Thursday, July 14, 2011

Joplin, Missouri

Nearly a year ago while finishing The Imagineers mural in Newton, Kansas, we were visited by a small contingent of artists and arts advocates from Joplin, Missouri. Sharon Beshore, her husband Lance, and artist Jorge Leyva made the trip to discuss the possibility of bringing the Mid- America Arts Alliance Mural Project to Joplin the following summer. Nine months of planning, grant writing, and fundraising later and we are here engaged in a project that has taken on dramatic new significance since Joplin was hit by a massive tornado on May 22nd.

In the days following the tornado, plans for the mural project were unsure. Would our Joplin hosts still want to carry it forward? If so, what role could art play as the community worked to recover, restore, and rebuild? And, how would these new circumstances impact the content and type of art we would make? To help answer these questions, Nicholas, Amber, and I traveled to Joplin in early June. There we met at the Spiva Center for the Arts with artists, arts advocates and others who were interested in discussing the purpose and potential  of community-based art in the face of great challenges. The two meetings  were filled with honest thoughtful dialogue about the capacity of art to help in healing and recovery in times of difficulty.  And in the end, those who attended the meetings expressed overwhelming support for doing the mural and possibly a series of temporary art works located in areas affected by the tornado. The project would go forward, there was no doubt.

We arrived in Joplin to begin in earnest on July 11th. Venturing out from our new home base (the world's most wonderful basement apartment kindly opened to us by our hosts the Beshores), we began  by driving south through downtown to view some impromptu murals that had been painted as signs of hope and encouragement in response to the tornado.
Painted by A.J. Alejandro and Jim Belgere at 20th and Main

Near 24th and Main

1910 South Main Street

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