C•A•Re

Community Arts Research at SVSU

Good Neighbors Mission

 

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Dedicated February, 2005 (designed Summer 2004)
Title of Mural Cycle: "What's Going On"
Location:
1318 Cherry St., Saginaw, MI 48601-2123. (989) 399-9918.
Open 11 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11:00 to 2:00 p.m. Friday.
Medium:
Digital, hand-drawn, scanned & photographic imagery assembled in Adobe Photoshop, output on two 6' x 24' and one 6' x 18' vinyl panels by Metromedia Technologies, Inc.
SVSU Art Students Involved:
Clyde Araujo (BA '06) and Matt Zelley (BFA '05).

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Eric Jylha of TV5 interviews the artists, February 2005

The mural designed for the Good Neighbors Mission of Saginaw was created by students Clyde Araujo and Matt Zelley who were a part of the Digital Community Mural Workshop (Art 499) in the summer of 2004. This project came about because the engineering department at SVSU did a biomass project at the mission.

Araujo and Zelley held two workshops that children of the community attended and drew pictures inspired by their neighborhood. The two students then took the drawings, scanned them into a computer, colored them with Photoshop and worked them into the mural.

Their final mural was a combination of the children's drawings, Clyde's portrait drawings, and Matt's caricatures. It covered three main topics of neighborhood happenings: general activities of the community, agriculture, and food
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What's Going On: the Summer 2004 SVSU Digital Community Mural Workshop and Good Neighbors Mission of Saginaw

In autumn 2003, SVSU Strosacker Professor of Engineering Chris Schilling, justly proud of his biomass-heating project at Good Neighbors Mission in Saginaw, thought there could be a community arts component to it. Initially he thought a large silo, worthy of a mural, would be erected on the site to hold the corn burned there for heating fuel. He decided to use a gravity wagon, so I suggested a ribbon-like mural around its 12" to 18" rim. I proposed to the SVSU Foundation to fund materials for a Summer 2004 workshop (taught as Art 499), on digital community mural process and technology for Art students to produce the wagon murals, and funding was approved. Students Clyde Araujo and Matt Zelley signed up for the summer semester workshop.

Digital imaging software, hardware and output would be used to produce the murals, shortening production time by replacing hand painting. These new technologies can still be used in a community-based mural process, like the one that I developed in over a dozen mural projects in California 1980—2000. Rather than "parachute art" from a distant expert suddenly appearing on site, the neighborhood that will live with the completed mural provides the content expertise while the skilled artists visualize the content. This process takes patience and listening skills on top of art and design talent.

The students' major design challenge was the synchronization of multiple kinds of imagery--photography, sketchbook drawings, cartoons, kids' drawings, text--into a good-looking, coherent and cohesive whole. Digital photography and flatbed scanners allow these elements to be assembled and manipulated in Adobe Photoshop software.
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After one site visit where Chris and I appreciated the Mission's other walls suited for murals, I was very pleased to learn that the price for digital billboard printing had declined since I used it for my 1998 "Market Street Carnival" murals in San Francisco. The SVSU Foundation grant would be sufficient to complete lobby murals at Good Neighbors too.

The two workshop students visited the site, discussed and viewed its work (counseling, food and clothing distribution) with Director Carolyn Butler and her staff Myron Butler and Ron Hawkins. Yet I thought it necessary for Clyde and Matt to also have experience with more neighborhood residents to develop appropriate imagery. I had worked with kids on a 2002 mural "Expect Me to Do My Best" at Trinity St. John Center three blocks from Good Neighbors, so Clyde and Matt participated in two drawing sessions there. At the second session--directed by them without me present--they obtained from kids ages 6 to 13 a pile of inspired drawings of neighborhood life, personalities (including Clyde and Matt) and food. The SVSU students then scanned the kids drawings, colored them in Photoshop, and incorporated them--along with photography of east side streets, Clyde's portrait drawings and Matt's caricatures--into coherent mural designs.

The three-panel lobby narrative progresses from a sad fellow and other clients walking into Good Neighbors' door, past its donation-pickup van and various clients served with bags of food or items of clothing, to the agriculture surrounding the city that provides Good Neighbors with food (and now energy) and a red gravity wagon sporting an SVSU logo. Imagery of the city skyline, food and farms from these murals are repeated in the murals to decorate the gravity wagon. Names of mural participants are listed on the van, and donors to the Mission scattered in the mural.

All of this was completed in the seven weeks of Summer semester. The Good Neighbors staff approved of the designs, Ron Hawkins said, "Yes, this is what's going on" and suddenly we had our title for the murals. The digital files were sent to the Detroit office of MetroMedia Technologies, an international billboard-printing corporation, and output on vinyl. Chris Schilling hired Terry Wolff to install plywood panels as backing for the 3' x 60' interior murals and track lighting to illuminate them, and professional paperhangers affixed them to the plywood.

A community mural is democratic "politics" in the best sense of the word, a process of incorporation of many voices, addressing multiple agendas and needs so everyone benefits. Their professors hope Clyde and Matt have further opportunities for neighborhood murals or comparable projects in the cities or towns they work. Yet the Summer Workshop experience will also serve them in their work with commercial clients, or as designers on corporate project teams.

That's "What's Going On".

 

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