GoodSpace Murals integrates community into large-scale art projects

GoodSpace Murals emphasizes listening and engaging rather than interpreting.

Greta McClain, lead artist of GoodSpace Murals, paints a new project for The John & Denise Graves Foundation on Tuesday, April 25, 2017 in Minneapolis. The muralist group works mostly with schools and non-profit organizations to bring art into the community, including the University's HECUA program.

Ellen Schmidt

Greta McClain, lead artist of GoodSpace Murals, paints a new project for The John & Denise Graves Foundation on Tuesday, April 25, 2017 in Minneapolis. The muralist group works mostly with schools and non-profit organizations to bring art into the community, including the University’s HECUA program.

Joe Cristo

Western art may be centered on the individual, but one local art group is working to unite the viewer and the creator.

A community-based method is part of the inspiration behind GoodSpace Murals — a collaboration between lead artist Greta McLain and administrator and artist Candida Gonzalez. The collaboration makes murals in Minneapolis and surrounding cities.

“It’s the power to change a landscape and a community,” McLain said. “To alter people’s and the public’s perceptions of a place forever.”

The project was born out of a desire to blend practicality and community integration with artistic expression. McLain has taken cues from her travels to Latin America and Europe.

“Murals are all about the joint ownership and the, ‘Look what we made!’ moment,” McLain said. “I take inspiration from studying abroad in Mexico City under Malaquias Montoya.”

McLain said these experiences have been invaluable in informing the ethos behind the project.

“She has 10 years of mural- making experience spent exploring the ways that art can bring communities together,” Gonzalez said. “The power of visual language to activate voices and the potential of art as a vehicle for hands-on organizing and educating.”

The community mural-making process requires a significant amount of research into the community the piece will be painted in.

First, the artist converses with community members, inviting people to share and draw their ideas. They design, edit and review the mural with the community before finally painting it with members.

“The goal is to reclaim the stories and identities of community members within public spaces,” Gonzalez said. “We work toward making a piece that is inclusive and about a shared interest.”

While artistic expression is inevitably going to be filtered through the eyes of the lead artists, GoodSpace Murals emphasizes listening and engaging rather than interpreting.

“You don’t have to be a community organizer. In fact, you shouldn’t be,” McLain said. “You should be partnering with community organizers instead.”

Finding a balance between looking at the artistic process traditionally and with a modern sense of community is tricky. Engaging the community in high-quality art making can be even harder.

Still, artists can keep their eyes open and their ears tuned to the heartbeat of the city, as demonstrated by GoodSpace Murals.

“How exciting is it to make work wherein people get to see themselves celebrated?” McLain said. “[They get] to share what they love about where they live.”