We have a bit of a joke around the office that summer is mural season. On this blog, I've written about graffiti murals, giant murals, an alley of murals, and now, a bus mural. Yes, that bus mural. I guess it was too much to ask for 100 days to pass without a controversy.
You’ve probably heard or read the news, and you may have seen the bus on our streets. And you may have had a feeling about it. I most certainly did.
And isn’t that what art is supposed to do? Isn’t it supposed to reflect the artist’s perception of the world and provoke to a feeling, whether it’s inspiration, uplift, joy, or discomfort, anxiety, and anger. Or, in my case, a combination of feelings?
The young artists who created this mural were articulating their perspective on how an important national conversation is playing out in local communities on our nation’s borders but also in our state.
I’m reminded of that great Nina Simone quote about the role of the artist:
An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times. I think that is true of painters, sculptors, poets, musicians. As far as I’m concerned, it’s their choice, but I CHOOSE to reflect the times and situations in which I find myself.
Simone said that in a documentary made in 1968 at a another time of deep division, polarization, and anxiety while our country was trying to navigate the evolving conversation of who we were as a nation. As this conversation of our nation’s values continue and change over time, it should be expected that artists, no matter the age, would reflect the times.
And it’s especially in times like these that the Constitutional freedoms afforded to art through the first amendment is so important: it gives people the freedom to express themselves and to be heard.
Ultimately, art of all forms can and should bring people together to discuss the important issues facing our city, region, and country. I really hope that the attention to this mural sparks a larger conversation about the role of art in a highly polarized society.