In 2022 as a student in the Illustration and Design program in the School of Art at the University of Arizona, I received the Sadker Undergraduate Studio Art Award. With this award and funding I wrote a grant, created two original murals and used creativity as the conduit to start meaningful conversations and encourage collaborations within the LGBTQ+ community.
This project was a collaboration with a Tucson local LGBTQ+ run small business, Plantney Spears, to design and install a site-specific indoor mural. Plantney persevered through the Pandemic as an emerging small business and advocate for LGBTQ+ community. Their newly acquired space within the historic Firestone building offers a highly trafficked area ideal for hosting events open to the public and offering a safe space for marginalized groups. This project provided great value to both the small business and the student artist by strengthening bonds within the Tucson community at large. Plantney will host an evening reception as an unveiling of the mural where conversations on visibility will be held. This project celebrates the beginning of a local art infusion within the plant business and will be utilized as the framework for future artist collaborations.
The major themes of both murals reflect the values of Plantney’s unique vision of safe space and offer a visual rendering of highly influential icons, colors, and under-represented groups. The unique fusion of pop culture, the LGBTQ+ community and holding public space, is a necessary facet of the Tucson community. As transgender and women’s right continue to be questioned throughout America, creating allies and space for healing is integral to a future where all individuals feel safe, represented and heard.
In the words of Tammy Baldwin, “There will not be a magic day when we wake up and it’s now okay to express ourselves publicly. We make that day by doing things publicly until it’s simply the way things are.” This project is a chance to use illustration to create a mural specific to the needs of the business and community space.
Building this project from concept to public event was huge. Working through the creative process to express and collaborate with the community and hold an event and public safe space was and continuous to be a huge landmark in my work. Creating meaningful connections and fostering trust are values I hold dear. Art is for everyone, and bringing access to art in this way is a direct example of my dedication to both holding space and creating opportunities for art to serve our community.
Spending time at Plantney allowed me to engage with the Tucson community. Hosting an event helped me to understand the needs of the environment. I am so grateful for this opportunity to support Plantney as well as myself. This was all generously made possible by the Sadker Undergraduate Studio Art Award and myself, putting in the hours and detail to make something meaningfu; and valuable to leave behind.