Community-based art requires dedicated muralists. Below are a selection of quotes from muralists who make community-based art.


“Artists who don’t live in the community in which they are working need to allow time to simply be there at unscheduled, unexpected times—to wander the streets, hang out in a park, to see what’s available at the local stores, to chat with residents, to really experience the life of the place. By scheduling this extra “research time,” the artist can bring forward his or her own knowledge and observations as a contribution to the dialogical process.

…For a community artist, there has to be a balance between including oneself in the community by consciously refusing this tradition of artistic alienation and standing enough apart from the community so as to preserve one’s perspective and psychic distance and thus to better see and serve the community. One of the things that the artist has to do in the dialogical process is to carefully listen to what the community is foregrounding, but to also be aware of what is in the background, what is not being said, what is the shape of the negative spaces in the discourse. The artist can assert these missing things, not as being fundamental or primary, but as being of value in creating a more nuanced understanding of the community.”


Quote is from an artist survey the sent to community-based muralists

“Doing community art has enriched my life. I am connected to a growing number of new friends, and know what is deeply important to them. My work makes a difference in peoples’ lives. My future is filled with exciting possibilities. I grow opportunities for others to become engaged with their communities, their talents, and sometimes their artistic careers.

What is your advice to artists who aspire to be a muralist? I like to consider that the way we live our lives is a form of art. When we make choices that shape our future that is an artistic choice. I advise everyone to be brave and take chances and remember that we can make beautiful lives that help others and make a difference in the world. Remember that failure means you learned what doesn’t work and you now have the chance to try again with better information. Keep open to all kinds of opportunities because skills like sign painting and decorative finishes can help you with your skills while keeping your income more predictable. Get to know the artistic community in your area. Also, ask for help when you need it and give help when you can.

What is your advice to artists who aspire to paint community-based murals? Attend meetings and festivals of your community, spend time with them and get to know them. Make sure to invest time in getting out the word for events. Keep good records of conversations and budget. Track when grants are due and do your homework on them so you know what to do and when.”


Quote is from an artist survey the sent to community-based muralists

Don’t sell yourself short. If there is a will to create it, there is a way to pay for it. If a client says your initial bid is too high, suggest creating a smaller mural. Never work for free. Your time and talent are worthy of compensation. I limit the number of times I will change a design from the time of commissioning, and that’s something I recommend to people new to this world. If I’m not really feeling a connection to the project from the beginning, I respectfully decline the commission. If you are creating a mural for a portfolio piece, consider the following elements when selecting a wall: visibility, walkability in a neighborhood, traffic patterns, and the condition of the physical wall. Learn about the chemistry in the materials you are working with. Is this wall best suited for exterior acrylic latex or enamel paint? If you are creating a mural in a daycare, will there be hundreds of tiny hands touching the wall each month? Will there be the potential for aspiring tiny artists to create crayon landscapes on top of your mural? If you are painting in a restaurant, consider grease and general wear and tear. Research your primers and topcoats. There is nothing worse than spending months on a project just to see it deteriorate after one rain shower or one winter. 

What is your advice to artists who aspire to paint community-based murals? It’s really important to spend quality time in the community in which you are installing your artwork. I don’t necessarily think murals that are inspired by community ideas have to look like a collage, but they can absolutely be a collage of symbolic concepts that represent the people residing in the area. Consider the fact that you might not be equipped to convey a message that will be popular with all residents of the neighborhood. Bring in artists with relevant lived experiences to help you. Pay them for their time. Obviously, there are a lot of factors that go into creating a successful community mural. The best thing you can do for your project is to be vulnerable and ask tough questions when you are in the initial planning stages.


Quote is from an artist survey the sent to community-based muralists

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. 

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.