These buns are part of the Lawrence Percolator’s The Print Show, opening today!
KANSAS WOMEN’S MURAL
What: An informal meeting, presentation and discussion led by artist and Washburn University alumna Ashley Laird about the Kansas Women’s Mural, the next panel to be created for the Great Mural Wall of Topeka
Who: Open to the public; all ages welcome; no art experience necessary
When: 2 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library, 1515 S.W. 10th Ave.
LAWRENCE — Lawrence artist Ashley Laird says working on the Great Mural Wall of Topeka and other mural projects around the globe makes her a better person.
“Part of that is due to learning about the world and empathizing with others who I didn’t know before, and especially who come from different backgrounds,” she said.
Laird, who grew up in Topeka and earned a bachelor’s degree in art from Washburn University in 2011, is the lead artist for the Kansas Women’s Mural, the next panel for the Great Mural Wall at S.W. 20th and Western.
She will conduct an informational meeting and discussion about the women’s mural at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library. The meeting is open to all ages. No art experience is necessary.
During the meeting, Laird will give a presentation about her previous work and the community-based process she uses to create murals. Afterward, attendees will be asked to provide input and ideas about the history and accomplishments of Kansas women, as well as current issues facing them.
“It’s collaborative, so we need and want people to help us,” she said.
Community meetings and design workshops will be scheduled throughout March, with the design being developed in April. Painting will start in early May and is expected to be completed by early June.
“We will have community paint days the first weekend of painting,” Laird said, adding previous paint days have drawn from 100 to 150 people.
Laird has been involved with the Great Mural Wall in the past, having served as lead artist K.T. Walsh’s assistant in 2009 and 2010 and as the lead artist herself in 2011.
The Kansas Women’s Mural will be the eighth panel created for the Great Mural Wall, a project facilitated by the Chesney Park Neighborhood Improvement Association to celebrate “a people’s history and vision for Topeka.”
Previous panels have focused on community leader Grant Cushinberry, Central Park, the Kansas Free Fair, Brown v. Board of Education desegregation case, the Elmhurst Neighborhood, endangered species of the region and the local arts scene.
Laird has worked on numerous public art projects since graduating from Washburn. Within the past year, she and Lawrence muralist Dave Loewenstein have traveled to South Korea, South Dakota, Texas and Nebraska to help with community-based mural projects. In 2012, she received the Arts Advocate Award from the Topeka YWCA Center for Safety and Empowerment.
Laird said the process she uses to create community murals involves historical research, interviews and field research, community organizing, presentations, fundraising, and collaborating with city officials and others.
“The stories we tell (with the murals) are often ones that are looked over or left out. So, this gives us a chance to claim some public space to share, remember and celebrate these important aspects of our culture,” she said. “In the end, it feels like a real accomplishment and gives me hope in a civic process.”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Community Meeting to discuss the new Kansas Women’s Mural, Saturday, March 8th at the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library
February 14, 2014
Topeka, KS – Artist Ashley Laird will lead an informational meeting and discussion about a new Kansas Women’s Mural for the Great Mural Wall of Topeka. The meeting will be at the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library on Saturday, March 8th at 2:00pm. Laird, the lead artist for the project, will give a presentation about her previous work and the community-based process she uses to create murals. Following her presentation, the group will be asked to give input and ideas about the history, accomplishments and current issues facing women in Kansas. The meeting is open to the public, all ages, and no art experience is necessary.
The Kansas Women’s Mural will be the eighth panel created for the Great Mural Wall, a project facilitated by the Chesney Park Neighborhood Improvement Association to celebrate a People’s History and Vision for Topeka. The Women’s Mural project will begin in March with community meetings and design workshops. Painting will start in late April. A dedication is planned for late May. Previous panels on the wall have focused on community leader Grant Cushinberry, Central Park, the Kansas Free Fair, Brown v. Board, the Elmhurst Neighborhood, Endangered animals of the region and the local arts scene.
Ashley Laird is a muralist and studio artist based in Lawrence, Kansas. After graduating from Washburn University with a BFA in 2011, she has worked on numerous public projects including murals in Joplin, MO; Arkadelphia, AR; Waco, TX; Queens, NY; Songdo, South Korea and Sioux Falls, SD. In 2012, Laird was honored with the Arts Advocate Award from the Topeka YWCA Center for Safety and Empowerment.
The Great Mural Wall is located just west of the Kansas Expocentre on the retaining wall of the Topeka Water Division at 20th and Western.
Selected drawings I made last summer are featured in this new publication from the Waiting Room Projects. Hard Copies are currently at The University Gallery, Groningen, the Netherlands, the Salina Arts Center in Salina, Kansas as well as the Mulvane Museum in Topeka, Kansas. It will be exciting to thumb through a copy during the Washburn Art Department Faculty art show running from now through the end of December.
