Behind the Scenes of a Collaborative Mural Project for World Central Kitchen
For a long time I've wanted to work with José Andrés, perhaps DC’s biggest celebrity chef and humanitarian hero that started World Central Kitchen, an organization that serves nutritious meals to people who need them and fights hunger around the globe. As a local in the food world, José has been familiar with my watercolors for several years, supporting me at various Farmers Markets and purchasing copies of my cookbooks and prints.
At the beginning of this year, World Central Kitchen's Executive Director Nate Mook reached out to see if I'd be interested in making a series of murals for their new offices and I, of course, jumped at the opportunity. It quickly became apparent that it would be a big job AND the perfect collaborative art project that I had wanted accomplish this year.
Working collaboratively is something that I've missed as a solo artist now in my seventh year of being a professional artist. There's so much value that comes with group projects-- the potential to grow through learning from others, the ability create outside your own usual art practice, and the chance to broaden your audience. All of these plus more are significant reasons why it’s really worth the effort to make art collaboratively.
I came to know Hanna and Lindy of Red Swan Walls (formerly known as Spectrum Murals) of Baltimore first on Instagram, and several months later, at PowWowDC! last year. I love their aesthetic - bold colors and line work - and am inspired by their dramatic sense of realism in their large scale pieces.
It wasn't hard to convince Red Swan to hop on board, (both agreeing we couldn't imagine a client with a more noble cause). Within a week we each produced a mural concept for the wall using a combination of stock photography mixed with iPad drawings to roughly render the ideas we had for the space- which really was four walls (the large meeting space, principal wall and the one adjacent to it, and a small glassed in office space).
Working through the concept phase in any client-based project is always the hardest part. This is often where people's character comes out and you see how aligned the artist's ideas are with the client's visions. My advice for any creative in this phase is to gather as many details from the client as possible- the more concrete visual content and and inspiration you have from them, the better. When working from graphics rather than the client's descriptions and language, one can pair down the variables, and ultimately create less room for revisions and changes if everyone is on the same page from the start.
Nate, the Executive Director of WCK, selected one of the three designs we drafted and made some clear edits: certain ingredients were swapped for ones that were more common in Paella, and a quote was added. We felt so fortunate to have moved forward right to production after the first round of design!
Here are some photos from the making of this mural- enjoy the progression. Fellow artists, may this inspire, and potential clients, reach out if you want to discuss making a mural. I’m always looking for the next project!
See the final pics of the main wall here.