Public performance of a Moving Mural in Union Square Park, NYC, August 4, 2018
A Moving Mural is framework for public performance conceived of and developed by Beth Osnes that animates a visual message within the larger context of a public performance. The message and the outline of a design is decided upon by the participants of an event. Although the mural has one concise message, it is made up of many pieces. The outline of the mural is inked in with black lines before an event. As part of the process preceding the event, participants are invited to fill in the spaces on the pieces completely with whatever colors they like. Poles are mounted onto the back of each piece. Each piece with its splash of color, yet indecipherable message, is used as a moving twirling accompaniment to movement. Gathered together into a random wall before an audience, the pieces can hide and then reveal the gathering of a tableau or performance behind. To culminate, the pieces can come together in order to ultimately reveal their message that strengthens the entire performance piece. This performance framework gains inspiration from Stephen Duncombe’s open-source book Dream, in which he writes “Ethical spectacle demands a different sort of participation. The people who participate in the performance of the spectacle must also contribute to its construction (page 127).” It creates “a situation in which popular participation not only can happen but must happen for the spectacle to come to fruition (page 129).”
She’s the First
‘She’s the First’ Spectacle Performance is a performance that was co-designed and co-facilitated by Beth Osnes and Chelsea Hackett to visually convey the power of young women’s voices for change. This performance event occurred on August 4th, 2018 in New York City in Union Square Park. As co-founders and co-directors of SPEAK, we partnered with a New York-based organization She’s the First, which supports girls internationally who will be the first in their families to graduate high school and trains students everywhere to be global citizens. For the culmination of their national conference She’s the First held in NYC with college-aged women from across the nation who actively support She’s the First (August 2-4, 2018), SPEAK was invited to create a culminating performance spectacle to visually communicate the power of young women’s voices and to amplify their impact.
Together we created a ‘Moving Mural’ framework for expression that allowed for artistic agency on behalf of the participants but was also structured to result in a dynamic, colorful, and exuberant expression of young women’s collective voices. We worked with our presenting partners, She’s the First, to come up with a design for the mural and then had a graphic designer finalize that design. Before the event, we traced the design onto the 12 different pieces. The morning of the event, participants colored in the panels, created speech bubbles that expressed how and why they speak, and we created a movement/chant performance that put these panels into a movement pattern that culminated in the panels coming together to read “I Speak.” After rehearsing this in the She’s the First headquarters, we paraded to Union Square Park in downtown New York City to repeat the performance. The entire event was featured on Good Morning America social media. Both the process and the product served to support the importance and vibrancy of young women’s empowered voices.
In Boulder when we performed a Moving Mural at the 2018 Cumbre Summit-- a conference for Spanish-speaking women's leadership and empowerment-- the young people's group decided to feature the word "RESISTIR" on a 12/8 foot mural made up of 12 different pieces. They twirled the pieces while crisscrossing the stage between each other to mark the transition between short performance pieces they created for the final showing at this event. A chant of "Latinos stand for what? Unidad en comunidad!" accompanied their movement. At the completion of their performance they brought their pieces together as they all shouted out "RESISTIR." For this Moving Mural, we colored it the word RESISTIR with red (and each letter’s shadow with purple) to be sure the word would communicate clearly, then we invited all other spaces to be filled in with whatever colors that the participants chose. We just urged them to completely color the entire mural so there was no white left showing.
Young women presenting their Moving Mural at the culmination of the Cumbre Summit, 2018
Young women decorating panels for a Moving Mural at the Cumbre, Sept. 22, 2018
Spanish Heritage Day
The latest Moving Mural was created for the Spanish Heritage Day at the University of Colorado, Boulder with 400 visiting Denver Public School Spanish heritage students. A mural made up of six huge arrows that came together at the points to spell out the word "Unidad!" The individual arrows were used to point out the performance of each school and then came together at the end to reinforce the unity within all of the diversity of the various schools and pride in the Spanish langague.
Drawdown Act Up!
At the 2019 Drawdown Learn Conference at the Omega Institute we created a Moving Mural to serve as a dynamic moving backdrop for a plenary performance by youth participants. Here the pieces of the Moving Mural crisscrossed the stage between each original comic act by the youth and then served as a backdrop for the final song.
Recommendations for Facilitating Your Own Moving Mural
Lessons learned from having done many Moving Murals include: maximize the authorship and agency of the participants by having them decide the message, create the design, and color it in. Keep the design clean and clear so it communicates once colored in with multiple colors. Securely mount poles on the back of each panel to maximize the ability to manipulate the pieces in multiple ways. Creating an accompanying chant for the movement of the mural creates an accessible performance form for participation by a wide range of people. The guiding goal for each iteration of this project has been to add something spectacular to a gathering, something that serves as an outlet for expression around a shared value or issue. Within the constraints of time and resources, every effort is made to maximize the authorship and agency of the participants of the Moving Mural. A co-benefit of the Moving Mural design is that it results in a dynamic visual that tends to attract attention from the media to further expand the reach of your message.
*It helps to draw a grid of all the pieces on the back of each panel (see photo) to specify where each piece fits into the whole mural, since the person holding the panel can’t see the front of the mural. Give your tallest people the upper pieces of the Moving Mural. Explore various ways of spinning, moving, weaving, pulsating, coming into formation, and bursting apart with the pieces to create movement patterns and effects. It is difficult to anticipate exactly how long it will take participants to completely fill in all the pieces of a Moving Mural, but if it helps, it took about 30 people 90 minutes to fill in the “I SPEAK” mural, and about the same for the RESISTIR mural. It helps to have some volunteers who can help finish the mural if participants are needed for other aspect of an event’s programming. It is a great way to promote bonding at an event to have table of participants coloring the panels together.