If you are interested in the subject of health care in the U.S. I recommend checking these booklets out for yourself. The series, “things you should know about”/Speak Loudly, contains eight different booklets inspired by the type of brochure that would normally be found in a waiting room. More copies will be printed and available for purchase at a future date but for now stop by the Mulvane or the Salina Art Center if you make it out that way. And of course by all means go to Groningen! To view and online version click on the image above.
As part of the 10 Question Series in honor of this years 10th annual Concealed Revealed art auction, Laura Burton from the YWCA’s Center For Safety And Empowerment asked me about my current work, the Topeka art scene and why I donate. This is my response.
How long have you been creating art?
My grandma tells a story about how I returned from a visit at Worlds of Fun and drew a dolphin. I think I was about three years old and she still has that hanging on her fridge to this day. My mother was really influential. From the time we were old enough to hold a brush or a needle and thread, me and my brother Greg, were making watercolors and piecing quilt pieces together. I decided in 2009 to really pursue a career as an artist, painting murals.
How has your art changed over the years?
I think I have taken a different direction the last few years. I am influenced by my work as a muralist. The murals I do are highly collaborative community projects. It’s sort of allowed me to adapt and connect with a bigger community outside of visual artists and art institutions. Through our research and interactions with people on these mural projects many issues can arise. The mural then becomes a healthy way to address these differences and people can begin to really discuss them on a different level. It allows us to learn from each other’s unique backgrounds and vantage points. Watching people’s reaction as participants in this process gives me purpose and helps me understand how important this type of civic participation is. So a combination of this sense of purpose as an artist in the greater community and hearing some of the challenges people are facing has led my work in the direction of activism. The last continuing series I’m working on has to do with reproductive justice. It’s a bit of a counter attack to our current Kansas elected officials ideas about women.
I think that I have been for years searching for something like this. Before I began my work as a muralist I helped to start an art collective, community garden, and cooperative bicycle shop. So it’s been the perfect fit for me. It’s very rewarding for me.
What’s your favorite medium and why?
I will just say that I love to draw most of all. I like to use stencils and spray paint too. It is one of the most accessible types of printmaking because you don’t need a press or many tools and it can be used on just about any surface.
Of all of the art you’ve created, is there a piece you’re most proud of?
I am most proud of the mural, Reanimating The Arts In Topeka, which was completed in 2011 on the Great Mural Wall Of Topeka. I had been working there as an assistant for two years prior to leading this project so it was really special for me to see all of that hard work and education culminate in this visual representation of a celebration of the arts in Topeka. The subject was timely as with the current state that our Governor has put us in. I am proud to have been able to do a mural at that time that expresses Topeka’s appreciation for the arts and determination to keep going regardless.
Who helped you become an artist?
Defiantly my mother. My mother can do or make just about anything. She is the most creative person I know. Her appreciation of art and music (record collection) and her persistence to detail and meticulous handling of craft has all really influenced me. I’ve realized lately that I come from a family of artists. My mother and her sisters and my grandmother over the years have all designed and sewed their own clothes. My mother encouraged me at a young age to quilt, draw, sew, build things, and make water colors. My grandmother most recently at age 80 has taken up embroidery. My aunt Hannah is an amazing seamstress. My aunt Linda makes beautiful and creative crocheted things. Linda’s biological son my cousin Peter who I just connected with for the first time this past year is a successful visual/performance artist based out of San Francisco. My brother is a furniture maker. Although I associate my dad more with sports and gardening when I was little I remember he could draw me anything I wanted him too and most recently he has taken up the banjo.
In your opinion, what are the strengths and weaknesses of Topeka’s art scene?
We have a strong group of artists and more people branching out into the arts. We have a great museum in the library. We even have new gallery spaces and an arts district. I think what we are lacking is more interactions more crossings of culture between people in the art world and other folks who might not be inclined to go into a gallery or a museum. I think The Sabatini Gallery at the TSCPL is Topeka’s most accessible gallery. This is a good example of an interaction like this were people might not expect to encounter art but it’s there and they feel welcome because it’s in a place they go on a regular basis. It takes the intimidation out of it. Plus they sometimes have work stations that coincide with an exhibit where people can sit down and explore a little. Still I lean toward other forms of art that leave the gallery or museum completely. A mural is accessible on all levels. It is outside where folks stumble upon just walking by. It is also usual involves the direct participation of people who are not self proclaimed artists but rather are connected in someway to the place it is being created or the topic or theme it is addressing.
