Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Joplin Globe Article

Community mural to be painted on wall in Joplin

Artist Dave Loewenstein welcomes visitors recently to an exhibit of children’s 
drawings at the Gryphon Building at 10th and Main.

Everyone — artist or not — may help turn a blank wall at the corner of 15th and Main streets into a mural honoring the city of Joplin, said Sharon Beshore, vice chairwoman of the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce’s Cultural Affairs Committee  “It’s something that’s very visible to the public,” she said. “This is hopefully the first of community-based murals (in Joplin). ” Dave Loewenstein, the project’s lead muralist, said it is important for Joplin residents to have this opportunity. In a blog for the project, the Lawrence, Kan., artist wrote that creating the mural could give people “an outlet” and could help in the healing after the May 22 tornado.

“Our project has always been centered around the opportunity for community-driven art to inspire, remember and envision,” he wrote. “As Joplin begins its long process of recovery, our project and how it can engage the community may be more relevant and useful, pertinent and powerful than we could have imagined. ”The mural will be painted along the south wall of Dixie Printing, on the northwest corner of 15th and Main streets. Beshore said the committee had first scouted downtown locations for the mural before switching gears after the tornado. She said a centrally located mural could draw attention and spur interest in a section of Joplin that will need to be rebuilt. “We moved it to 15th and Main, which is halfway between the tornado area and the downtown, so it can kind of be what we call a gateway — a transition from one area into another area,” she said.

The design was created based on views from about 100 Joplin residents who attended a handful of recent meetings. More than 200 children from the Joplin Family Y, the Boys & Girls Club, and Spiva Center for the Arts also were consulted, Loewenstein said. “The drawings that the kids made were some of the most beautiful and insightful works we’ve seen during our whole visit here,” he said. “They have this ability to draw with a real kind of honesty, and they don’t self-edit the way that adults do. ”Loewenstein and a design team distilled those images and suggestions from the community meetings into the mural’s final design, which includes historical references as well as some tornado references. “It’s a visionary sort of image that is magical, I would say, in some ways and culminates in a very positive and hopeful future, I think, for folks who live here,” he said.

Beshore said the team did not want the mural to be a “tornado wall,” though she acknowledged that it was difficult to separate the storm from the design. “Of course, this is post-tornado, so you can’t just wash your mind of what happened,” she said. “Quite frankly, you can’t separate what’s happened from people’s ideas. If this (the art project) had happened a year ago, this would have been a completely different mural.”

Tom Jensen, owner of Dixie Printing, said the mural likely will draw attention to the building, which faces a parking lot and is in a “wide-open view” for passers-by. “Primarily, it’s just anything that we can do to promote this town,” he said. The mural will be the second in Joplin through the Art in Public Places project, which falls under the chamber’s Cultural Affairs Committee. The first project brought a mural by Anthony Benton Gude, grandson of Thomas Hart Benton, to City Hall. It also will be the third mural regionally to be created with the support of the Mid-America Arts Alliance, which last year supported community murals in Newton, Kan., and Tonkawa, Okla.

“There’s a big push for public art — art that people can just enjoy in their everyday life,” Beshore said. “You don’t have to go to a gallery to see it; it’s just out there in the public domain.” If you go,
AS SPACE ALLOWS, the public may help paint Joplin’s new community mural between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the corner of 15th and Main streets.

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