Crystal Lake Camps reaches out to Christian Science communities, inner city families, families with one Christian Scientist in their family hoping to send a loved one/relative, blessing their child with a summer of peace, joy, understanding, faith, support, and unconditional Love. We reach out to the World, to many different countries.
Alex Cook, artist and musician (stonebalancer.com), is looking to do the same. Alex intends to reach out to people with faith and without, with encouraging messages. Which brings us to this Mural Event hoping to catch fire and spread around our country, and someday the world.
Alex is an amazing person, with a profound yet simple idea of spreading good messages around through art. With community interaction, his murals brings everyone around them together. Alex is the joyfully radiant, humble, spirited, tender, courageous leader to bring forward this calling and his passion, as an artist, and through that “bless the world” (in reference to our camp’s mission statement.
Please, READ ON to find out more about Alex’s project. It’s incredibly beautiful, as he always portrays simple messages and it always creates a magical outcome, giving people a conversation about ways for them to bless the world.
In 2013 I had two “falling apple” moments that opened my eyes to a project that will be beautiful, effective and address a deep societal need in a new and creative way.
First, as I worked on a mural in a New Orleans elementary school, talking with the principal and observing the children, I began to see what an enormous need there is to combat an undercurrent voice so rampant in our world that silently tells both children and adults that they are valueless, unimportant, and that they will not amount to much. The mural was meant to infuse the school building with a feeling of beauty, and therefore, value. As such, it felt just right to include in that mural a few statements that directly and explicitly contradict the destructive, devaluing voice. We included in the mural these words:
You are loved
You are important
You are special
You are needed
You are a thinker
You can do it
Just minutes after I had finished painting those words on the wall I was gratified to observe a group of girls come into the hallway, see the message and spontaneously and enthusiastically read it out loud. We are constantly taking in the messages we see around us. How important to begin balancing out the countless destructive and devaluing messages we see every day with explicit messages of inherent value, inclusion, and ability.
Second, I was hired by a church in Alexandria, VA to make a mural, not for their church building, but as a gift to their community. The church partnered with a local building owner and arts commission and the result was a beautiful mural and well-attended community painting event. It benefited the community in that there was a beautiful new work of art enriching the neighborhood. It benefited the church in that they were able to express their love of their community and do some effective outreach and relationship-building, as well as having their name be connected with a very popular, public gift.
I want to take these two lessons and join them in a powerful, multi-event mural project that would use the tools of art, community, and the good-will of sponsoring organizations to draw attention to inherent self-worth, inclusion, and ability.
Imagine the words “You Are Loved,” as the substance of an entire mural – the letters, 12 feet tall, covering the side of a public building, recreational space, or school. Imagine the words “You Can Do It,” painted, not just as a sign, but made artfully, beautifully, causing community members to stop and look, taken with the beauty of the painting, internalizing the power of the message. Imagine the internal conversations it will cause when people read “You Are Needed” emblazoned on a public wall, undercutting all the voices that fill our public spaces, the internet, and public thought testifying to the opposite.
Developed for a broad audience each mural would be one of these five messages:
You Are Loved
You Are Important
You Are Needed
You Are Beautiful
You Can Do It
We often wonder, sometimes with great fear, if we are loved, important, needed, beautiful, and if we can, in fact, do it. Many of us wonder these things for years, and maybe for whole lifetimes. Worse still, many are convinced by circumstances or by the cruel voices they hear in their lives, that they aren’t loved, important, needed, beautiful or able. Nothing is more helpful in realizing these qualities are in us than having a confident, active reminder.
The good effect these works of art would have on communities is wonderful. Imagine the young woman, struggling with fears about her appearance, drinking in a confident, colorful mural declaring “You Are Beautiful” instead of the belittling message of sex-based advertising. Imagine a young man struggling to find work encountering an unequivocal public statement that “You Are Needed.” It’s impossible to say what each individual will make of such expressions, but it is sure that it will cause people to think and feel in new and more hopeful ways. It also seems realistic to imagine that many will simply see the beauty, feel the message, and be uplifted and renewed.
Each mural would be different in design and color, but would be recognizably part of a series, linked thematically and aesthetically.
