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Creative Growth x method Mural Project

I am continually surprised and delighted to work with diverse groups of people on outdoor collaborative mural projects. My most recent project, taking place in Oakland, CA, expanded my understandings of creativity, the arts, and self expression immensely. The project was an inclusive and exciting collaboration between three entities: Creative Growth Arts Center, method cleaning supplies, and myself! With full support and sponsorship from method, I went to Creative Growth's beautiful space to teach a half-day mural workshop with several of their artists. 

The day began with a presentation on the history of mural making and human beings painting their surroundings, with a focus on contemporary urban art. We brainstormed ideas, themes and styles, and talked about other murals and street art they have seen around the city. I then lead the group through several mural design activities. From our conversations and sketches that day I then created a mural design that is meant to show the collaborative effort from all three entities involved with the project. We decided to focus the design toward abstraction, with bright colors, lots of movement, and a graspable balance of dualities. 

The project strengthened my belief that creativity is inherently human and cannot be confined by any perceived or recognized limitations. Creative Growth Art Center is a nonprofit that serves artists with developmental, mental and physical disabilities, providing a professional studio environment for artistic development, gallery exhibition and representation and a social atmosphere among peers. The experience of working with this group was wonderful! As an anthropologist I am endlessly curious of how culture, history, environment, and personal experience inform our creative pursuits. The artists from Creative Growth were not only talented, but brought a sense of pure joy and playfulness to the project; something that I feel can be so easily lost in the professional art world. 

Creative Growth and method had an already existing partnership, where four artists produced original work for a limited edition run of method cleaning supplies. This cross-industry collaboration surprised and delighted me. After I was brought into the mix to bring my collaborative mural making experience, this collection of diverse people from different places was exciting. Creative Growth has been doing their incredible work for decades now, and method has been actively reaching far beyond their own industry of environmentally conscious cleaning products. These two inspiring stories resonated greatly with me, and as a whole, our values were incredibly aligned. I believe that is visually represented in the mural we created, the memories we made, and hopefully that will be felt by those who see the mural! 

Artist statement:

Emotion, connection, and energy - these are the conceptual elements that have emerged from the workshop, conversations, and experiences between the artists at Creative Growth, Strider Patton, and our friends at method. From these interactions, Strider has created a mural design that is meant to tell a story, evoke feeling, and to give back to the surrounding community. Purposefully staying away from any figurative imagery, the mural is an example of contemporary abstract urban art.

The story is of the project in itself, a visual narrative of what artistic collaboration looks like when perceived barriers are overcome. The skill, joy, and passion of the artists at Creative Growth began this collaboration. Creativity comes in as many forms as there are colors, as anyone who has stepped into Creative Growth quickly understands. As a collaborative muralist, Strider immediately recognized the potential for a most unique project with these talented artists. He held a half day mural workshop with participants at Creative Growth, and from their shared experience, a mural concept began to grow. Connecting elements from Creative Growth artists with elements of Strider’s own artistic style, the mural design weaves together bright colors and layered patterns into a spanning composition. 

There is a sense of energy and connection from Strider’s signature flow design, with thick black lines rolling across the wall, leading the observer’s eye over its surface with a sense of powerful movement. Vibrant colors, introduced from palettes used by Creative Growth artists, and method's bold branding, are meant to instill contemplative emotion and feeling. And coming from both Creative Growth artists and Strider, the use of repetitive patterns flourish within the design, upholding a balance of true collaboration.

Continuing with method’s tradition of designing for good, It is with great hope that the mural will brighten the surrounding community, to invite observers to pause and reflect, and to stand as a visual representation of what people can do when they work together, from all parts of society. Form and color have a powerful way to remind us of what is good in the world, of what is possible, and of our own shared humanity.

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Searching for a New Home

Searching for a New Home by Strider Patton and Max Ehrman. Clarion Alley, San Francisco. 2016

I've been paying close attention to the "refugee crisis" happening the better part of this last year. There are many issues involved with this very broad and general title. Issues like: war, peace, hope, tragedy, future, past, present, individual, society, migration, boarders, terror, distance, economics, duty, family, and home. The situation is immense and immediate. I wanted to paint a mural to raise attention toward the notions of refugees, immigrants, migration, and borders. 

One of my best friends and fellow artists, Max Ehrman, and I were talking about these issues one day and we began sketching. Instead of painting imagery depicting walls and borders, strangers and masses of people, we decided to direct the imagery to be more personal. We wanted real portraits of real people, in delicate bubbles of sky and stars, floating in the midst of linear lines that fade in and out, and a cloud of organic matter.

I began to research and quickly was in the midst of hundreds of images of refugees online. I wanted to be more specific. I narrowed my search to children, caught in the change of leaving their only notion of home. Then I came across 3 specific stories, from different photographers and projects. 

Zein al-Houssein. Photo © Alex Oberg

Zein al-Houssein. Photo © Alex Oberg

5 year old Zein al-Houssein. "I need to live as other children and play football," he stated to photographer Alex Oberg. Zein fled Syria with his father and brother, and they are now in Turkey with the hopes of reaching Sweden. I found Zein's story on the National Geographic website in the article Intimate Portraits of Refugees: ‘We Don’t Want to Live in a War’ written by Anna Lukacs.

12 year old Nadia. She (on the right) and her 9 year old sister, Haseena, are the second generation of Afghan refugee girls to attend school. I found Nadia's story from the UN Refugee Agency's flickr page. The photograph of the sisters was taken by Sebastian Rich.

Nadia on the right. Photo © Sebastian Rich

Nadia on the right. Photo © Sebastian Rich

Unnamed Syrian girl. Photo © Benjamin Reece and Robert X. Fogarty

Unnamed Syrian girl. Photo © Benjamin Reece and Robert X. Fogarty

Unnamed girl from a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan. I came across her image as part of the beautiful Dear World project, created by Robert X. Fogarty. The girl's photo was in the Dear World + Syrian Refugees article, which was made possible by partnership with CARE

 

 

True, the world is different today than it ever has been, but we humans must not forget who we are as a species - social mammals who feel, think, imagine, and create. It is these unique traits and qualities that has lead to us circumventing the world and now reaching out into space looking for more. We are curious beings, and that is what has brought us to continually move around. The ideas of borders, boundaries, and division could be our most detrimental concept because it creates the notion of us and them. We are all one, and we share this world.

Here in the United States of America it is especially difficult to hear talk of exclusion and border walls. Is it really so easy to forget where we come from? The majority of our population is here because of immigrants, refugees, and those seeking a new way of life.

In our globalized world today, borders are a place of increasing struggle, hardship, and violence. In July, the UN‘s refugee agency said that 45.2 million people remain displaced from their homes due to worldwide conflicts - a 19-year high.

Many of these people are forced into these conditions due to conflict, economic, or environmental hardship, and would have never chosen to leave their home had they not had too. Most are looking for safety, for a chance, for a home. I hope this mural can offer a moment of reflection for those who come across it. 

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