My definition of art has always been the same. It is about freedom of expression, a new way of communication. It is never about exhibiting in museums or about hanging it on the wall. Art should live in the heart of the people. Ordinary people should have the same ability to understand art as anybody else. I don’t think art is elite or mysterious. I don’t think anybody can separate art from politics. The intention to separate art from politics is itself a very political intention. ~ Ai Weiwei (Chinese artist and activist)
Public art is an important part of place making. Murals as an art form have a very long and rich history. Perhaps the first language ever recorded was the rock and cave art of prehistoric times – these hand prints, hand stencils, animal and hunter figures and petroglyphs were often part of a larger body of work forming collective murals that are still alive and well today. Visual markers of a people from the past and a promise for the future. Many cultures throughout time have relied on mural-a-making to communicate ideas, values, identity, messages, politics, aesthetics and more to the public at large. Murals are ideal transmitters of information and positions since they do not require literacy of written words and are not specific to any one language.
David Call, a teaching artist at the California School for the Deaf in Fremont, CA and one of the leading De’VIA Surdists, has along with the students of CSD been transforming the campus via creating unique and masterfully done Deaf-centered murals. Go to https://deviacurr.wordpress.com/devia-curr/lesson-plans/pp-of-art-projects/ and scroll down for PP on Mural Making at CSD
When the Rochester Deaf Awareness Week (RDAW) 2016 decided it would like to have De’VIA Surdist Nancy Rourke come to town to give a presentation at NTID and some painting workshops for Rochester School for the Deaf and community members, we discussed the possibility of Nancy doing a public mural at RRCD using her trademark three primary colors (red, yellow,and blue) with black and white in her Rourkeism style.. Fortunately RRCD agreed and Nancy was up for the challenge. She researched the history of RRCD and drafted some sketches and revised with feedback from RRCD President Teddy and Rob.She then went to a top paint store for advise on primer and type of paint and color matching. As soon as Nancy landed in Rochester, NY she went straight to the RRCD to see the wall and project the sketch onto the wall for outlining. She realized the dimensions for the door hadnt been given in advance and she had to decide what she would do for the door.She mused on that for a few ideas – asking folks their thoughts as she went along.
Everyday for one week (except when Nancy had other commitments like giving a Rourkeism workshop at to maximum security prison with Deaf prisoners and giving a workshop with RSD middle school and high school students or presenting at NTID), Nancy was hard at work on the mural – rising by 5 am and ending her day by 11 pm. Other volunteers worked very hard committing long hours and sore backs and knees for this community mural (thank you each and all!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
See the video (2nd from the bottom – to see Nancy explain each section of mural and see the bottom video for some specs and more pix)
The RRCD Mural was unveiled to the public on the last day of RDAW (October 2, 2016) and the crowd was in awe of the design, colors, message and hardwork. The unplanned for door design ended up being a happy accident as Nancy quickly decided to have the ASL Roc artwork be a central part of the door and then added three other De’VIA motifs: a tree stump to represent a foundation and long life to show that the RRCD has had a long life, a heart to show that the RRCD is one of the pillars of the Deaf Community and thus the HEART of ASL Deaf people of Rochester, and blood flow to illustrate that the life blood of Rochester’s Deaf community is ASL which flourishes and grows and spreads at the Deaf Club – RRCD.
Below: Video of Rob Tawney introducing the Rochester Recreation Club of the Deaf (RRCD) mural during Rochester Deaf Awareness Week (RDAW) – designed by Nancy Rourke and painted by Nancy Rourke and community members.
Below: Video of Photos of the RRCD mural-a-making process during Rochester Deaf Awareness Week (RDAW).