January 17, 2020

Everyone Welcome, No Experience Needed

Arts Envoy and community muralist Phillip Martin was recently invited to the community of Standpipe in Kingston, Jamaica, where he managed to create a work of art that made a big impact.

How did he do it? By including every member of the Standpipe community.

Can you see the word "Standpipe" in the mural? Martin says, "it's kind of hidden in plain sight."

Here's his first person account of his "amazing experience" in Jamaica:

Any time of the year is a good time to go to Jamaica and I'm happy to put a paintbrush in the hands of any volunteer for a community mural, anywhere in the world. Recently, in Kingston, Jamaica, I joined up with the U.S. Embassy, community volunteers, and artists from the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts. Together, we created a large community mural in Standpipe, a neighborhood across the street from the embassy.

It was wonderful to include the talents of college students from Edna Manley, but everyone in the community was welcome to participate. No talent or experience was needed. Volunteers only needed to want to help their community.

To begin, members of the community gave input to what they would like in the mural. Then, I created a "paint by number" project that worked for participants of all ages.

The mural was so very well received in the Standpipe. It was in a location that had a lot of foot traffic. There was much conversation, but it was usually in Jamaican Patois. You can listen to it, and it is lovely, but you will never understand enough to make heads or tails of it.

So, when my local contact in the community wanted to really communicate with me, it had to be in English. He said that there had been a lot of talk about me and the mural. And, he came to one conclusion: "You should move to Jamaica." I don't think he could have given me a higher compliment.

This story was originally published on the International Exchange Alumni website, where you can read more stories about exchange alumni.

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