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Ithaca Murals Welcomes Community Input on Justice Walls Projects

People looking at different proposals from different artists voting on what they would like to see in the community
Community members reading through artists’ proposals  (Photo by Bianca Mestiza/Ithaca Week)

The third annual Justice Walls project organized by Ithaca Murals began Feb. 28 as people from the community gathered at the Southside Community Center to vote on artists’ proposals. A total of 52 artists submitted their proposals for Justice Walls 2020. 

Ithaca Murals will fund 20 murals that highlight cultural and social justice themes. The murals will be painted in locations throughout the city.  

Ithaca Murals is an organization created by community members with the goal of adding color to the City of Ithaca by telling diverse stories from people of different backgrounds. In recent years the organization has focused on selecting murals with different cultural aspects as well as justice themes in the hopes of building a stronger community and allowing for open conversations. 

Caleb R. Thomas, Ithaca Murals coordinator, said he is looking forward to learning how people voted and seeing which pieces will be added to the city. 

“Over the last week we had a mural jury, where people voted on which mural proposals they liked and we’re tallying up those this week,” he said. “We’ll find out the results soon and announce those to see what is our colorful, creative year ahead going to look like for new artwork in the Ithaca streets.”

This year, Ithaca Murals is giving out grants of $500 to $800 to support artists’ mural projects. In the past, the organization was only able to offer $300 in grants to mural artists. Thomas said more people are interested in painting murals in the area and the quality of mural proposals has been better ever since the organization started offering more funding.

Before voting, members discussed the importance of wanting to fund murals that will make an impact on the community. 

Coming to the jury, Zoë Van Nostrand, coordinator of Carman Road Artist Quarters Community, said she didn’t know what to expect but that she enjoyed looking through the proposals.  

“It was really interesting to see how many different interpretations of the same idea people had,” she said. “There were some really stunning ones that I really hope to get to pass.” 

Carman Road Artist Quarters Community, located in Mecklenburg, New York,  is an artist community with studios and living spaces. Artists from different disciplines reside there. Van Nostrand said she hopes that through being a co-sponsor of Ithaca Murals both communities will build connections. 

“I’m excited to start integrating them [Carman Road Artist Quarters Community] more with the other art pursuits and projects in the region,” she said.

Ithaca Murals offered stickers, maps and information about Justice Walls for members to read and learn more about (Photo by Bianca Mestiza/Ithaca Week)

Cornell University senior Rupal Khaitan said she recently began working with Thomas after he posted that he was looking for student volunteers. Khaitan was impressed with the artists and their proposals. 

“Everyone has such diverse ideas and it was really hard for me to say no to anyone,” Khaitan said. “I spent a very long time just looking at every one because I think everyone had something to bring to the table.” 

Thomas said the norm in this country is typically underfunding artists of color. It is good to provide that support for them and those who are passionate about justice, especially given the prevalence of the current racial and political climate, he said. 

Van Nostrand said she is pleased that the organization is inclusive in a way that allows people to build connections. 

“I’m really excited that this gets to be a project in the community and that we get to be a part of it,” she said. “Community proposals, community voting and then community painting.”

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