa Maria in Tucson, Arizona in the early 1990’s. The wisdom I usually leave with is that people are people—we want to be heard. And neighborhoods basically want the same things—a better quality of life.
Community art does these things but please don’t take my word for it—try it for yourself.