Repainting the Future is a Denver-based community mural art project about domestic violence. It is a unique artwork of social conscience designed to make a strong impact in people’s lives and in the community. The central art-piece involves a freestanding, sculptural mural that project members will tour throughout the community at various venues (ie: universities, schools, faith centers, nonprofit centers, libraries, and community organizations).

This mural will be a unique artwork of social conscience designed to make a strong impact in people’s lives and in the community regarding the plight of domestic violence. It will address the root causes of violence toward women and other exploited groups such as the elderly, disabled, and transgendered individuals who are targeted in the home and within relationships under an institutionalized systems of prejudice, oppression, and inequality. This mural, whose imagery will be thought provoking and challenging, will also offer images of overcoming these injustices in order to gain healing and hope. The project creates dialogue and calls for action towards social change through public art.

This project also observes and studies how individuals use public community art and the sharing of stories to confront domestic violence as an endemic social justice issue and what is considered to be “the most pervasive yet least recognized human rights abuse in the world”, according to the United Nations Population Fund.

How You Can Help 

Whether you are a visual artist, activist, director service provider, student, etc., we want you to join this unique project. We are not looking for the well-known or “perfect” artist. We are looking for individuals with an affinity towards art, writing, compassion, and social justice. 

If you are interested in participating, please contact Leticia Tanguma  720-448 1681 at letimariposa@yahoo.com 
or Hannah Jones at 720-988-4981 at jones768@regis.edu.

We hope to hear from you soon!

Origins of the Project

Last spring, I took Dr. Janna Goodwin’s Strategies of Dialogue class. For my project, I facilitated a dialogue about the role of alcohol and sexual consent on Regis’s campus. The project produced fruitful dialogue about the gray area of consent and the rampant problem of sexual assault at Regis (counseling department estimates 1 in 3). I realized how ignorant I am about violence against women and it felt empowering to create a student-lead dialogue and feel like I sparked important conversations.
            That summer, I moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina for four months to study abroad. My studies and travels around South America, along with a course I took on Gender Studies in Latin America, I began to realize that violence against women was a serious global problem and I could not forgot the gender discrimination I witnessed. Upon my return, I was inspired by a TED Talk by JR, a relatively anonymous French street artist. JR describes himself as a "photograffeur". He posts giant black-and-white photos in public location to make the streets his gallery and a canvas to voice his passion for social justice. His 2008 international project Women Art Heroes, which highlights the dignity of women who are often targets of violence, was particularly inspirational for me.  I knew I wanted to do something about violence against women and the arts, but was not sure how I could incorporate art into a social justice research project. Dr. Goodwin pointed me to Keith Knight’s work Beginner’s Guide to Community-based Arts. He provides an excellent example of the power of community-based arts projects. His graphic novel chronicles stores of social change artists around the United States and their projects that “tangibly transform their communities” through art. Knight highlights that this model of community-based arts is powerful because is “live[s] at the cross roads of three things we normally think of separately: art, learning and social change”. He guides readers about how to explore the power of art and story telling while working with a community to build something greater. The collaborative nature of the community-based arts model poses a unique challenge to artists and encourages readers to see that there is immense power in community. Knight confirms that: “Building consensus among people with different perspectives, gifts, talents and skills is one of the thing community-based art does best” (Knight xii). Knight looks at five conceptual territories of the creative process: Contact, Research, Action, Feedback, and Training (CRAFT) (xiii). Through this, Knight builds a solid foundation for artistic exploration and social justice research.
Why is art important? What can art do to help anyone? Knight provides a helpful answer as he suggests:
“In today’s world, it can take a problem or injustice, bad economy or the need for better schools, for people to rediscover their sense of people power – this is where community-based arts often come into play. But whether it is a week-long workshop, a year-long project or a permanent program, the skills enhanced through community-based arts have the potential to go beyond fixing problems to developing solutions. This ability to unleash our “social imagination” – to help us envision the world differently – makes community-based arts a uniquely important type of social change strategy” (xxiv).

