On Monday, Thursday and Friday, I am working on a mural at a neighborhood pool in North Philly. Not until my first day of work, did I realize that this project was under the "Restorative Justice" branch of the Mural Arts Program. So, when I showed up and met my Muralist that I'll be working under, Andrea, (names changed to protect the innocent!), I was surprised to see her with a team of 5 men. I didn't really know anything about either of my 2 projects before I arrived or even before I started, only that one of them was at a pool. I guess I should have expected that a project that big would probably have assistants hired. So, still not knowing what was going on, I'm making conversation with one of the men and ask, "So, what part of Philly are you from?" He answered, "I'm coming from 600." Me: "Oh, ok.." (assuming that was a street? or something?) Later after talking with Andrea a bit, I learned that all of the guys are a part of an apprenticeship program that helps inmates in work-release facilities (like "600"), or people that were just released from prison. So these guys are going to jobs classes where they're learning about resume-making and interviewing, and then 3 days a week, they're out learning skills like painting with us at the mural, carpentry, tile working, etc. It's pretty cool. Most of these guys were hand-picked out of their prison art classes, for good behavior and showing promise and interest.
The mural we're doing is going to be around all 4 sides of the pool building. On the inside wall, we're doing a big design that incorporates the "Pool Rules". It's a geometric design with a daring, bright color palette. It's a lot of triangles. Ok, it's basically all triangles. It's really nice looking, though. It's also going to incorporate some tile mosaic, and a poem about believing in yourself.
I'm really learning a LOT. I'm learning all kids of stuff about materials and process and what it's like making community murals. Won't get too specific, but there's really just nothing like the information you get from doing something like this hands-on. Andrea is amazing at answering all my questions thoroughly. That was another reason I really wanted this internship, too...because trying to be a Muralist, can be lonely. You can't get a master's degree in mural-making, as far as I know at least. Muralists I've reached out to online have been unresponsive, and the other muralist I met in Eugene wouldn't help me because I was her competition. I don't want to re-invent the wheel, here. I want to learn how to do this job, and do it well. But not all that many people do this for a living. I have a lot of what I need already, but there are a lot of things specifically relating to the business and process of being a public artist/muralist, that they just don't teach you in art school. And Andrea is here, an experienced muralist and wealth of information. I get along with her great and feel really lucky to have been placed here. I'm getting along good with the men at the site, too, while still keeping my guard up. I'm really excited to be on this project - it's a gorgeous design that's stretching my art comfort zone (ME with a ruler, templates and a level? Not too common in my artwork) and it's also stretching my social comfort zone (not used to working with inmates, either). I like the "make an ugly building much, much prettier" aspect, combined with the "do-gooder" aspect. That's essentially what the MAP strives for - both of those, in some capacity, for each project.
Tune in next time for the GHOST STORY that is Project #2! (No, really, it is.) That's a long story I will tell another day!
Stay cool out there, East Coast! (We hit 100 today!)