POWERFUL ART BRINGS LEGITIMACY
The way a message is delivered very often dictates whether or not it is received successfully. These murals are tools in the inner battles of individuals and communities to feel and be loved, important, needed, beautiful, and able. Because these murals will be beautiful, original, and bold they will be taken seriously. It is important that they be bold in color, design, and size in order to have that effect. See more of Alex’s murals at www.stonebalancer.com.
These murals could be created in two ways, each serving a particular need.
1) The mural message is chosen by the sponsoring organization(s), created by the artist, and enjoyed and celebrated by the sponsoring organization and the community. In this model the sponsoring organization have the opportunity to reach out to the community in finding an appropriate wall and giving the gift, and sharing the message in the media.
2) The mural phrase is chosen by the sponsoring organization(s), designed by the artist, and then painted as part of an event organized by the sponsoring organization in the community. Community members, residents, employees, students, etc, would work under the supervision of the artist, painting a pre-planned “color-by-number.” The artist would then touch up the work, bringing it to a level of excellence that everyone can be proud of for years to come. In this model there is a great opportunity for collaboration and bridge-building among the sponsoring organization and the community, as well as to reach out to the community in finding an appropriate wall and sharing the message in the media.
Ultimately these murals will be painted all over the country, partnering with schools, churches, anti-bullying organizations and anyone else whose pre-existing mission includes or would be helped along by these unequivocal messages of worth and value.
The public, visual product of this project is the murals, but its effect will be much more. This project would be framed as a way for organizations to give this gift as an act of generosity: A church associating its name with a public assertion that You Are Loved, a youth organization publicly stating to students at a school, You Are Needed, a community-minded business having the vision to publicly state to its neighborhood You Can Do It, a local arts organization delighting in the fact that You Are Beautiful.
Every aspect of this project is a win-win for all parties involved. The public receives confident, beautiful, messages of inherent worth, inclusion, and ability. The locality and/or facility in which the artwork is created is publicly associated with a healthy, progressive, inclusive artwork. The congregation, employees, students, and/or volunteers of the sponsoring organization(s) have the opportunity to actively participate in creating a permanent artwork and connect with their community in a meaningful way. And finally, in addition to furthering its pre-existing goals of supporting the community, the sponsoring organization has the powerful experience of turning its gaze outward, giving an important, surprising, and beautiful gift, and publicly associating itself with a vibrant, relevant, and attention-getting event.
It would be very natural for organizations hoping to build bridges in their community to use this idea as a vehicle for collaboration with other organizations. In fact, one of the great powers this project has is that it will be powerful, healthy PR for any organization interested in having its name connected with it. It is the kind of thing that lends itself easily to newspaper and TV coverage, drawing attention to the central messages, but also to the community-minded organizations supporting it. The more publicity there is, the better it is for everyone involved.
BUDGET AND NECESSARY STEPS
To create a mural like this would cost between $1,500 – $5,000 for the artist and supplies (depending on size) and take from 3 days to 2 weeks. The sponsoring organization(s) would also pay for whatever costs arise from event planning and community involvement (publicity, food, music, etc.), and the artist’s travel and lodging (if necessary)
Using high quality house paints an exterior mural can last from l0-25 years, depending on location, weather, and the condition of the wall. Interior murals can last much longer.
The sponsoring organization would need to:
1) Find either an appropriate wall on the public streets of the community, OR a school, community center, or other facility interested in participating.
2) Make friendly connections with the building owner to secure the wall, as well as create a feeling of excitement about the idea of giving this gift to the community
3) Arrange travel and lodging for the artist. To economize, lodging could be with a member of the community.
ADDITIONAL OUTREACH POSSIBILITIES
1) Collaborate with another organization on sponsorship to defray costs, create new and healthy relationships, and share the message of the event more broadly.
2) Organize an event (with food? music?) where community members help paint the mural, learn about the message, community building, and outreach, as well as share in a vibrant, enjoyable day of healthy activity.
3) Share the message of the mural via contacting local newspapers and television, as well as via social media, email, and newsletters.
