In honor of ArtPrize 10, Urban Institute of Contemporary Arts (UICA) moved its exhibition beyond the galleries and into the community with “UICA Outside.” The exhibition features public projects in three different neighborhoods: West Side, Creston and Baxter. Kimberly LaVon, a printmaker and graphic designer, was chosen as the artist to create a large-scale work in the Baxter neighborhood.
LaVon’s mural, “Amalgamation,” is located at Joe Taylor Park, 1038 Bemis St. SE.
This is LaVon’s first mural and she collaborated on the piece with the Baxter community. Each neighborhood’s artwork is designed to reflect each community’s culture. LaVon decided to focus this piece on the specific theme of community.
“I see the theme of the mural as being community because it is a collaboration of what residents wanted to see, how the UICA wanted the piece completed and how I chose to complete it,” she said.
The mural was created on a building in the park. It includes bright colors and various large images including one of a rubber duck, a cassette, and LaVon’s personal favorite, an airplane. When it came to deciding what was going to be in the mural, residents of the neighborhood were asked what they would like to see. They also were able to look at a list of blocks and images that LaVon had already created. The community pieced together what they wanted to see and LaVon set to work.
When asked why she thought the residents picked the specific images used, LaVon said, “I think they chose things they wanted to see every day. Things that made them happy, gave them a feeling of nostalgia or something they wanted to be reminded of.”
The mural’s name, which can be seen on the piece itself, comes from the direct meaning of the word “amalgamation,” which is the action, process or result of combining or uniting. It acquired its name because that’s how LaVon viewed the piece and its process.
“It’s the neighborhood center,” she explained. “The UICA, the parks department, the city, the painting, which I don’t normally do, and other things. It was all of those things combined, that made this one thing, so it kind of represents all of the pieces that came together to make the piece happen in the first place.”
The inspiration for the park’s mural unexpectedly came from when LaVon taught at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp for the first time and was interested in a specific method.
“When I taught the kids how to paint they were told not to throw anything away,” she explained. “They ended up creating a pile of refuse paper that looked like something we could use to print on. It looked a lot like chine-collé paper. We ended up doing just that. I tried to emulate the painted paper with spray paint on the mural.
“I followed that up with painting the digitized block prints on top of those color blocks. The final outcome is a larger than life, simulated linocut & chine-collé piece. The only difference between this piece and my established body of work is that this piece is painted. And it’s the biggest piece I’ve made to date.”
Not only was the mural inspired by kids; it was created with kids in mind. “It’s a park, right?” LaVon said. “I wanted the kids to think something like, ‘this is really cool! I could see myself making something like this.’”
*Photos courtesy of Kimberly LaVon