The King's Academy

Column: How community-based art can bring us together

Community-based art is defined as an art piece placed in a community setting where ordinary people can come together and contribute. The contributor can be anyone in the community and does not need to be a professional artist. Community-based arts is a forum for regular people to collaborate in creating a communal monument. 

A famous example is the Envelope Exchange installation by Rosie Moss which is located at a park in Birmingham, United Kingdom. The underlying meaning of this installation is to spread positivity to people everywhere. On the side there are sheets of paper and pencil, for people to write and leave uplifting messages in envelopes.

The envelopes are taped to a board containing phrases such as, “be happy,” “you’re loved!” or “have a good day!” Others who come after can retrieve the messages and be encouraged by another member in the community. These inspiring words are a way to bring encouragement and light into someone’s day. This give-and-take system is a perfect example on how an entire community can come together and support an artwork. 

I personally love the idea of this art installation. It’s simply, but beautifully designed and very Instagram worthy, which would attract young, teenage girls to pay a visit. Not only does it add pops of color to the city park but also brighten the day of those around it. Most people don’t even realize that their simple gesture of writing could bring so much joy to another person.

In addition, since one doesn’t know what message they would find in the envelope, there is always a sense of excitement and anticipation before approaching the board. This circle of encouragement should be made more widely available in cities and countries across the world, so it can leave a thumbprint of positivity everywhere. 

Another very relevant example is the George Floyd Mural painted on the wall Cup Foods. Cup Foods was the location of the unjust killing of George Floyd by now former officer Derek Chauvin. The mural depicts Floyd in the center and in the background there is a bright sunflower. In the middle of the flower, are the names of other African Americans who were killed by police brutality.

The name “George Floyd” is written in large, yellow block letters, and within the borders, there are protesters drawn with their fist piercing the sky. Beneath the mural, hundreds of flowers and letters lay in remembrance. This mural was organized by Good Space Mural. Good Space Mural is a community arts organization based in Minneapolis. They head to many different cities in the US to paint murals of important people or events. To make sure they are never forgotten.

They also hold community painting parties, allowing all sorts of people to contribute to a mural or mosaic. I personally support and admire this organization. Not only do they go out of their way to paint murals for important figures but also promote good messages.

In response to the George Floyd killing, they said “Art is therapy. Art can say things you cannot express with words. It brings the community together to reflect, to grieve, for strength and for support.”

Art is much more than some paint splattered on a canvas, art can leave a lasting mark on cities to ensure that the terror will never be forgotten. In times of great unrest and sadness, art is also a promising way to bring healing and comfort.