The way artists make art is evolving. Clients, critics and galleries are less and less interested in narrow scoped self expression; the public is now hungry for meaning. Likewise, the definition of the “Artist” is changing. He is no longer a person of “talent” but rather a person who can self-express, so honestly and clearly that what is communicated is beyond self and more of a commentary on the human condition. Does that take talent? No, it takes courage.
The title “Artist” is evolving to describe persons in all fields who are involved in a creative process that yields results with meaning. The world has changed. As economist and philosopher Daniel Pink notes,
“We are moving from an economy and a society built on the logical, linear, computer like capabilities of the Information Age to an economy and a society built on the inventive, empathic big-picture capabilities of… the Conceptual Age,” where, “artists, inventors, designers, storytellers, caregivers, consolers, big picture thinkers-will now reap society’s richest rewards and share its greatest joys.”
These are my beliefs today. The ideas that became Mark Making’s mission are synthesized from my experience as a professional painter. The questions I had asked included: Why would anyone be particularly interested in what I express as a painter? Does this activity really serve my community? I was also impressed with primitive and children’s art and their ability to tap into a universal consciousness. Why were these artists considered less “talented” than professionals?
In 1998 my new career began. Chattanooga was looking for some artists to mural construction boards on the huge and dilapidated central Block Building. Three artists who had never worked together applied for the almost volunteer job. Somewhat desperate, we asked the city’s recreation centers to send 130 kids to paint our giant wall. After a quick class in the parking lot next door, each child painted a life size self portrait, adding up to a visual parade.
The process and resulting mural were impressive. Informed by little persons’ feedback, I was able to recognize that each portrait marked/tagged a place in our society. For those who could neither vote nor drive, creating public art was their ticket to ownership and citizenship; they were able to make an impact and a difference. What an epiphany!!
In the next project, I understood that the site itself played an active role. I had dreamed (literally) of a painted “don’t drink and drive” public service announcement on a liquor store. I found teens who had suffered the consequences of drinking and driving, and Jax Liquor store agreed to let us paint their facade. The teens painted crashed cars with dead victims and embedded relevant written text.
As time passed, I started working with different artist populations. They were often older and more self-conscious about drawing. However, their professional occupations involved skills that could be used in the mural making process. For the Tennessee Institute of the Healing Arts, massage therapy students applied paint to each other’s (plastic wrapped) bodies and “massaged” paint into cloth which was then peeled off. These mono-prints involved no drawing and were collaged into a mural.
Over the years we painted on all kinds of surfaces (indoor and outdoor walls, furniture, chandeliers, empty store front windows, vans, construction boards) and with all kinds of populations (children, adults, people with mental illnesses, cancer and stroke patients, the homeless, children in Hospice grief camp, and victims of domestic violence).
I practiced this collaborative mural-making activity as often as possible, writing grants for nonprofits and schools to fund these adventures. I posted the children’s work on: www.childrenpaintchattanooga.com.
Ten years later, and after about 40 collaborative experiences, I was convinced that collaborative art, executed in a public context, was truly a genre, and that it would be worthwhile to create a nonprofit to practice these activities and find other artists who wanted to do the same. Mark Making was born in early January 2009.
At Mark Making we have found that everyone can tap into a more vulnerable, honest place, access their own aesthetic and allow “poetry” to flow from their hands. In Mark Making’s experience, creativity is teachable, and we proudly take on Daniel Pink’s challenge to be the “meaning makers” of society.
I hope you enjoy our website and would love for you to get involved in this fun and meaningful work.
All the best,
Founder and Executive Director