Following two weeks of painting by volunteers who each received an “art summons” to help assemble one of three large murals across the area, organizers were surprised with the results – and may add more murals next spring.
The Yuma team for the Arizona Creative Communities Institute (AZ CCI) created the unique project that aimed to assemble this large-scale, ultra-participatory public art project in the Foothills, San Luis and in the Big Curve area of Yuma. Painting the “DIY murals” took place the last two weeks of October, when a larger-than-expected number of community members painted three large scale murals throughout Yuma County.
The Yuma AZ CCI team spent the last year developing a project that would engage the greater Yuma area in ways that would cross-pollinate residents throughout the area. Early in October 2018 nearly 2,000 mailers were sent out throughout the county to invite participants to come paint a one square foot section of a single mural. In doing so, the team expected unfinished gaps in the murals by design. The turnout, though, surprised them.
“We thought they were going to be a little empty here or there, and that would be representative of our community – our community is a work in progress,” said team member Lindsay Benacka, the arts and culture program manager for the City. “We were blown away with the number of people who came out. At the end, there was a wait list – people waiting for a ladder or for a particular color to come free.”
Two of the murals, as it turned out, were completed.
“What we learned is, Yumans are active participants in their community. They want to be a part of creating the community that they live in,” she said.
The big reveal throughout the mural project was the content of the murals. Each mural featured a unique house based on a series of photographs taken throughout Yuma County. The content of the mural was designed to be something that everyone had in common and that is that Yuma is “home” in one way, shape, or form.
The mural sites included the Foothills Library, the grassy area in front of Lowe’s at the Big Curve, and at the new PPEP Park in San Luis. The mural on the Foothills Library is permanently affixed, while visitors will only have a few more months to enjoy the mural at the Big Curve.
The future of the murals is still to be determined. But the team hopes to extend the project, if granted another year of funding, to another round of murals in spring 2019. It is possible the murals in San Luis and at the Big Curve will be turned into mobile murals to be displayed throughout the community.
AZ CCI Team Yuma includes Lindsay Benacka, Arts and Culture Program Manager for the City of Yuma, Maria McKivergan, Licensed Professional Counselor and Owner of Desert Counseling, Cari Jean Nelson, Art Teacher, and Isaac Russell, a Director at Littlewood Fine Art and Community Co-Op. The project was designed by artists Brad Downey, Lia Littlewood, and Lucinda Yrene ‘La Morena’.
The project was made possible because of Team Yuma’s advisory council and community volunteers which included: Abraham Andrade, Susan Evans, Anthony Fornoff, Jesus Meza, Judy Phillips, Lori Stofft, Chris Wheeler, Janet Wheeler, Ann Wilkinson and Sarah Wisdom.
The team sends a special “thank you” to the All Yuma Center, Arizona Western College, Caballeros de Yuma, Chicano Art Walk, City of San Luis, City of Yuma, Desert Counseling and Recovery Services, Littlewood Fine Art and Community Co-Op, Lowe’s, NexGen Leadership Council, Prison Hill Brewery, Rolls and Bowls, Specialty Electric, Yuma Art Center and the Yuma County Library District.
DIY murals was funded by a special Arizona Creative Communities Institute grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts, Arizona State University’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, and the Southwest Folklife Alliance.