Jun 29, 2010

Mural 3: Womanspace

Mural 3
June 29 - September

Yesterday I visited Womanspace in Trenton, NJ to plan ahead for our September mural.
The women in charge were wonderful and had clearly put a lot of effort into the aesthetics of the shelter already.  Art hung on some of the walls, and they had painted the children's room a beautiful blue.  I'm pleased to contribute to their efforts.

In the children's room (below) we're planning a bright beach scene with tropical waters, blooming flowers and plants, and perhaps a ship setting sail.  I want this to be a place where the kids can totally let their imaginations run wild.

The next mural spot is extremely exciting because it provides a challenge and great potential for transformation.  Here is a corner view of a three story stairwell that comprises the entrance for the residents.  This is the first spot the women see when they enter, and it needs some TLC.  While the rest of the shelter looks nice, blank walls don't exactly say "welcome".  The plan? Use garden imagery to grow up the stairs.  Imagine bird baths, butterflies, flowers, terraces, and maybe some little furry creatures...

Jun 13, 2010

Mural 2: Henry Street Settlement

Project No. 2
June - July 2010
Henry Street Settlement
334 Henry Street
New York, NY  10002

Today I met with Wendy who works with Henry Street Settlement's seniors in the LES.  The meeting was much anticipated by both of us since I had managed to get lost and wander around the projects for 45 minutes during our last scheduled meeting.  

"We're so happy you chose us," she said warmly as I sat down on a bench in front of her desk.  The twinkle in her eye suggested she was also happy I had finally followed the signs to my correct destination without any more blonde mistakes. I was too, though due to the office's location in the cinder block basement of the building it was no wonder I had had trouble.  My initial troubles, however, paled in comparison to the frustrations that Wendy faced with low funding for building repair and paint peeling off unattractive pipes.  Councilmen and women had approved money for the cause, but between the bureaucratic technicalities it had already been three years since the money was supposed to come their way.  Artists had been contacted to spruce up the place; but with their high rates, Henry Street had to bypass them.  Along came me.

Wendy flipped through the mural book I brought along to start generating ideas.  "The seniors get forgotten; they know it, and they feel it," Wendy said frankly. "Around Christmas time everyone wants to work with kids, especially the younger volunteers."  Wendy and I were at least two exceptions.  I hope there are more.  We got up to begin the building tour.

"Buenos dias!" Wendy waved to a table of ladies in the dining room. "Buenos dias!" they waved back.  Gentlemen playing pool in the background saluted with their pool sticks and toothy (or decidedly untoothy) smiles. 

"The residents have been here most of their lives," Wendy said.  "They've come from Puerto Rico or China, raised families, grew old, lost friends and spouses, and now are here.  This is it for them.  Their friends in this building are everything they have...that, and their memories.  Most of them are in the early stages of Alzheimer's.  They have no idea what they did ten minutes ago, but they can really talk about the past."

Ah! This was a situation I knew well from being with my Grandmother - now much further in the grips of dementia.  I hadn't known what to do for her then, but at least I could do something for these delightful people.  I could give them a piece of their past.  Wendy agreed to ask the residents where they were from in Puerto Rico and China.  I hope a beautiful Puerto Rican harbor or Chinese landscape will remind them that someone cares about where they came from and what they bring to us.  

The first project will be sprucing up the bathroom:

Next will be an overhaul of the dining room to make it feel less basement-like.

After that, we'll tackle the computer room or gym.

In conclusion for today, thank you, Wendy for all the work you do and for choosing me!  Most of the residents will forget me, but everyday a mural of mine will be there to greet them.  If my paintings can give them a smile or two more, make their social space a little brighter, or link them one last time to their past, then it will have been a job well and happily done.

Mural 1: New York Asian Women's Center

Project No.1
June 11-13, 2010
NY Asian Women's Center
Children's room of shelter, NYC

May 2010:

After consulting with administrators and resident kids, the final rough sketch (more cartoony than the final product is meant to be) has been completedHighlights will include blooming sunflowers, some frolicking flying fish, majestic mountains, and a subtle rainbow arching through a cloud dotted sky. 

June 11, 2010

In the city anxious to start, I'm about to buy the supplies from Blickart on 1-5 Bond Street needed to start the mural tomorrow.  Within a few hours, I'll have an accurate idea of how much it costs in materials to complete each mural. 

June 12, 2010

With the monstrous rolling suitcase full of paints clattering over the crowded NY sidewalk beside me, I wanted to feel like the artist version of the woman in chocolate: a romantic, rogue, wanderer in search of someone with whom to share her skills.  Instead of running mysteriously into the wind, however, there was a lot of brutish grunting and lugging and pulling (that is, once I began rolling my own bag; Sam did the lugging until the subway).  After walking in the wrong direction twice, I finally located my destination and the blank wall inside designated for art.

This blank wall had several painting obstacles: surface smears of plaster, several outlets/switches, an archway, and a bookshelf attached to the wall.

I taped the area, put down newspaper, moved the cabinet to paint behind it (after all, if they ever decided to move the cabinet, the wall would look strange if it weren't all painted), and devised a chair on top of chair system to reach above and beyond the bookshelf.

One of the five year old kids appeared about an hour into the process - when I was painting the wall a light blue.  He declared that he too could paint on walls like me, and that he should be allowed to help since wall painting was his favorite thing in the world.  Against all artistic intuition, I handed him a brush.

Using white to outline the mountains.

My five year old assistant continued to help throughout most of the day.  This was both hilarious and somewhat stressful for me, but the mural was for the kids who would be using the room, so I wanted him to enjoy the process too.  Exclamations of "cool!" and "wow!" occurred almost as often as I was requested to watch each second of him vigorously running his brush over the wall.  He would often hum to himself as he did it, believing himself a true mistro!


You may be able to see some of his contributions above...


Then my young apprentice switched mediums and decided to take some shots with my camera.

At this point, I've added some color to the flowers, done the clouds, and added a rising sun per his suggestion. He also suggested people, houses, and cars.  I told him I did not think there was room, but he gestured grandly to the other blank walls in the room and declared I had missed a lot of spots.

Here's the rainbow...

Then some small goldfish and a butterfly replaced the rather large bird and fish in the original sketch.

View of the arch.

View of the finished room.  I loved this process! It was extremely satisfying to see the room completely change in less than 24 hours.  Not to mention, I made a new friend who was extremely supportive of my art, always cheery, and unafraid to let his inner artist shine.  I was happy that the mural kept his five year old attention span occupied for three or four hours; his smiles definitely brightened my day, and I hope this mural will brighten many of his days to come.

June 13th, 2010

Today is touch up day and retrieval of paints.  A note to other beginning muralists using acrylic paint, sometimes the painter's tape when pulled up will also pull some of the acrylic with it, so be aware of this when you pull up the tape.  Do it slowly and be prepared to go in with a small brush to make the mural exactly flush with the outlets etc.