Community Mural Project

Acrylics on paper.

270cm x 30cm.

Not for sale.

I was invited to run a six week course by the Exeter Council for Voluntary Services at their newly opened crisis centre hub, CoLab. Working with a group of attendees who’s lives were troubled in various ways. The course brief was to help them arrive at a finished design that could then be implemented as a large scale mural on the security shutters of the large windows that ran the length of the building.

Over the six weeks, the students produced many ideas that expressed both the problems that they were facing, and their subsequent experiences and journey with the crisis centre and their amazing and caring staff. My role was to both support them creatively through this process, and to knit together their ideas into a cohesive design at the end. These designs are the result.

Due to the layout of the building and the way it would be approached, the design runs from right to left, with the largest starting panel covering the entrance doorway to the building, and the subsequent panels covering the windows of the building. The theme of the mural, which is echoed inside the building, and is pertinent to Exeter, was “A river”. Other than that, myself and the students had free reign.

Our two central characters arrive in Exeter (the buildings shown in the background), carrying their metaphorical baggage, and the weight of the world on their shoulders. Faceless and unseen, they are becoming overwhelmed by a wave of emotion and feel that they are about to be pulled under.

Our characters find themselves floating down the river of their lives, feeling hollow and empty inside, and tangled up in bureaucracy and red tape. Surrounded by others who also feel like pieces of a scattered jigsaw puzzle, the bright skies on the horizon seem a long way off.

As our characters flow into the space created by ECVS, their hollowness begins to be filled once again. The disparate pieces of the puzzle start coming together, and the endless red tape becomes untangled. All of this is aided by a cup of tea and some nice biscuits!

With the holding and helping hands of the CoLab staff ever-present, and of course, with a few more biscuits and cups of tea, our characters start to return to wholeness. Their colour returns and space starts to open up on their horizons.

So far, so good for our troubled characters, and as we reach the end panel, it could be assumed that they drifted off into a beautiful sunset to live happily ever after. Life, unfortunately, is not so cliché’d, and I wanted to leave this ending with ambiguity. Perhaps our characters let their baggage drift, while they walked ashore and ahead in their lives. Perhaps, even with as much help as could be mustered, they sank. I hope the former.

The finished design hanging on the walls of CoLab in Exeter. Unfortunately, with funding for the arts in decline, CoLab has not yet been able to secure the funding needed to implement the design onto the outside of the building. To scale it up to a size of approximately fifty metres would require funding of £10-12K. Any rich altruistic people out there?!