So we know they really want to do it, the fifteen or so people who make up the design team select themselves. They join Amber, Kyle, Josie, Nicholas and myself, to help distill and shape the input that's been given into a theme that resonates in a beautiful and meaningful way.
At our first meeting held in our newly converted studio space, we asked the team to consider the all material we have collected, and suggestions we had heard, and then imagine a sort of concrete poem that encapsulates the spirit of and vision for Joplin at this moment in time.
To do this, we made what I call 'word pictures.' Making a word picture is pretty straight forward. First you draw a large rectangle that has the basic proportions of the wall for the mural, then you fill that rectangle with words and phrases that refer to the imagery to be included in the design, with the size and position of these words and phrases written to correspond to their relative importance.
We worked on these for a while and then presented them to the group. The conversations that happen around these presentations are always some of the most compelling and fruitful. It seems that holding up an artwork you've made, no matter how modest, stimulates a person's capacity to articulate their intentions by allowing them to speak through the imagery they have created.
What we learned is that although people who live in the same town may share certain cultural and historical symbols, (In Joplin those would include mining, Route 66, and the eagle mascot) their deeper sense of identity is much more personal and is built from first-hand experience. And whether it's kids or grown-ups, this is where the richest material for art is found - in those specific and personal examples of how we know, remember, and envision our home.