GHCC recently had the privilege of hosting MICA student Kasey Jones, who worked with our staff to paint a mural in the stairwell of the Greater Homewood Adult Learning Center. What was once a dull and uninteresting space is now brimming with new life! We caught up with Kasey and asked her about her process and also about what the experience of constructing this mural was like for her.
What is the Community Arts Collaborative and how did you become involved?
Community Arts Collaborative is the only program of its kind in Maryland that links artists, communities, and institutions of higher education. Housed in the Office of Community Engagement at MICA, this program places community artists in year-long residencies with nonprofits, schools, and community centers in Baltimore City. The work of CAC member artists provides children, youth, and adults with the benefits of after-school arts-based learning experiences and strengthens neighborhoods through community art projects. I became involved in the CAC program because it is a joint component to my first year at MICA in the MFA Community Arts program.
How did you become involved with the Adult Learning Center’s mural project? What attracted you to this project?
I was introduced to the project through my CAC supervisor, Julie Lin. At the time, I was in transition between residencies and she was aware of the center’s interest in a mural. I have multiple years of experience as a mural painter and she knew I was the right fit for the job.
How did you develop the design for the stairwell? What was your creative process?
I received a few “key” words from the staff at the Adult Learning Center and from there I narrowed down the imagery from within that context. “Organic”, “ornate”, “bring the space to life”, “something to help guide the visitors down,” were some of the initial suggestions I received. The space is situated on two descending staircases with a landing on the bottom. I wanted to give the space presence and I wanted to bring it to life. My preliminary sketches were of various types of plants and trees. I received feedback from the staff and everyone was on board with the plant and tree scene. I lined the trees down the staircase as a way to lead people to the center. With such a presence from the trees, my vision had to include a powerful waterfall scene at the bottom of the staircase. I chose to do this because the visual weight of the rocks and water balanced nicely next to the images of the trees. My designs are typically executed with graphite, color pencil, or marker.
Murals tend to be collaborative projects. What is most rewarding about working collaboratively as an artist? Most challenging?
I really enjoy working with people through the painting process. Most of the people that have participated on mural projects with me, have never painted a mural before in their life. Being a part of that experience with someone and sharing a new experience with them is a very rewarding aspect. You can really get to know a person in that context and I value the relationships I’ve formed as a result.
The challenges I face when working collaboratively vary from community to community. Every project and organization operates so differently and it’s important to keep that in perspective. It’s good to be adaptable, flexible and not have expectations on how it’s supposed to be.
What other projects have you been/ are you currently involved with? Where do you see yourself headed upon completion of your Master’s program?
Currently, I am involved in implementing an after school elementary art club and a set design club at Hamilton Elementary/Middle School. Our projects will include one mural, three garden sculptures, and scenery for the school’s play I am also creating a body of work for my first year MFA show at studio center on MICA campus. After my program, I intend to apply for a Fulbright Fellowship to continue my studies as an artist overseas. When I return to the United States, I plan to relocate to California where I will raise my family and continue my career as a community artist.