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MURALS WITH COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION: Tips For Artists Hosting an Event

Updated: Mar 24, 2023


Occasionally when applying for public art commissions we run across the request for the artist to incorporate community involvement in the art piece. This can mean a number of things, and it is worth speaking with the commissioning body to clarify what public involvement means to them. To read more about various forms of public involvement you can click here.


The sort of public involvement that comes to mind most often with mural projects is an event in which the community assists in painting the wall. While this can be a great way to foster unity and adoption of the mural project, it is not a great fit in every situation, and needs to be well planned to be successful.


Here are a few tips that we have learned for evaluating if a project is a good fit for group painting, and how to host a successful event:


Evaluate the Project


A mural being painted high enough to be out of reach from people standing on the ground, is not a good fit for a community paint event. You never want to place people up off the ground, even on ladders. Additionally, walls that are on very busy streets and might pose a risk to painters and traffic are also not a great fit. No matter what, community safety comes first.


With this in mind, it is important to have a discussion with the commissioning body that is requesting a community paint event about insurance and liability of participants. This may not have been something that they have considered, and you don’t want to wait until someone trips over a paint bucket to figure the situation out.



Communicate


Successful painting events require coordination. It will be important to work closely with the commissioning body for direction and support. Artists, keep in mind that when inviting the public to paint along with you, you most likely will not get much accomplished on the project that day. The reality of the situation is that your function will temporarily switch to event host and coordinator. If you aren’t providing instruction and guidance to the group, you may lose valuable product, or have the project veer off in an unintended direction. Keep in mind that not everyone will approach the project with as much respect or skill as you would, and you are ultimately responsible for the results.


Have a Plan


Anticipate how the event will work. Think the movements of participants through, and plan to make things go smoothly. Things that we have found help are:

-having set hours with start and stop times

-blocking out areas for people to fill in with paint (clearly mark this like a giant coloring book)

-having small cups of the correct colors of paint ready to go with brushes

-providing people with ways to keep themselves clean (gloves, aprons, shoe covers)

-having a picture of what the final mural will look like posted nearby

-having a greeter explain the process to people as they approach

-getting people set up one or two at a time so that a crowd doesn’t rush at your wall before you have given instructions



We have found it is very helpful to take on these projects as a team. One of us greets people and gets them set up, then the other will guide them to an area that is blocked out for them to paint.


Some people are excited to help out, while others will be nervous. Many people have convinced themselves that they have no artistic ability, and may take a little encouragement to feel comfortable painting. The goal is community bonding, so we want everyone to walk away feeling good about their contributions, and are going to avoid making the work overly technical or something that someone might be critical of themselves about. We try to keep the atmosphere lighthearted and fun, and bring a bluetooth speaker for music when the situation fits.


Wrap-Up


As the event comes to a close, you may find that you have more of a mess on your hands than usual (scattered supplies etc.). Budget time for the clean up. We would advise not making the community paint event on one of your final mural painting days. Community paint events are best accomplished in the early stages of the project. As mentioned earlier, the artist has been hired for their artistic vision and skill set, and is ultimately responsible for the results. Make sure that you have enough time to build upon the work the community has done to transform the wall into the concept that you provided to the art selection committee.


We have made a free printable guide for community painting events to help set you up for success. You can find the file here:


Community Paint Prep List
.pdf
Download PDF • 84KB

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