Sense of Place and a Mural
What’s more fun than starting the day in the country, walking down that dirt road I walked so often as a kid, taking in the sunrise and revisiting the fields I saw last week still ripe with harvest now half picked? A gorgeous sunrise was almost out done by an equally amazing sunset this evening and I am amazed at the day and the faithfulness of God through the wind and colder temps.
I’m overjoyed at the response of the kids to the mural and their eagerness to ask questions and learn. My prayer to enjoy their visits today was answered from the very first one where I engaged in some deeper, meaningful, contemplative discussions about art and the context of the mural in a small rural town. A town which isn’t used to seeing abstract, public artwork and as one student said “work with so much color.” I can’t help but think of my thought this morning about my high school English teacher and our study my sophomore year on something called our “sense of place.” I was thankful for those lessons and that unit (though I’m not sure I was at the time). I learned the history of where I lived, was from, and who was part of the context of my home town on the prairies of Nebraska. I don’t know if I really knew the gravity of learning about and knowing this though, maybe not even till this morning, as I verbalized my thankfulness for my childhood home. As I talked with students, who do not yet appreciate the roots they are receiving growing up in Henderson, I thought again of “sense of place” and how knowing it helps one respect the work of others in the past and guides one through opportunities to gently push and challenge others as time progresses. I told the students today that when I start a piece of public art somewhere I find out about the place first and learn about it. I ask for themes from those who work, live or congregate there and use what I discover in the designs. In a way, I’m finding out the “sense of place” of the place and its people. It caused me to recall how that is what happened when I was asked to make sketches for the mural. I met with the council and others from the community as I knew Henderson had changed since I had lived there almost 20 years prior. It was interesting and exciting to learn how a new generation of men and women were taking pride in the rural community still so dear to me.
Today I learned so much more about the young residences of Henderson. All of them so excited about the artwork and watching the process of it going up. During one conversation with the high school students, we discussed how many murals go up in cities and conversely how few are in rural communities. As we talked, I realized how unique and special this opportunity really is in and of itself. And I am thankful for the chance to be part of it and the privilege of meeting the students and teachers learning and working at Heartland Community School.
I am thankful again for the people who visit the mural and check out the progress hollering out encouraging words as they pass by. I’m thankful for conversations with former classmates and chats with others I never really talked to as a young person. A huge smile is how I end this day. Happy to have stayed on the scaffolding. Relieved I haven’t dropped a paint brush or a bucket of paint --- yet. And pleased with the slow, steady process of painting black lines on the design’s “grid” to enhance the colors and word hidden within.
I’ll end this blog with this thought: One second grader asked me why I make pretty things. I responded with something like I was created to do this. That is one hundred percent the truth. God made me to make things for His reasons and purposes and I am reminded that part of seeing Him honored, for me, is helping others in their journey to know who they are created for and what they are wired to do.
10/16/2020 07:36:25 pm
This mural just made me cry a little bit. I never had a place where I felt like I belonged, well, that was until today. I feel like I am where I need to be, and this mural just reminded me of that. I hope that more people can see this, because it is definitely one of the best. It is not as amazing as others, but it has the certain feel that can make your heart explode, do you understand?
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Ann has worked as a professional artist since 2006. She currently works on her own studio artwork as well as large, commercial works and with other artists in any way she can.