On Wednesday January 29, 2011, more than 50 people packed into a tiny art room at the Jim and Vickie Click Boys and Girls Club, at 1935 S. Columbus Blvd. In Tucson to celebrate the unveiling of a beautiful community designed mural.
This mural is a part of a long-term initiative to beautify and unify neighborhoods throughout Tucson. The 29th Street Weed and Seed includes residents from Julia Keen, Myers, Roberts, Naylor and Alvernon Heights Neighborhoods, educators, social service providers and law enforcement. The mural was designed and painted by 52 youth under the direction of Teaching Mural Artist Michael Schwartz and assistant Linda Kerr.
Most of the youth in this program don’t have art in school. The arts program at the Boys and Girls Club had been closed due to funding cuts. TAB had been called in a year earlier by the 29th Street Weed and Seed to address this pressing need, and to help neighborhoods meet the goals of beautification, providing out-of school time programming, and offering a viable diversion from graffiti, which continues to plague all of Tucson. TAB formed a Mural Planning Team which continues to meet monthly. This dedicated group has helped write grants, identify potential project sites, generate support letters and help with logistics and coordination.
With help from a Kresge in Tucson Grant Julia Keen Neighborhood, Myers Neighborhood and the 29th Street Weed and Seed TAB was able to start work in October 2010. Classes met every Wednesday from October 13, 2010 to January 19, 2011. Originally the class started at 2:30 and ended at 4:30, but by the end it would go to 5:30 or 6pm. Every week students would work on one component of the design process while simultaneously learning about tools and techniques involved in mural making. Lessons included learning about scale, proportion, perspective, principles of design, elements of art, and color theory. Students scanned numerous mural images and talked about how to illustrate and combine ideas. This was the first time for many of them to see the work of local, national and international muralists. There were lively discussions about the places we live, what we like and what we would change. There were a number of visitors that came to speak to the kids, reinforcing an awareness of community. At the end of each class students wrote reflections on how the class went or new brilliant ideas.
Fudders and David reading at the mural unveiling.
Meanwhile outside of class teaching muralist Michael Schwartz led a series of workshops with neighbors, including a fun water color workshop with residents of Julia Keen. We also provided monthly project updates to the 29th Street Weed and Seed.
Creative writing is critical to the development of these murals. Schwartz uses writing as a way to help participants to refine ideas and prepare for public presentations.
For the mural unveiling students presented their mural in teams of two. Reading from their journals they described each detail of the mural and answered questions from a captivated audience. Certificates, journals and presents were given to the young muralists. Then everyone lined up for tables filled with cookies, drinks, fruit, cheeses, cracker, vegetables and cake. Among the attendants were parents, musician Brett Lashley, neighborhood representatives, local police officers, the Mural Planning Team, students, their friends and TAB Board Members. It was a truly wonderful event and celebration of a highly successful start to long-term beautification efforts in the area.
A project planning team of youth and adults has been formed to coordinate the next mural.
TAB and partners are looking forward to starting a second more ambitious exterior mural project this April. There is space for 20 dedicated youth who are encouraged to register as early as possible. To register call Boys & Girls Club (520) 300-5715 and ask for Corey or email the TAB Mural Arts Program at: ArtBrigade@aol.com
Congratulations to the 1st team of young TAB muralists; Abel, Javier, Marianna, Jesus, Enrique, Ivory, Harmony, Raphael, Leonardo, Reyanna, Arreana, Victor, Brandon, Blanca, Amanda, Karla, Zion, Josie, Caitlyn, Faith, Maria, Victor, Infinity, Morgan, Kayla, Jeanette, Samantha, David, Denaya, Abigal, Jesus, Cinthia, Phanuel, Jordan, Iris, Dennis, Danielle and Ayanna.
The proposed site for our next mural is covered in tags.
Thank you and congratulations to the TAB site youth leadership team including Ariane, Kevin, Patrick, Fabian, Zephan, Fudders and Savanna. Thank you also to the Mural Planning Team of Pat Richter, Emily Brott, Kate Meyer, Linda Kerr, Corey Cravens and project partners including the Julia Keen Neighborhood Association, Vickie Mesimer, Myers Neighborhood Association, the Eckstrom- Columbus Library, Tucson Police Department and all our friends and colleagues with the 29th Street Weed and Seed Coalition. Go Community Arts Go!
 Graffiti is widely perceived as a means of getting personal attention from peers. This need to be recognized and have voice is harnessed and fostered by TAB. We believe youth have something important to say and contribute to the civic life of Tucson.