by Dionne Bonner, Visual Artist,
www.dionnebonner.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, 253-219-1162
I’ve always hoped to make a difference in my own way. For as long as I can remember drawing and painting brought me great joy. And when I decided to pursue visual arts as my profession I knew it was the right path for me. About 7 years ago I worked on a fun project as part of an annual art festival and painted a street mural on the pavement, with the festival attendees joining in to help me complete the mural. It was so fun and challenging all at the same time. That experience taught me a lot and I realized there where so many things I would and wouldn’t change. So when a call for art project ideas came from the city of Tacoma as part of the Lincoln District Revitalization project I thought bringing a street mural to this neighborhood would be a great opportunity and second chance at completing a similar type of mural.
After my project idea was accepted I began months of planning, workshops, voting and meetings with community members. In my time researching other organizations and artists that completed similar murals a colleague referred me to City Repair in Portland Oregon. Soon I met one of the directors, Ridhi D’Cruz and attended one of their workshops. That initial research was very important in helping to answer questions and get more of a sense of what others have accomplished. Talking face to face with people doing this type of work, fueled my energy towards this project. I like that we helped give communities an opportunity to take an active part in enchancing their environment.
The two day mural painting project called Paint the Street was taking shape. A core group of community members got active, and showed up consistently to meetings and workshops. Social media showed there was high interest in this project and a number of newspapers wrote articles about the event. Soon the week of the mural painting was here and we prepared the intersection at 39th and J Street for painting. Street sweeping and light pressure washing was completed on August 17 & 18. At 7am on August 19 myself, and a few volunteers arrived at 39 & J Street to begin the process of creating a grid on the pavement. The grid is an important first step in enlarging the mural sketch to fill the intersection. Other volunteers soon showed up to help chalk in the design using a copy of the sketch and the reference lines created by the grid. We worked on chalking in the sketch from 8am to 3:30pm. We painted over the chalk in black paint in preparation for painting day on August 20. We used white paint to add codes like Y for yellow or G for green to different parts of the design so it would be easier for participants to help with the painting.
On August 20 we arrived at the location at 7:30am to set up arts and craft tables, an information table, tents and a paint mixing station. As soon as we had a few major colors mixed we began distributing paint to the community to use to paint in the different sections of the mural. Over the two days about 150 – 200 people came by to paint, network, watch, take photos and work together as a team. The painting was completed by approximately 5:30pm on August 20 and left to dry for 1 hour. I observed that this project was more than creating a colorful and bright design in a neighborhood. I saw people networking and talking about what other locations in the community they would like to see a mural. Neighbors seemed to appreciate the contributions everyone made to the mural. A large banner was on a table for participants to sign indicating that they helped to create the mural. The banner is now hanging in the Lincoln District project office. The mural at 39th and J Street depicts a sketch I created but more importantly it’s a symbol of unity and togetherness I think is needed right now, a testament to the power of collective action.