This idea of “social imagination” speaks loudly to the transformative nature of art. If we are to create community and share stories about violence, we must do so in a way that works toward envisioning – and repainting – the world in a new way.
In the summer of 2013, Dr. Geoffrey Bateman, an associate professor of Peace and Justice, introduced me to Leticia Tanguma, daughter of Leo Tanguma, a nationally recognized muralist whose most famous work hangs in the Denver International Airport. She is a survivor of domestic abuse and a talented artist with a passion for social change through local arts efforts. She had a dream to build a large mural about gender based violence years ago but never began the project. Our first meetings were extremely fruitful and we quickly learned that we would make a great team with our various experiences and resources. With a shared passion, we began the journey together.
Interested in the idea of re-creating narratives of hope, freedom, and courage with the power of stories and paint, we decided to title the project Repainting the Future.  As described on the blog I am writing to chronicle the journey of the project, Repainting the Future is:
“A Regis University student led initiative to construct a traveling structural mural about domestic violence against women. Together, with the help of local Denver artists (many who are survivors of domestic violence and continue to experience homelessness) they will depict the plight of people suffering under institutionalized systems of prejudice, bias, oppression, and inequality. This mural, whose imagery will be thought provoking and challenging, will also offer images of healing, survival, justice, and hope. This project will be a journey of education, protest, healing, and honoring loved ones who are survivors of domestic violence. This project will also observe and study how individuals use public community art and the sharing of stories to confront gender-based violence as an endemic social justice issue and what is considered to be “the most pervasive yet least recognized human rights abuse in the world”, according to the United Nations Population Fund.”

Community-based Arts and Participatory Action Research Method
Inspired by Knight’s community-based arts model and seeing this group of women as a fascinated demographic to study, I decided that the majority of my work would be to conduct an ethnographic study on the power of art as a story telling mechanism and facilitator. The main research revolves around the question: How and in what ways does participating in collective community art encourage vulnerability and story telling about domestic violence? Other secondary questions that stem from that one include:
1.     How does art (visual and written) act as a medium to express and process pain? (Answering this will be based both on theoretical research as well as ethnographic observations).
2.     Why and how is art important in instigating dialogue and story sharing? (In other words, why is art needed in this ethnographic study to foster human connection and vulnerability?)
3.     How does doing art as a community allow participants to share stories in a different way than doing art in private would?
4.     How do the artists’ interactions with each other change over the course of the project?

My research question will no doubt evolve and narrow over the course of the project. Right now, I am focusing on taking good field notes and noticing patterns in actions and stories. Based on the information I collect, I will reshape my questions and the conclusions I draw from data collection. As a participatory action research (PAR) project, I will act as facilitator, member, and observer. Within a PAR process, "communities of inquiry and action evolve and address questions and issues that are significant for those who participate as co-researchers" (Reason and Bradbury). In this process, I am a co-constructor ad co-researcher. The advantage of this is that I do not create a barrier by being “an authority”. I am on the same level as the artists, doing the same work they are, while also observing their actions. My goal is to form close relationships with each of the artists so that our interactions can be as authentic and open as possible. However, unlike a sociological research project where the observer has the advantage of observing from a distance and therefore not changing the tone or dynamic of the group being studied, my presence might have an effect on the artists and might influence their mood, comfort level, etc. This is why establishing strong and trusting relationships with them is key to the success and authenticity of the project. According to Stephan Kemmis and Robin McTaggart’s work Participatory Action Research: Communicative Action and the Public Sphere, the success of the PAR approach is five-fold. It involves:
(1) A high degree of access to the project setting (2) clear demarcation of roles and responsibilities between researchers and participants (3) considerable effort spent building and maintaining informal networks and relationships (4) sensitivity to the relationship between ‘insiders’ (the participants or owners of the issue i.e. government and community) and ‘outsiders’ (the research project team) (5) continual review of project planning and willingness to adapt timeframes and processes to suit the situation.

However, there are (more) drawbacks to this approach. Kemmis and McTaggart identify four main myths, misinterpretations, and mistakes* about PAR.

(1)  Exaggerated assumptions about how empowerment might be achieved through action Research
(2)  Confusions about the role of those helping others to learn how to conduct action research, the problem of facilitation, and the illusion of neutrality
(3)  The falsity of a supposed research-activism dualism, with research seen as dispassionate, informed, and rational and with activism seen as passionate, intuitive, and weakly theorized.
(4)  Understatement of the role of the collective and how it might be conceptualized in conducting the research and in formulating action in the “project” and in its engagement with the “public sphere” in all facets of institutional and social life.

No comments:

Post a Comment