Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Community Mural Meeting Notes

Mr. Walker presented the mural design for feedback. He talked about the general concept, which has evolved some since the last meeting. The mural imagery will still radiate from the center with a focus on the Colman school and the Colman/Judkins community. The next section will cover the local protests, marches and activism for civil rights. Then the third stage will cover the pioneer history and the daily lives of the people in the area. Across the whole mural, there will be larger portraits of community leaders and in between the spaces, everyday people. The background will be made up of Pacific Northwest foliage. The colors will go from yellow to orange to purple to blue to green radiating from the yellow center. Another layer will be text in various languages and of community narratives mixed into the mural and on the sides.

We had a discussion about who should be depicted on the mural. Over history, the CD has been a multicultural place, but there has been a lot of leadership by the Black community members in the civil rights movement and community organizing. Also for a large period and most recently the area has been predominantly African American. So, we agreed that there should be a predominance of African American imagery to reflect the Black presence in the CD and the mural placement by NAAM. It will also have multicultural imagery to represent the multicultural history of CD and the interconnected experiences of people in the area.
Some folks remembered Mr. Desmoni, for example. He was from Sicily and sold liquor to after-hours clubs. People in the neighborhood bought homemade Sicilian liquor from him. One meeting participant said that she still has his wine barrels in her basement. Several folks remembered the Jewish family that owned a store in the neighborhood and would sell things to neighbors on credit.

Some suggestions were made to look through the Black Heritage Society images (which we have already done once). Mr. Walker plans to search for more images at MOHAI. People talked about the Madrona beach (the only beach where African Americans were allowed to swim at one point). One of the meeting participants, Stephanie, said that there is a photograph of her grandmother in a bathing suit, likely at Madrona beach in the Black Heritage collection. She will try to retrieve it. There was also a discussion about how none of the major grocery stores wanted to open a branch in the neighborhood. There was community organizing, Nina Harding and others fought to get the land abatement and to develop the Promenade into an area with stores. Before that there was nowhere close to do grocery shopping except for the Black Front, which was a small store.

There was also discussion about how much of the unpleasant past to represent in the mural. In our interviews, we found that people tended to tell stories of discrimination (like the one about beach segregation and big stores ignoring the n'hood) as well as positive stories of community pride and collaboration. We debated about the merits of painting a romanticized depiction of the neighborhood vs. a realistic and not always happy one. It seems that a balance of all types of stories should be told, pleasant and some unpleasant.

Eddie’s concept covers the whole wall and we will try to get permission from NAAM to do that. At this point, they have only committed to a contained mural, but Eddie and I are meeting with Barbara Thomas tomorrow and we will try to explain the concept to her and see what the possibilities are.

Other ideas for the mural were to create a children’s coloring book (addition to Chalice's last meeting idea of having an informational brochure) and Reggie pointed out that the mural can become a destination spot where people come from other places to look at it and to learn about the area history.

People, institutions and places that were mentioned
Agnes and Corky Kirshner who raised 11 kids from 1950
Floyd Standifer, the musician
Eddie Rye
Larry Gossett
Aaron Dixon
Black Panthers
The crew who occupied Colman School (Elmer, Amari, etc)
Facts, Medium (Black newspapers)
Our Lady Mt. Virgin
Promenade (the struggle to get land abatement and to gain economic empowerement)
I90 struggle (struggle to keep homes)
Liberty Bank
Black Front (AA grocery store)

Concerns raised
How to represent the abstract concepts in a powerful way?
The mural imagery should "speak" to people, tell complex and diverse stories but at the same time not be too chaotic.
How to visually represent the narratives, such as ones of economic empowerment that people have discussed?
How to express community pride visually?
How to represent the struggles and hardships?
Can it be done in 3 months and with the funding that we have?

1 comment:

Richard Wells said...

Irina, you're doing a great job! When it comes time to put brush to wall count me in as a volunteer.