For his Community Mural class, Saginaw Valley State University student David Smith teamed up with the clients of Do-All at Object d'Aarts in Bay City to create a digital mural. The term "mural" often conjures the image of a painting made directly on an indoor or outdoor wall, but that's not the only way a mural can be made. The ten-by-ten foot mural "Art for All"  Smith generated digitally is to be printed, courtesy of F.P. Horak, on a durable synthetic banner. It will front the Object d'Aarts gallery on Washington Street and travel as needed to publicize the nonprofit's mission: "Providing employment, training, program services, and community opportunities for adults with developmental disabilities."

When given this assignment, Smith knew exactly where to go. He was familiar with Object d'Aarts gallery because he had previously helped former curator Pati Manley set up a musical event there. "When this project came my way, Object D'Aarts was the first organization I thought about approaching with the project."  Even so, initially he didn't have a clear idea where this new adventure would lead him.

Smith had never worked with people with disabilities before, and he had to go through a security check before being cleared to volunteer at Object d'Aarts. Then the first day at the gallery, he started interviewing people who were taking an art class about what art meant to them and what their process was. "It wasn't the challenge I was expecting, and the people were easy to communicate with," Smith says. "There were some Picasso-esque drawings on a chalkboard from an art history lesson. This and the walls being covered by all kinds of artwork by the gallery artists gave me the idea." Idea for what? A mural that, somewhat like a patchwork quilt, meshes a trio of faces made up of the "fabric" of artwork by Do-All clients. 

Manley is pleased with Smith's openness to the proposal, willingness to go through the process—and the final result. "He was very patient and kind and developed a brilliant idea for incorporating everyone's art in a digital mural." As the mural travels, gracing various venues with its warmth and charm, it will witness to, as Manely calls it, this "win-win situation for everyone involved."

© Jeanne Lesinski, 2010