MURAL PROJECT: How can physical space celebrate the shared values of a diverse community?

Overview:

In 2013, Convergence partnered with DC-based public arts collective, Albus Cavus, to transform our Lab entrance with a 12’ x 20’  mural representing the creativity and diversity of the Convergence community while highlighting our shared values. The message: “You belong here!”

Albus Cavus suggested finding a grant to support the project, so we approached the Duke Street Trinity Baptist Memorial Foundation (Link) who support creative forms of mission and outreach.

To lead us through the process, Albus Cavus asked Convergence leadership to create a value statement with a description of our intentions for the mural. Then, they held a community stakeholder meeting where Albus Cavus shared examples of their work and process before inviting people to share their ideas for the mural. Church members, the “punk” DIY house show community of the Lab All Ages, studio artists, performing arts groups, teachers, and neighbors who regularly use our space shared stories of meaningful experiences at Convergence and what the community meant to them. Albus Cavus thoughtfully translated these thoughts into a mural design which was painted in collaboration with our community. On completion, we held a celebration event to unveil the mural.


Our Approach:

While many church facilities remain dormant throughout the week, ours are filled day and evening; so it is important to us that our building act as an outreach ambassador in our faith community’s absence. While churches’ aesthetics often signify their own spiritual identities, it is less common for them to reflect the experience and character of those visitors whom they serve. Our approach was to highlight the intersection of shared values among those invited to use our space. It was also important to make the mural specific to the spirit of the artists as people and not to simply have generic “arts” images on the wall. Albus Cavus – a likeminded organization – taught us how to work with diverse groups of stakeholders to build unity.  

The vibrant images that came from our conversations reflect the deep spiritual impact our church (and our space) has on the lives of individuals across demographics regardless of whether or not they attend our church. This sense that there is a shared “Convergence Experience” was one which connected our disparate community together. This shows up in the mural as stars and space to remind us that as humans we are not isolated from the rest of the universe but are a part of an interconnected network. Butterflies suggest cross-pollination and collaboration within community; a shell provides shelter and protection with layers of complex beauty. Next to the shell, a small baby hand grabs onto a thumb of a grown hand reflecting the meaningful multi-generational relationships developed at Convergence. In the heart of the mural are actual vibration frequencies of laughter under a sequence of colorful squares and circles evoking the keys of a piano giving life to the soundtrack of the Convergence community translating into lives filled with music and color.




At Convergence the invitation is to go deeper in; in order to go further out.

A comment from Studio artist, Rusty Lynne during the community meeting with Albus Cavus.

Results:

By working with a professional arts collective to invite our arts partners into conversation about shared values we were able to create an entrance that immediately welcomes artists, congregation members and visitors by visually defining the purpose and spirit of the building.

Together, we were able to:
  • Find a fun and constructive way for the community to articulate why Convergence was valuable to them.
  • Build unity and respect among diverse groups by having the chance to hear one another’s stories.
  • Discover that there is an underlying “Convergence Experience” that is shared and felt across the groups.
  • Build an ongoing relationship with Albus Cavus that led to future artistic partnerships and personal friendships.
  • Create a way for people to feel at home in the space from the moment they walk in.

Additional Resources:
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albus_Cavus
  • http://createpublicart.org/
  • http://www.elevationdcmedia.com/features/OpenWallsRevitalizeNeighborhoods_031213.aspx