2020 Mural Project Reminds Communities that They are Resilient!

In late September 2020, Free Arts embarked on an ambitious project to simultaneously create five art murals in the Valley at various locations, with five different teaching artists, and five alumni apprentices. The purpose of the project was to highlight the creativity and resilience of communities during an especially difficult time in history.

To make this happen, Free Arts partnered with Catholic Charities, an organization that has been serving the community since 1993 and has been a Free Arts partner agency for 25 years.

After a lively kick off meeting via Zoom, the five muralists and teaching artists: Isaac Caruso, Francisco Garcia, Skye Lucking, Linda Pulinsi, and Kristin Wesley were paired with Free Arts alumni who worked as artists assistants and were matched with their site locations. Once artists completed their initial site visit, everyone was off and running!

Managers of the five sites (Desert Willow, Laurel Tree, Rosewood Court, My Sister’s Place and the Catholic Charities Administration Building for Unaccompanied Minor Programs) worked closely with the teaching artists to determine the best way to involve the communities.

For example, at Laurel Tree alumni AJ, led a spoken word poetry workshop to get the residents thinking about words that they felt embodied resilience. AJ then used the words to write a haiku that artist Isaac Caruso incorporated into the center of the mural entitled “Resilience and Tomorrow”.

At My Sister’s Place, Francisco Garcia asked the women living on-site to share quotes about what resilience means to them and then chose to incorporate images of butterflies, planets, and an Aztec moon goddess to depict that strength comes from all things. Women and children living on-site were then invited to splatter paint on the walls to create a star-like effect on the large, galactic mural entitled “Seeds of Creation”.The children living at Desert Willow created drawings for artist Kristin Wesley. Kristin, along with alumni, Rica, chose images from the children’s artwork to include into the large mandala mural that was created. When asked about her experience working on the Resilience Mural Project, Rica had this to share, “It was oddly nostalgic to work on this mural. There was something about the vibrant colors on such a textured wall that brought me back to daycares and apartment complexes, when I would spend hours tracing the painted shapes until my fingertips calloused and telling stories to myself. Younger me would have been absolutely mesmerized by the mural, “A New Day Together”. Seeing the reactions of the children who live there was the best part of it. The realization that their own drawings were included in the mural lit them up like individual suns!”

Linda Pulinisi’s mural, “Resilience in the Garden”, at Rosewood Court, is bright and whimsical. This mural created the opportunity for 15 children living on-site, ages 5 – 17, to help paint the botanical images. On one of their two paint days, an excited 5-year-old participant who was diligently painting green leaves on a flower stem whispered, “I am an artist.”

“Separated Light Creates Beautiful Rainbows” covers the ceiling and two walls inside the community room for unaccompanied minor programs. The concept was derived from both the imagination and research of artist Skye Lucking, who learned about the countries that some of the children are from and mindfully included images from their cultures into her design. There is black and white imagery embedded in the colorful geometry that is reminiscent of culture, country, and community as well as inspiration for what is possible. “This combination of ‘where I came from’ and ‘where I can go’ is meant to embolden those who see it and remind them of the incredible resilience drawn upon to make the journey into an unknown future”, said Lucking in her artist statement. 

While all five murals are vastly different in style and color palette, all are connected by their imagery of resilience and remind us during these difficult times that art heals!

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