It’s interesting because as you know I’ve been working a lot out-of-town. So I feel like that’s given me some perspective. I feel like Topeka is similar to many others towns across the country, in which artists struggle to start and maintain a career. I feel like art over the years has moved away from the artists and the work itself. For most it just seems like a nice excuse for people to drink wine and mingle and maybe create more business for bars and restaurants. In our current political situation in the state of Kansas we have eliminated our responsibilities to the artist completely. In the current plan for the Creative Industries Commission the allocated funding for the arts is not going to artists or arts organizations. It’s going to businesses in the guise of art. Art is attached to a lot of projects these days. In Kansas now you will have do be doing economic development in order to receive grants for the arts. I’m worried how that’s going to affect our state in the years to come. Everyone, artist and otherwise I’ve met over the past two years has guaranteed to steer clear of Kansas. And I heard someone at a meeting in Johnson County the other day refer to Kansas as a cultural wasteland. How will we attract new creative thinkers?
There are some great grass-roots projects happening in our city, including the Topeka Community Cycle Project. I would like to see Topeka explore more of these collaborative community projects that have real impact and welcomed change. Anyone who’s worked on a community mural project or garden project and participated in a bicycle cooperative knows that these are the kinds of arts and culture activities that brings diversified groups of people together in real civic participation and that is what makes a lasting impact on a city or a community.
Most of the communities I’ve visited are not unlike Topeka in many ways they may have similar challenges. All of them are looking towards the arts to overcome some of these problems. And many of them have instated a type of cultural arts district or center that is intended to spark renewal and development. So far many of the places I’ve visited have been doing a pretty good job interacting with the neighborhood and outreaching to people who already live in these places to know that they are making real lasting and welcomed change. I would advise Topeka’s Arts District, NOTO to do the same. As they continue to develop this project to not forget the many residents who live in the district or once lived in the places that are now studios, galleries, antique shops, entertainment venues and the like.
You’re well-known in Topeka for your work on the Great Mural Wall, why is that project important to you?
The Great Mural Wall Topeka is where I learned all about the mural movement and launched my career as a muralist. It’s also how I met my partner Dave and my mentor KT and worked with over three hundred or so fellow Topekans. I also believe that it’s a Topeka gem. It has given a voice to and represented a great deal of Topeka’s residents. It tells stories about our past, our current place and our aspirations of the future. It’s a true collaborative full community endeavor. Anyone can participate, everyone no matter how old or small has an equal voice. Its true democracy in action and it’s happening in my hometown where I grew up thinking things like this were not possible.
What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?
My partner is doing a Rocket Grant project right now called Give Take Give. It’s about a gift economy that revolves around a dumpster in Lawrence, Kansas. So it’s been on my mind that the best gifts are the one’s I receive daily from my friends and family in the form of mutual aid and support.
What’s your favorite place to relax in Topeka?
I usually visit the big field of tall grass along the tree line behind the grounds of the old State Hospital. It’s a place where I can relax and my dog Mojo can roll around.
Why do you choose to support Concealed Revealed?
I think that the services provided by the Center for Safety and Empowerment are essential. I think that there should be no question about whether or not services like these get funded by our state and federal government. For political reasons I suppose this is not always the case.
Challenges facing women is a focus for me. For all that we have accomplished through the years the rights of women continue to be questioned continually. I think that until our representatives acknowledge these issues are affecting all of us and until we as women and children as well have obtained full rights and citizenship in our culture in this country we must keep up the fight. Concealed Revealed is a crucial component of that battle. Participating in the art auction and working with the Survivor Art Night group have reinforced for me the wealth of benefits that these programs provide.
This past summer I took up sign painting twice between mural projects. The first was a simple logo in the entrance way of the Family Service and Guidance Center at 325 SW Frazier Ave. I was not responsible for the vibrant design and color scheme, just painting.
The Family Service and Guidance Center is a mental health facility that focuses on serving children and families in Topeka and Northeast Kansas. They hold a fundraising art auction every year called Works of Heart.
Carrying me into the hottest part of the summer, albeit the hottest month ever in recorded history was a large wall sign above Studio 831 in Noto (north Topeka’s arts district).
Studio 831’s lovely proprietor, the extraordinary artist Barbara Waterman-Peters and I discussed the rehab as part of the districts aim to give life to old buildings that until recently had been neglected. Both of us agreed on an Art Deco inspired design.
The addition of a drop shadow adds an illusion reminiscent of a french grille. You can visit the work space most days. I believe they have regular hours Thursday through Saturday. I had fun with these and I look forward to doing more signs if time between murals permits.
Arkadelphia, Arkansas will be home for the next two months as I fulfill my role as mural assistant for the current Mid-America Mural.
This is the first time I will be officially joining the mural team, I worked informally in Joplin, Mo last summer. Arkansas is the the fourth state to receive a mural from Mid-America Arts Alliance as part of this project with Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri before them and Nebraska and Texas to come in 2013.
Our accommodations in Arkadelphia are just splendid as I think you can tell by this porch picture. We are staying at the McNutt House a colonial style bed and breakfast. It’s actually for sale if your in the market but please don’t buy it until we leave town.