FEATURED ARTIST OF THE MONTH
Follow The Diversity Mural
LK: With two different “Diversity Murals” happening so close together, I think there was some confusion about whether, or how, they were connected. Well, the concept developed out of my own feelings of helplessness and dismay in 2016 when the Pulse Nightclub shooting took place. I envisioned a project that would allow others who felt the way I did to add their voices to a big, visual message of support for those who were targeted by this horrific act, and others like it, and a mural of hearts representing kisses being blown by a nondescript figure floating into a giant rainbow came to me. However, the idea of actually executing it was overwhelming, so I put it in the back of my mind.
After the election, like many of you, I was devastated. The message of inclusion and acceptance seemed more urgent than ever. At the time, I was in the middle of my 4th year teaching mosaic to at-risk teens in a small alternative high school here in Washington State. I told our principal about the idea and reminded her that there was a large, white, brick area on one end of the school that was begging for a mural. As a member of the LGBTQIA community herself, and with a large percentage of the student body outside of mainstream gender and sexual identity, she immediately approved the project and I started students on heart-making in January 2017.
There was an open invitation for anyone who wanted to participate to make a heart. I led a number of public heart-making events locally and people began sending hearts to the school. As word spread, hearts were coming from all over the country, which was very exciting for the students and staff. We even received hearts from Canada, Scotland and Australia! Most of the hearts for this mural were made by non-mosaic artists, and a student, Evelyn Gaitan, created the silhouetted figures (one blowing kisses, and one holding a butterfly net on the other side.)
1st Diversity Mural in Washington State by Jennifer Kuhns
JK: In June, on the 2nd anniversary of the Pulse shooting, I listened to a news report describing how the city of Orlando had rallied in support of the LGBTQ community, and how the nightclub was being turned into a permanent memorial and museum. I suddenly felt that this mural belonged in Orlando, and I eventually worked up the nerve to contact Cherie Bosela, having gotten to know her through SAMA conferences, to ask if she would be interested in a collaboration. Cherie’s response was an enthusiastic YES and we began brainstorming by phone and email, and finally launched the second project in January 2018. Our original goal was to complete the installation by the 3rd anniversary, with the hope of receiving 300-500 hearts from the mosaic community. Bear in mind, I still hadn’t begun installing the first mural, and I did not anticipate how labor intensive it would be! As I started installing in Washington, Cherie was receiving and prepping hearts in Orlando. When I ran into challenges I shared them with Cherie. She and her volunteers made adjustments to the process and the design to streamline and improve it, and I think most of you have seen how amazing it turned out! I really thought I would manage to be in Orlando for most of the installation, which I thought would take a couple of weeks – HA!!! Instead, it took Cherie and many helpers months of hard work to put the hearts onto the wall, and my role ended up being fundraiser and cheerleader from over 3000 miles away.
When I began the first mural project, I was sinking into the pit of despair a little bit. By working with communities locally, then nationally and even globally, I was uplifted. These projects helped me to stay hopeful and positive in the face of so much terrible news and vitriol. Even though I wasn’t on location in Orlando, I felt like part of a web of people who care about other people, even those who are different from themselves, and who believe that everyone has the right to be who they are as long as it isn’t hurting others. Cherie was great about keeping me updated, and she was an amazing host when I flew to Orlando for the mural dedication in September. We visited a museum exhibition about how Orlando reacted to the massacre, and we went to Pulse to pay our respects. We read the notes that were included with hearts, and I got to meet some of the volunteers who made it all happen. Thank you so much to everyone who contributed hearts, Go Fund Me donations, volunteer labor, and helped spread the word, and of course, immense gratitude to Cherie! Love Wins!
CB: I was very excited when Jennifer asked me if I was interested to create this mural with her. I was bummed that I never had the time to create a heart for her first mural. So when she asked me to be part of this one I didn't even hesitate. It's so amazing to know that such an awesome mural with sooo much meaning behind it would be in my city forever. And it would bring so much joy and happiness to everyone.
I am lucky enough to have the mural within walking distance from my studio (4 min walk). And a place I eat lunch at often, Pig Flyod's, overlooks the mural. It's so exciting every time I go there to eat, there's someone or a group of people taking photos of it, walking up close and looking at every heart. It's awesome to see businesses in the area, using it as a back drop in their photos.
Even though it did take up a LOT of my time and it became a much larger project then we ever expected, I would do it all over again!
I'm so happy and thankful for everyone who helped along the way. We had over 300 people send in hearts. And over 50 people come to help with the installation.
For the next how ever long, we will be Featuring Artists that created a heart for the mural.
Thank again to everyone that help, sent in a heart, donated money and just had fun watching the process.
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