Friday, September 20, 2013

Norristown-Based Art

It's Friday, so let's talk about something fun--community-based art. What is it? Instead of commissioning one artist to produce a work, members of the community come together to create a mural, sculpture or other artwork which will then be displayed in a public space. You might ask an artist (ideally a resident of the town) do the design, but all the work is done by the community.

We have a prime example of this kind of art--a mural on the Dragon Boat Club's Boat House, painted by the students and teachers of the ACPPA Community Arts Center (a school of art, dance, music, and design for kids, based at Grace Lutheran Church) in cooperation with the Dragon Boat Club. The final unveiling of the work will be tomorrow at Riverfest (11 am to 4 pm, 1 Haws Avenue), so come out and see it.

Last Friday, I watched a segment on PBS NewsHour about community-based art, and it got me to thinking that we could do more of it here. We're supposed to have our sights set on becoming an arts community, right? So picture Norristown as a sort of open-air art gallery, with murals, sculptures, mosaics, all done by the residents.

For instance, a church congregation might create a sculpture for a devotional garden beside the church, or a quilt to be hung in a window. Schools could paint murals or, like the students of Chestnutwold Elementary in Havertown, create different, colorful birdhouses, which they then hung outside the front entrance of their school. Neighborhoods could get together to dress up a blank wall (with the owner's permission, of course), or some such project to brighten, and unify, their block. Business districts could get together (or recruit volunteers) to paint trash cans, or create some work of art to bring interest, and shoppers, to an area.

Here are some projects done by other communities, to hopefully inspire you:

Maze of cement and mulch.

Tiles on a bench

Picture 2 or 3 of these in a playground.

Community quilt, where everyone brought a mateless sock


  1. Norristown resident Patsy Morningstar posted this on Facebook, re community art:
    "The town where I grew up always had a Halloween contest - drawings were submitted at school and the winners got to paint that picture on a window in town. It was a big deal and everyone looked forward to watching the painting and seeing the finished product. There might be time to get this going this year??"

  2. Elena, I remember this as a was probably the first time i was introduced to "poster paint" All the windows of stores on Main Street had the great halloween scenes. Not that many store window any more. Maybe they could do store windows in Marshall Street and/or a few in Logan Square. Thanks for the fond memories

  3. We used to do something like this for Halloween, we used to do Christmas decorations, and in April we did Clean Up fix Up Paint Up. It was amazing as a child Norristown was a community. I remember even our Jewish friends decorated with blue decorations I love murals, but so many people were against the mural idea and so many hate the one on DeKalb and Lafayette. It would be wonderful to see beautiful murals like the ones in Philly. I've been looking at the picture of old Norristown and would love to see some of those as murals.