1. Please state your name, business name and your current working area (how far are you willing to travel for work). Hugo Alberto Zamorano, South Omaha, Nebraska. I can travel anywhere for work.
2. Do you define yourself as a muralist or simply as an artist? I define myself as both. Artist encompassed everything I do, but muralist is specific.
3. What other types of art do you make? Painting, mixed media, drawing, print making, sculptures, spray paint, graffiti.
4. What inspires your artwork when content is not dictated by a client? Everything I see ,hear, and feel. My experiences, other peoples experiences, stories, my family, friends, life in general.
5. What was the path that led you to make murals with communities? Was it intentional or did it happen via requests from community? I remember briefly learning about Chicano murals sometime when I was a kid. Then I read the book “Toward’s a Peoples Art: The Contemporary Mural Movement” while I was an undergraduate student at UNO. Simultaneously I reached out to Mike Giron from A Midsummer’s Mural to ask if he would jury a show I was putting together with other students from UNO and the Office of Latino/Latin American Studies there. During that time A Midsummer’s Mural was just about to begin the Lithuanian Community mural. I applied as an apprentice and became part of the team. Me being involved was intentional since I applied to be an apprentice, I did not know anyone else who was doing the same thing, and it was something that I was really looking forward to doing because of the book. The Lithuanian mural I believe was via requests from the community, but I was not head of the operation so I could be wrong.
6. Can you recall a specific moment (or moments) that helped you realize you wanted to be a part of making murals with communities? After learning more about murals and then reading the book “Towards a People’s Art: the Contemporary Mural Movement”.
7. What are the benefits of collaborating with a community to you as a person, as an artist…?Collaborating with a community means that there is a possibility to have more content for the mural, more ideas floating around, more people experiencing the process, more connections to people and to the artwork being made, more people being proud of what is being created, and more impactful the mural can be. It also gets you invested in that certain community for a while, which I feel pushes you more to make the mural the best that it can be. It’s also a giant learning experience both culturally and technically for both the artists and the communities.
8. What do you perceive as being the benefits to the communities (to paint a mural)? Perhaps there are different kinds of benefits during the process vs after the mural is complete? One of the benefits to the community when it comes to painting a mural is that it creates a positive experience for that area. It cultivates a sense of pride amongst local people because they know who is doing it, or what the mural might be about, or because it brings art to the public about who or what their community is. It also gives an opportunity for people to learn about the mural process and possibly create future artists or muralists. It gives people the opportunity to learn about a certain community, whether they are from that community or not.
9. What are some key differences in working with a community client versus working with a commercial business or homeowner? Working with a community is a bit more freeing conceptually because although some ideas are the artist’s, a lot of time you are trying to convey ideas that the community has. You have conversations about what could be in the mural. The ideas and concept grows collectively with all its participants as the conversations continue.
Although I feel like working with a non-community mural client still requires collaboration, it is not always as collaborative as a community mural. Sometimes there is less conversation. You hear what the client wants and you show how your work is fitting into that concept. There is not always a collective growth of what the mural will become. Your client might already have an idea of what they see for the mural. I feel that perhaps with a community mural, it is easier to get rid of your personal agenda as far as content goes because you are working with a group to represent them or that area, so everyone goes in not really expecting a specific outcome other than a community mural. Working with a single client leaves room for personal agenda because there is only two sides, yours and your client’s. With a singel client you can also bounce ideas back and forth quicker and you have more artistic control over what you are creating. But there are many clients that do give you complete freedom to what you paint. There is good to both and not so good to both as well.
Bottom line, the content in a community mural is from the community. Everyone goes into the project not expecting something specific other than it will be a community mural. Your biggest job is to convey that content in a way that is interesting and satisfactory to that community. Single client murals either give you guidelines for content or complete freedom. If you don’t do a good job with a single client, you take the loss. If you don’t do a good job with a community mural, you and the community take the loss. Everyone understands that since it was a community effort with multiple people involved in the process, it won’t always be “perfect” but is always impactful. Community murals are a lot more work and from my experience always pay less. Having the community involved is also more fulfilling and makes you feel good about the experience no matter what.
10. What is your typical process of collaborating with members of a community? Have you developed helpful strategies for working with communities or is each community so different that each one ends up with its own process? There is usually about 4 community meetings open to the public where people can share their thoughts, experiences, and ideas. Then there are a few other meetings for the design that are also open to the community to help work on or have input on the design. The conversation about the mural goes on before and after the meeting because sometimes we follow up with people who either came to the meetings, couldn’t come, or that reach out, to get a more in depth conversation. Often times there is a core group that has a lot of memorabilia to share or that might have more knowledge than most about that specific community. For the most part the process is similar. A historian is also usually contacted.
11. What challenges have risen in the process, what have been the solutions? Some challenges that have risen have been about getting the big picture of the mural, then the smaller details, then back to the bigger picture. It might not sound that hard, and it isn’t, but it takes time for everyone to sometimes come to consensus about what is important.
12. How have communities found you? Or do you seek them out? If you seek them out, how do they typically respond? There is usually one person or a group of people from a certain community that has the idea to do a mural. They start talking about it to others, and then they start asking around for people who have done murals or community murals in specific. Also often times hearing about one mural that was painted either through the news, word of mouth, or by walking past one, can lead them to reaching out.
13. What are your favorite aspects of being part of community murals? My favorite aspect of being part of a community mural is being able to hear other people’s stories, learn more about that community, and seeing the value and impact that the mural can have no matter how small or big. Also knowing that your are doing what you love will be appreciated by others, while actually being part of something that was not just yours but of people in that community and sharing the ideas of that community through art. I guess all the communal aspects of creating a community mural is what I like.
14. What is your dream project? Creating a giant mural that pays extremely well, that involves multiple artists that also get paid extremely well, that also pays extremely well to whoever contributed a great amount such as a historian or people with tons of knowledge, that flows well together, that is not restrictive in anyway (except maybe overt gore and sexual content), and that has an extensive research component to it other than just a few meetings. And not leaving things out or having them of lower quality because of time constraints or funds.
15. What is your advice to artists who aspire to be a muralist? Keep searching for opportunities because practice makes perfect, and the more you practice the more prepared you will be to execute a good mural that you and others can be proud of.
16. What is your advice to artists who aspire to paint community-based murals? Do your research. Learn how to be patient but not too laid back. Try to do things in a way that will benefit everyone not just yourself and not just others. Learn how to work with others. Be organized (I should practice what I preach). If you feel something isn’t going good, say something. At the end of the day, make sure the work looks good.
17. What is the best way for communities to contact you?
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Facebook: Hugo Zamorano