This first week we wanted to make sure to establish a safe space, and get to know everyone in the room. We quickly learned that the group would vary greatly week to week. Life for the youth at youthlink can be unstable as they try to establish themselves. Regardless of who or how many people attended, every session this week was powerful and amazing.
To begin, we looked at different articles of art, thinking about how to look at, interpret, and talk about them. We then looked at different murals, describing them and getting used to “reading them”. We talked about primary and secondary messages in murals. A primary message, is the message that is somewhat obvious, and easy to comprehend at a glance. Like if you were to drive by it in a car, the message you’d be able to get in that brief moment of looking. The secondary message(s) can be uncovered under closer inspection of the mural. It may be something that blends into the background, or is not large enough to be noticed at a glance. I would say the secondary message can be very intimate, and only seen by those who take the time and care to see closer.
To get some excitement going and help us visualize how big and where the mural would be, we actually went outside to measure the wall!
On Day 2, we continued the design process into the next stage. We did an activity where we built off of already existing images. I saw this activity as a metaphor. You don't have to change things or create from nothing, just how the mural that will ultimately be created is not replacing the wall it will go on, it is adding to it. Adding to the community, and adding to the lives of those whose hands helped to make it. It’s about growth.
Anyway, the way the activity worked was there were three giant sheets of paper with a simple centric design. Then it functioned alot like musical chairs, like musical art. Music played and we drew at the paper we were standing at, and when the song changed we moved to a different sheet.
We did this for a few songs, and this is what we got.
Lastly, we talked about what we made together, and came back to the idea of primary and secondary messages. It’s hard to come up with a “theme” off the bat, so we talked about emotions that the youth wanted the mural to provoke, the ideas they wanted it to convey. The group this day was about 4, plus staff. One of the youth, John*, wanted the mural to promote sympathy. “ I was watching a documentary the other day, about kids getting bullied in school. People think kids in the suburbs don’t have anything to worry about. We worried about shooting, but they get bullied everyday. And it’s like the two situations are compared, and one is told they shouldn’t complain, or it could be worse. But they’re both problems. One shouldn’t be seen as less, and ignored.”
If there is ever a reason to have less compassion, I think someone in John’s situation might have it. I’ve been thinking about what John said ever since that day, and his compassion amazes me. He is amazing.
*Name changed for privacy