Preserving Community Through Murals

What does the word “mural” mean to you? It originates from the Latin word “murus,” which means “wall.” Murals are most commonly painted on walls, ceilings, floors or any other permanent surfaces.

Murals have been around for a long time. Prehistoric cave paintings are some of the first. Then the masters such as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo painted murals as frescoes depicting religious values and ideas during the Renaissance. The early 1900s witnessed a change in the reason for painting these pieces. Since a large number of the population could view them on a daily basis, social and political ideas were promoted through murals.

Today, murals are painted for a variety of reasons, but now, community plays an important role in their existence. According to a paper written by The Getty Conservation Institute in 2004  “ murals are primarily social. They exist at the interface of the social and the artistic, but insofar as conservation is concerned, the key fact is to recognize that they are part of an ongoing social process. We use the word community for this social field in which community murals exist. It refers to the daily audience of the mural as well as to its producers and to the painting itself. This combination, whose interests generated the mural (otherwise it is not a community mural), is the most important aspect of any conservation project.”

Community. That’s an important word these days. Many efforts throughout the Finger Lakes Region are being made to preserve, enhance and promote communities.

Montezuma Town Historian Cheryl Longyear states “Historians and public officials are exploring ways to use our heritage to stimulate economic growth and revitalization, promote tourism and rebuild community pride. Public art is proving there is a way to make these stories come alive, preserve our history for generations to come, and help us reconnect to a sense of place that has been lost.”

The 2016 Global Mural Conference (yes, it’s a big deal) is coming to Fairport and the Erie Canal Region on September 18 through 25. Local artists will be participating – creating new murals for the conference, depicting the history of the Erie Canal. The region will be center stage for all things related to art and murals. I invite you to read more about this, starting on page 44.

The Finger Lakes Region continues to grow and adapt. Aren’t we lucky to witness our own Renaissance?

By Mark Stash

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