I have officially completed work on four murals spanning across three of the Botetourt County Libraries and I have some things that shouldn't go unsaid.
I have worked with many different organizations, and I have been blessed enough to complete commissioned work for over 150 clients. For those who may be unfamiliar with the process of creating and finalizing a mural, it's not as black and white as you'd think. With each project comes a unique set of restrictions as well as endless possibilities.
As an artist it's my job to help narrow down the vision, put together mockups, and make sure all the behind-the-scenes paperwork and communication is getting done efficiently. It's taken a few years of experience to develop a relatively smooth system. Since traveling the last 2 years working on the 50 in 50 Project I have averaged a turnaround time of 3 weeks, start to finish, on any given mural. From the first communication to the final day of painting. I value my time just as much as the time of those who give me the opportunity to share my work with them & their communities. I value professionalism more than most. Though you will frequently see me dressed in painted clothing and with messy hair I try my hardest to hold myself to a high standard for: 1. Responding quickly to emails and phone calls 2. Completing work in a timely manner 3. Being respectful & kind to those around me - no matter the circumstance.
You need to know those things to fully understand what I'm about to say. The process of completing a mural is not a familiar one to most people, and it can be overwhelming. Especially to those who have full-time jobs that do not normally include public art or marketing. It has been a struggle in the past to receive feedback, to communicate clearly, and more times than not I find myself having to keep the project moving forward - don't get me wrong- That's all completly understandable and I have grown to expect it!
I have never experienced the level of professionalism & communication that I did from Jennifer Hannah, Jamie Duval, and Cheryl Wagner. As an artist it is very common to be put on the back burner, to be heavily criticized during the painting process, and I have found flexibility to be the greatest asset when working to gain approval from groups of people. However, they made my work the past three months more exciting, more enjoyable, and they have truly inspired the work that was completed at each location. Without the work and time that they put in these projects wouldn't have been possible.
During my time working with all three Library Managers, I never found myself waiting weeks for a reply, I felt that my work and time was appreciated, and most importantly... The creative process was only enhanced and encouraged from their Friends of the Library groups. I don't know what I was expecting but whatever it was couldn't have been anything close to what I experienced. I was shocked by the work that all three libraires put into their communities and I was touched by the love and support those communities feel in return.
It truly is a special perspective to be a muralist. I start my days early and most of the time get to see the beginning and end of a business day at any given location. I saw the abundant joy and heard the laughter from many patrons. Young children excited to see their favorite librarian. Adults coming to study, share their favorite books, or partake in groups like chess and quilting. People of any age having a safe and uniquely helpful space to fill out applications, complete online tasks, and expand their mind.
I may be in the background with my headphones on, painting hours away, but don't think I miss things. Things like the teenage tutor who helps a student after school understand math, three days in a row. Things like the elderly couple who needs help with their yearly tasks that require a computer. Things like the homeschooled kids coming into the library to spend time with their friends. Things like grandparents reading a book enthusiastically to their grandchildren. Things like moms taking time each week to work with their children who can't read yet. The parents that find community inside of these libraries. Librarians who help, encourage, inspire, and value each patron that comes in.
I may have been able to create artwork in each of these libraries, but don't let that distract from the truly amazing thing that is THE LIBRARY itself. If you have the time or resources to support your local library in any way I can't recommend it enough.
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