Ecological mural as community reconnection
Kang Song, Y. I. & Gammel, J. A. (2011). Ecological mural as community reconnection. International Journal of Art & Design Education, 30, 266–278.
This phenomenological case study documents the Mystic River mural project in the Boston suburb community of Somerville. The researchers collected data during the summer 2009 development of a panel for the mural. They found that the mural catalyzed skill development, collaboration between diverse community members, and a concern about the environment.
- The mural project impacted the community by aesthetically improving the area, reconnecting community members with the river, and bringing environmental issues to the forefront. In the 1960s, a highway and large, concrete barrier were built between the low-income neighborhood and Mystic River. The mural, painted on the barrier, encouraged community members to spend time at the river and addressed environmental concerns.
- The shared experience of the mural brought community members from different backgrounds together. Muralists, high school students, and other community members created the panel and referenced their own experiences in their artwork. Community members not directly involved supported efforts by bringing ethnic food and playing traditional music during painting sessions. Various community members reported that they changed their perspectives and stereotypes because of the project.
- High school participants gained field investigation skills through their visits to Mystic River to take observational notes of animals. Mural participants strengthened their presentation, negotiation, and math skills. Participants developed a variety of artistic skills and knowledge—such as perspective, color mixing, glazing, and aesthetic understanding—through their work with the muralists.