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May 15 2019

A Moving Mural bursts a singular visual message into action. The outline of a design is decided upon by the participants of an event. For the "She's the First" conference in New York City that supports young women the world over in being the first in their families to graduate high school, SPEAK partnered to collaboratively create and animate a huge mural that said "I Speak!" Although the mural has one concise message, it is made up of many pieces. The outline of the mural was inked in with black lines. Participants were invited to fill in the spaces on the pieces completely with whatever colors they liked. Poles were mounted onto the back of each piece. Each piece with its splash of color, yet indecipherable message, was used as a moving twirling accompaniment to movement. Gathered together into a random wall before an audience, the pieces can hide and then reveal the gathering of a tableau behind. To culminate, the pieces can come together in order to ultimately reveal their message that strengthens the entire performance piece.
In Boulder when we performed a Moving Mural at the Cumbre Summit-- a conference for Spanish-speaking women's leadership and empowerment-- the young people's group decided to feature the word "resistar" on a 12/8 foot mural made up of 9 different pieces. They twirled the pieces while criss-crossing the stage between each other to mark the transition between short performance pieces they created for the final showing at this event. A chant of "Latinos stand for what? Unidad en comunidad!" accompanied their movement. At the completion of their performance they brought their pieces together as they all shouted out "Resistar!"
This performance framework developed by Beth Osnes gains inspiration from Stephen Duncombe’s open-source book Dream, in which he writes “Ethical spectacle demands a different sort of participation. The people who participate in the performance of the spectacle must also contribute to its construction (page 127).” It creates “a situation in which popular participation not only can happen but must happen for the spectacle to come to fruition (page 129).”
The latest Moving Mural was created for the Spanish Heritage Day at the University of Colorado, Boulder with 400 visiting Denver Public School Spanish heritage students. A mural made up of six huge arrows that came together at the points to spell out the word "Unidad!" The individual arrows were used to point out the performance of each school and then came together at the end to reinforce the unity within all of the diversity of the various schools.
It has been a pure delight to experiment with this medium of the Moving Mural for creating visual spectacle that can augment performance and communicate a central message. Lessons learned from having done three of these now include: maximize the authorship and agency of the participants by having them decide the message, create the design, and color it in. Keep the design clean and clear so it communicates once colored in with multiple colors. Securely mounted poles on the back can maximize the ability to manipulate the pieces in multiple ways. Creating an accompanying chant for the movement of the mural creates an accessible performance form for participation by a wide range of people. The guiding goal for each iteration of this project has been to add something spectacular to a gathering, something that serves as an outlet for expression around a shared value or issue. Within the constraints of time and resources, every effort is made to maximize the authorship and agency of the participants of the Moving Mural.

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