AUI: Tell us about how the mural project came to be. Where did the idea originate?

Suzi: I worked with Audiences Unlimited (AUI) for six years. Their mission is all about creating access to the arts. The mural ties into that mission, because we’ve made it possible for everyone to participate, view, and enjoy. It’s all about tearing down the barriers to artistic expression.

I’ve been a visual artist doing murals since 2020. I feel that public art is my vocation. I have a passion for sharing public art and making sure it has community buy-in. For this mural especially, I wanted people to have a say in the design and be able to help paint it. We made sure that people with disabilities can access that wall. In many ways, the mural is a perfect fit for the organization and for me.

AUI: You’ve done other mural projects in the city. How is this one different?

Suzi: I’ve worked on murals at Foster Park, Hamilton Park, Bryon Health Center, and an indoor mural at Forest Park Elementary. This mural is the largest one that I have worked on as the lead designer, so that’s new and different for me.

But the mural is also different for this community. It’s the first one that has intentionally reached out to individuals with disabilities and invited them to be part of the public arts process. My goal was to create a design that is adaptable for other people to paint. I wanted to make sure the mural included places for people to incorporate their own designs.

My job is to guide them and show them how to paint, but also to make room for them to create. That was always part of the vision for the project. After all, it’s not really an inclusion mural if people are just showing up and painting the work that someone else designed. We really wanted to let others’ creativity shine.

The artists who are working on the mural are all coming from different backgrounds and perspectives. They represent a wide range of disabilities, both visible and invisible.

AUI: Tell us about the inspiration for your design.

Suzi: The idea was to incorporate the theme of access to the arts. It was hard to capture all five art forms within a single work. I had been kicking ideas around for a few months. We were getting close to the deadline for the design, and then suddenly, the design just came to me in one day.

The mural features silhouettes that represent a different art form as well as different disabilities, and it gives room to incorporate artistic and creative expression from other artists. The design is simple, so that everyone who is painting can just pick up a color and run with it. The shapes add movement, fun, and interest. It’s really cohesive and clean. I showed it to the team, and everyone was thrilled. I really think it does everything the design needed to do.

AUI: What is it like working with such a wide range of artists? Have you ever worked with a team this large?

Suzi: It’s been really nice to see people fall in love with the project. Even when we were still priming the wall, and I had to tell people that they were just going to paint the primer with me that day, they said things like, “Are you kidding? This is so much fun!”

We have invited people from places such as Maple Seed Farms, Life Adult Day Academy (L.A.D.A.), and Gigi’s Playhouse to come and paint the wall for just an hour or two as part of their programming. They aren’t working on the silhouettes, but they can drive past and say, “I helped make that.”

Because we are working with different mental capabilities and mobilities, I’m expecting the project to go a little slower. I’ll be on the ground with them the whole time. The point is to allow for these kinds of creative experiences, and however long that takes is really important.

This mural is going to be with us for several years, and we want to make sure the process is just as enjoyable for creators as for the people driving down the road ten years from now.

AUI: What do you hope the mural will offer the community?

Suzi: I want people to have pride in themselves and feel as if they are part of the community. Each person, regardless of ability, can change the landscape of our community and make it a colorful, bright place. The community, along with this mural, needs to reflect that joy and show how valuable people with disabilities are.






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