My life changed in Waco, TX

In the Spring of 2013, I had the privilege of being selected to apprentice two of the most talented community based mural artists working today.  Lead artist, Dave Loewenstein and assistant artist, Ashley Laird, took me under their wings and brought me through a two month process that would forever change the way I perceive community, the creative process, and the course of my life as an artist.

I have always been passionate about drawing and mark making but tended to work on a relatively small scale.  In 2011 I started experimenting with painting on large walls and the process unexpectedly woke something up inside of me.  My passion for creating was reignited with a new purpose and I knew that I wanted to learn everything I could about painting large scale murals.  Thanks to the Mid America Art's Alliance, I was able to do just that.

When I applied for the apprenticeship, I wanted to learn everything about what it took to execute large works.  While I certainly learned such things like operating scissor lifts, what paint to use, designing around architectural elements, etc., what I learned extended far beyond the practicalities of executing a large scale art project.  Being fully immersed in a project for two months opened me up to what it truly means to live creatively and I began to see community through a different lens. Dave and Ashley taught me that it was not our job to come up with the story for the mural, but rather to uncover the true stories that were already there.  This meant immersing ourselves in an unfamiliar community, learning the extensive history of the area, getting to know as many of the locals as possible, and connecting to their stories, needs, hopes, concerns, and dreams.  One of the most important things I learned from Dave and Ashley was that to take in a community with such depth meant we would never be off the clock.  Learning was happening at every moment; every place we ate, person we met, event we attended, etc., added to our understanding of the layers of culture in Waco, TX.

The chosen wall was on the East Waco Public Library.

Ashley Laird measuring our wall, roughly 18' x 121' East Waco Public Library

Ashley Laird measuring our wall, roughly 18' x 121'

East Waco Public Library

During the first month of immersing in the community, we hosted community meetings & solidified a design team that represented a diverse group of locals.  We then led our design team of 30 people through thought provoking exercises, discussions, and drawing sessions to get a conversation & their stories to unfold.

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As the community opened their hearts and minds to us, our job as artists were to translate what they were communicating into a visual poem.  Like many communities in the United States, the locals were concerned about pending gentrification pricing them out of their neighborhoods, the loss of the true history that formed the community, and how to translate that history to the youth that would shape its future. Watching just how Dave and Ashley worked to translate this visually was an extraordinary experience for an artist and one of the most rewarding creative challenges to try and solve.  This mural would not be our mural, it would belong to all.  It was during this part of the process that I solidified this as what I wanted to do with my life.

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After a month of community work & design, the final drawing was presented to our design team for their approval. Once a final design was approved, it was time to prime the wall & project the outline of the design to be traced.  This was when I was faced with just how large of a scale we were dealing with.  I was thrilled to start tackling a painting of that enormity.  As many of you know, 2 inches x 2 inches is a favorite dimension of mine, so to realize I would be painting something that would span 121 feet was breathtaking.

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One of the my favorite aspects of this project was having the community help bring the mural to life. Many community members insisted that they were not artists, but we ensured them that this was their mural and their mark needed to be on the wall.  They braved the 100 degree weather & the result was fantastic!

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Many drawings from the design team became the bones of the mural, including appearances from our greatest storytellers, the design team members themselves.

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One month of painting and the mural was complete.  There are too many stories embedded in this mural to even begin to know how to write about it.  But each section, each image, and each color was carefully crafted to honor the experience of over 100 strangers getting together and having a dialogue.  A dialogue that we can only hope will live on in the community of Waco, TX and in the lives of all that created this for generations to come.

Thank You to:

Dave Loewenstein

Ashley Laird

Mid-America Arts Alliance

Doreen Ravenscroft

Gale Edwards

Our entire design team along with all the residents and businesses of Waco, TX.

Thank you for applying to have us and thank you for taking such good care of us when we got there.

It was a pleasure to get to know you all.

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For more information on the story behind the East Waco Mural Project:

check out Mid-America Art Alliance's Blog posts from May-July 2013

http://www.midamericamuralproject.blogspot.com/

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