Art has a unique power to connect individuals and build bridges within communities. At Queerlective, we firmly believe in the potential of art as a tool for community engagement and empowerment. One of the ways we put this belief into action is through our community art projects, which play a vital role in our community engagement plan.
Celebrating Diversity through Community Art
Our journey with community art began with a simple yet powerful idea: to create art pieces that incorporate contributions from the community, telling stories and fostering connections. We recognize that art can transcend boundaries and provide a platform for individuals from diverse backgrounds to come together.
Our very first community art project was the "Progressive Pride Flower Flag." This project involved a 3x5 piece of plywood painted with the colors of the progressive pride flag. At various community gatherings and events, we invited participants to add silk flowers to the flag using hot glue guns. It was a labor of love that took 11 months, but during the Community Art Day at Capital City Pride in Concord, it was completed. This flag became a symbol of our community, a beautiful representation of unity. People of all ages, including the Mayor of Manchester, contributed to this tableau of community.
We also supported the "NH Abortion Stories Mosaic" project led by Heather Stockwell of Full Circle Studios. This project invited participants to contribute to a mosaic using colors that symbolized their connections to individuals who had experienced abortion. It provided a space for people to share their stories and experiences, fostering understanding and empathy within our community.
Guiding Principles for Community Art
In our community art projects, we adhere to a few guiding principles. One of the key principles is the introduction of rules for participation. While it might seem counterintuitive, we've found that providing some guidelines can make art more accessible to everyone. Not everyone sees themselves as artists, and a blank canvas can be intimidating. Simplifying the contribution process helps people engage more comfortably. It also leads to a more cohesive end result.
For example, we admire artist Paola Ibarra Llano's "Rules" community art piece at Wonderspace Arizona, where participants use strips of colored tape to contribute. This approach ensures that everyone, regardless of their artistic background, can participate meaningfully.
Additionally, guiding contributions along a narrative or theme helps create a more
Shared Ownership and Belonging
Community art pieces are impactful because they allow people to see their contributions directly. This fosters a sense of pride, ownership, and belonging. When individuals can point to a specific element of a mural or art installation and say, "I did that," it creates a profound connection to the artwork and the community it represents.
One example of this is a mural we worked on with Arts Build Community. We collaborated with local youth, discussing what community meant to them. Their personal items and stories were integrated into the mural. This approach allowed the youth to see their contributions and stories celebrated on a larger scale.
Building Unity through Art
Community art projects also bring together diverse perspectives for a common goal. By providing a shared goal and guiding contributions, we use art as a common language for community building. It unites people from different backgrounds and experiences, fostering connections that might not have been possible otherwise.
In essence, community art pieces are a celebration of diversity, a platform for shared stories, and a catalyst for unity. At Queerlective, we're committed to using art as a powerful tool for community engagement, empowerment, and gathering. Through community art, we continue to celebrate the richness of our community and the strength that comes from unity in diversity.
For more on this topic, make sure to check out the upcoming workshop, Collaborate and Listen, by one of Queerlective's Founders, Jason DeYoung, at the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts Partnership Conference, Woven: Gatherings at the Intersections.