Tag: Murals

When I Grow Up… A Collaborative Mural for Children

Collaborative Mural for Children by BZTAT
“When I Grow Up…” mural by BZTAT and friends

Last weekend I participated in the annual SmARTsplash event at the Canton Cultural Center for the Arts. For the past couple of years, I have been hired by ArtsinStark to create a “Dialogues” mural with children at the event. It is an activity that I enjoy, because children being creative is so fun!

The entire event offers a number of creative activities for children and also showcases performances and artistic creations from various groups in Stark County. My mural is one of those activities.

I wanted to do something that captured the essence of childhood aspiration, so I used my mural to ask the age old question, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” I painted the background and the child images beforehand. At the event, I and a volunteer helper asked children that stopped by to draw a picture of what they wanted to do when they grew up.

I emphasized to my volunteer helper that I wanted to say, “What do you want to do…” instead of “What do you want to be…”. It is a slight distinction, but an important one. I wanted them to focus on what they wanted to do, because they have no real choice about what they will be.

After they drew their pictures, I glued them into the background of the mural, and I put a wash of color over them. As you look at the mural you are drawn into looking at all of the children’s aspirations.

As I glued the images in, I listened to the interactions between the children and the adults with them as they drew under my volunteer’s guidance. There was an awkwardness, as parents tried to explain the task to their youngsters. Their explanations often fell to traditional gender roles, girls being asked, “Do you want to be a teacher or a nurse or a ballerina?” and boys being asked, “Do you want to be a policeman or fireman or a doctor?” I say awkwardness, because they would quickly throw in some less gender specific roles after realizing what they had done.

Let’s face it, it is not easy to change our traditional ways, especially when it comes to raising children. We tend to fall back on what our parents taught us, even though intellectually, we have strong opinions different than our parents’ ideas.

I was encouraged, though, because the children, male and female, recognized that they had options that were beyond what was available when I was growing up. Two girls (apparently future entrepreneurial partners) drew pictures that said, “I want to make a bakery!” and an equal balance of males and females drew pictures of themselves as scientists. There were many children who wanted to be artists, actors, singers and sports heroes. Local universities might want to take note of how many children wanted to be veterinarians. And a number of boys said that they wanted to be “dads,” recognizing that family roles were of great value.

The purpose of a “Dialogues” mural is twofold. First, the goal is to create a dialog between the artist and the community as the artwork is created. Second, the dialog is continued as the mural is viewed by others. The first part is now complete. The second part is about to begin. The mural will be displayed in my gallery at Second April Galerie and Studios at the next Canton First Friday. After that, it will travel to different schools in the community and other locations for viewing.

I hope you get a chance to join the dialog.

Life is an Adventure!


Contact BZTAT about having a Dialogues mural created for your event!

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Paradoxes, Purposes and Ponderances: Criticism


Rarely do artists enjoy the words of art critics. The only time that we do enjoy them is when they say something favorable about our work, and even then we are often nonplussed.

So, I am not exactly sure why I asked my friend and self appointed art critic Tom Wachunas to write about my “Safe Animals Safe Kids” mural. I was, let’s say, underwhelmed with his commentary (read it here).

To my own defense, Tom has written very favorable pieces about my work in the past, so my request was not totally ignorant.

And, although I am not sure, I think he meant to be favorable with his latest Art Wach blog post. I have to say, though, it left me scratching my head.

First of all, Tom detests the oversaturated football culture of our city of Canton, OH as much I do, so his football references in both of his writings about my work are really confusing.

And then there is the comment that calls my work “part photo-shop manipulation, part paint-by-number segmenting”. Not exactly the compliment an artist looks for.

I don’t profess to be an art critic. I don’t profess to have work that is going to rock the so-called Art World like Picasso, Worhol, or Banksy. But I suspect that these Art World rock stars have had worse comments made about them.

For what it is worth, I think people grasp for words to explain the child-like simplicity of my work and sometimes settle on “paint-by-number” without really contemplating the dismissive nature of the comparison. I would, however, expect a little more awareness from an art critic who knows my work and knows that my process is a bit more complicated than paint-by-number.

Sigh. Oh well.

Tom has a penchant for inserting his own agendas into his commentaries, too. In writing about my work, he takes the opportunity to chastise the Canton arts establishment about “the state of public art works as it stands now in downtown Canton,” complaining about the fact that the “Safe Animals Safe Kids” mural is my third public artwork in a two-block area. (Actually he gives me too much credit. It is only my second.)

A handful of artists have created new interest in the downtown Canton area, so complaints about how many public artworks there are by particular artists seem sort of bourgesois, if you ask me. At least someone is doing something to revive a previously blighted area and bringing it new interest.

I do agree that a more strategic public art planning process extending from the pioneering artists’ efforts is warranted. Such a process is beginning.

Tom does make positive notes about the mission of the mural to raise awareness about the connections between animal abuse, domestic violence and child abuse, and for that I am grateful.

Were I the art critic reviewing my mural, I would have made mention of other legitimate artistic questions of scale and placement, but hey, I am not the critic.

Regardless of our disagreement, Tom and I will remain friends, and we will continue to share dialog about our thoughts on art and life. It is invigorating to be in a city with a thriving arts community where such conversation has a regular place. Is your city like that?


Safe Animals Safe Kids – Art for a Purpose

"Safe Animals Safe Kids" mural by BZTAT

It has taken me several months to complete, but my first Okey’s Promise: Art for a Cause mural is complete! We will be hanging it on the side of the Imperial Room, a restaurant/lounge in the Canton Ohio Art’s District, tomorrow (August 1) starting at 9:00 AM.

You can see the photos of each stage of the mural’s creation here on my Google+ photo page. (Never fear if you are not yet on G+. You can still see the photo album.) New photos will be added throughout the day as we go through the process of hanging it on the wall.

I also encourage you to check out the website for Okey’s Promise where you can read about the project and learn about how animal abuse, child abuse and domestic violence are all connected. Also, follow the latest activity on the Okey’s Promise Facebook Fan Page!

The mural will be dedicated during the Frist Friday festivities on Friday August 5. If you cannot make it to Canton, there will be a live broadcast on UStream so you can attend from afar! You can sign up on the Facebook Event Page if you’d like to be a part of things on location or virtually.

What: Dedication of the “Safe Animals Safe Kids” mural by artist BZTAT

Where: 420 Court Ave. NW, Canton, OH

When: Friday, August 5 at 7:30 pm

I hope to see you there – in Canton or in cyberspace!