Saturday, September 8, 2012

Arkadelphia - The Design Team

At the end of our community meetings we asked people, who 1) had a strong interest in further participation and 2) could commit to attending up to five future meetings, to become part of our design team. Usually this process leads to a team of about 10-20 people.

It's their job to work with us muralists to do further research, develop a theme, and help shape the content of the mural design. It's hard work. In addition to having to reveal the source of your nickname in one of our regular go-arounds, the design team has to make difficult choices about not only what should go in the mural but the much larger amount of material that will be set aside for future projects.

Like sculptors, film editors, or poets who painstakingly carve away material in order to clarify their vision, sometimes images and ideas that seem perfect for the mural are edited out of the final design because they don't fit the larger story. Each of us are faced with either letting go of things we hoped would be included or seeing them folded into the composition in new ways.

Because people have to talk to each other and eventually compromise when they work in groups, our design workshops focus on collaborative strategies for developing mural ideas. Here in Arkadelphia, we did two projects. The first is what I call a 'word picture.' In groups of three, the design team developed one list of ideas and concepts,  and another list of things / people/ places / and stuff.

Next they worked to fit those written ideas into a rectangle on a large sheet of paper with proportions similar to our mural. The more important an idea was, the larger it would be written. And if something needed to be in more than one place in the mural, it would be written multiple times. In a very rudimentary way, this exercise gave everyone a chance to begin to design the mural as they envisioned it. It also made clear how difficult it is to compose and fit all of the things suggested into one image.

For the second workshop, I gave a short talk and slide presentation about visual metaphors especially ones we had encountered in our research. Among them were bridges, porches, and arches. Then I asked the groups to imagine and draw a metaphorical bridge for Arkadelphia with special  consideration for: 
What it is made of?
What it connects?
What's underneath?
Who built it and who or what uses it?
How much can it hold?
What threatens it?

After an hour or so, each group presented their bridge drawing to the rest of the design team, explaining their intent, where they felt they had succeeded, and what was still missing. The results were remarkable. Here are a couple.

After our third design team meeting, with a studio overflowing with drawings, photographs, and other research material,  it was time for us muralists to begin incorporating these ideas into a preliminary draft of the design.

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