On Valentine’s Day weekend in downtown Loveland, Colorado, some 300 local citizens helped create a new community mural. In what has become an annual tradition, each person painted a 9-inch square tile, (usually) following simple guidelines. Anyone able to hold a paintbrush was able to join in, regardless of age or artistic skill.
I have designed the mural-making process to be virtually foolproof. It’s better than paint-by-number because participants are able to creatively express themselves on their tiles. I love to see how people jump in – some restrained, some exuberant; some with a specific vision, some just playing with paint. This is now our sixth community-building-Sweetheart-Festival mural, and I love to see the hundreds of declarations of love that have gone up over the past few years.
This is my intention for this project: community building! I like to hope that in some small way this project is a counter force to the many polarizing forces in our world today.
I conceived the idea for these collaborative murals after the 2016 presidential election. It seemed to me at the time that our world had become dangerously polarized and tribal. At least in my small corner of the world I wanted to do something that would bring the hundreds of local Valentine festival-goers together for something free, fun, creative, and collaborative. As I’ve driven down 4th Street and seen smiling pedestrians enjoying the finished mural throughout each year, I feel that we’ve hit the bull’s-eye.
Unfortunately, six years later, things do not seem much improved on the culture war front. Art can only take us so far. Politicians don’t bring us together. When a presidential administration is aligned with one side or the other it only heightens the division. This past year confirmed that big tech can’t be trusted to be the arbiter of the truth. Nor can any one news source. There is misinformation about misinformation. Fact checkers need to be fact checked.
Trust in institutions seems to be in short supply, and understandably so.
In a climate where people conflate opinion and fact, and where common ground is difficult to find, common ground can only be part of the solution. We may not be able to find much of that. We must re-learn to live together peacefully in respectful disagreement. In my opinion, that can only happen if we talk to each other; if we get to know each other with the aim of understanding one another.
If you’ve had enough of hysterical polarization, would like to become part of the solution, but aren’t sure where to begin, I have a friendly suggestion. Join this group: BraverAngels.org. Or at least check out one of their “Skills Trainings” e-courses. You can join BA for $1 dollar a month. I’ve been a member for well over a year now and hope to see it grow! You can also easily search out some past BA events on Youtube to get a feel for what a BA event looks like.
Grace and peace to you!
Check out my newest Children’s book, The Friendly City, to help the child in your life navigate a divided culture! You can preview all my books, page by page, on my Instagram.