The more these murals are publicized the more powerful their message. Thousands of people will see one of these murals on a well-traveled urban street, but tens or even hundreds of thousands could see it and be touched as these murals are noticed, celebrated, and shared on television, newspapers, and social media. This is the kind of warm, public event which, when covered in the media, highlights the generosity, care, and community involvement of the sponsoring organizations in one neighborhood and creates the potential for that generous involvement and enthusiasm for the message to spread.
The simple, unequivocally positive messages of these murals, as well as the community support that creates them will be easy to share. Our society longs to be assured of these 5 important ideas. As people see that they are being declared so openly, so confidently, thousands of people will rally to the call. Countless people will joyfully celebrate the message and magnify the ideas that we are all loved, important, needed, beautiful, and able.
The first YOU ARE LOVED mural will be painted in March 2014 in Socorro, NM.
As this idea catches fire and people fall in love with it, it will be wonderful to have multiple artists designing the murals. The idea will be magnified. The murals could be made into bumper stickers, posters, greeting cards. The 5 messages which began as murals can become more and more present in our daily lives. And this incorruptible advertising campaign for our inherent worth, inclusion, and ability can grow and grow from the enthusiasm it elicits.
PREVIOUS COLLABORATORS SAY…
Sharon S. Freedman
YMCA of Greater Boston
We found Alex Cook to be full of artistic energy, perspectives, and discipline. He goes above and beyond his call as an artist. He has touched our hearts and minds.
Josephine D. Barron; Director of Development
Tenacre Country Day School; Wellesley, MA
Alex was able to quickly grasp the culture of our school and to understand what we wanted the mural to represent. His professionalism along with a keen ability to understand the needs and desires of his client were apparent from our first meeting. He was able to take a difficult concept and hone it down to a beautiful work. Alex also possesses a wonderful talent of working with children; he was able to build into his mural a teaching element by allowing our students to create their own section of the mural.
Denise Goncalves; Executive Director
Cape Verdean Community Unido; Roxbury, MA
Through his work, Alex was able to help us in engaging a group of youth to explore their thoughts, ideas, and interpretations of life, while engaging the larger community. He patiently listened to the youth, ensuring their voice was at the forefront of the process, supported by his knowledge of art and the use of murals in the community.
Ruth Ellen Fitch; President & CEO
The Dimock Center; Roxbury, MA
The murals Alex created have changed our spaces in so many positive ways. They are colorful and appealing; they make the spaces feel friendly and welcoming. The murals create almost ‘instant’ comfort and set a tone that encourages conversation and thinking. They offer the opportunity to examine details and ‘stories’ and, again, encourage sharing and dialogue. Alex’s thoughtfulness, planning, and execution come together to make the murals effective tools and contributors to Dimock’s programs.
First Church of Christ, Scientist, Alexandria, VA
Our church wanted to offer something tangible and inclusive that didn’t require the public to go into a church building to see that we care about the community, are generous and all about love. So the church sponsored an outdoor public mural by Alex Cook at a busy corner building during a large annual arts event. The event was very well attended and drew participants from all over the community. Now, one can’t look at the mural and not be touched by a peaceful, loving feeling. It has opened up new thoughts at our church, and helped build camaraderie among members. The mural attracted the local press who wrote about it and photographed it. It has put our church “on the map” locally.
Melissa Hayden, President of the Board of Trustees
Salem Interfaith Hospitality Network; Salem, OR
Alex did a great job of capturing Interfaith Hospitality in his murals at the Day Center. Not only did the design really depict a lovely and broad community, but he engaged our guests and staff in the project in such an inclusive and frankly, spiritual way. Our newly brightened training/family room is a wonderful reminder of not only the foundational principles of our organization but of his skills at both painting and outreach. Bravo!
Amy Hoyle; Principal
Woodland West Elementary School; New Orleans, LA
Woodland West is grateful to have two beautiful murals created by Alex Cook. The murals evoke a sense of curiosity and wonder in each precious child and enrich their learning experience. Being surrounded with art and beauty helps our students to feel loved and a sense of self-worth.
www.stonebalancer.com to see more
and see/like his page: https://www.facebook.com/YOUARELOVEDMMP
Share this Post