Sometimes art is just art, but sometimes art is a learning and growing experience. That’s the case with the new Brown Mural being painted on the side of a building across the street from the Brown Historic site in Topeka.
This project isn’t just about the finished project that will likely last decades. This project is also about bringing thousands of people together across racial and cultural lines to bring the project to life.
Michael Tombs, the lead artist on the project, is uniquely equipped to lead the process. His specialty is interactive arts education. It’s a form of art that “involves” the spectator in a way that allows the art to achieve its purpose.
Tombs says the foundation of this interactive arts installation is compassion and love, and it’s built on the concept of the Brown V Topeka BOE case — bringing people together and breaking down barriers that separate us.
So, instead of Tombs painting the mural by himself, or just with the help of the 20 or so professional artists hired for the project, the community has been invited to be a part of painting the mural.
The first week alone, nearly 800 people showed up and painted.
“The mere fact that all of us can come together and paint, to me that’s’ the foundation of what it represents,” said Tombs. “At the time it (Brown) passed, that never would have happened.”
The mural is a project of Arts Connect Topeka, a non-profit that works to ensure the arts – in all forms – continue to be a critical part of a vibrant Topeka. They are dedicated to expanding the arts, connecting artists with their audiences, taking on new and innovative projects that support and promote the arts in Topeka.
Prior to the Brown Mural, Arts Connect has lead the installation of several other mural in the Topeka area.
Tombs, a Kansas City-based artist is known for using interactive art to change and influence lives and or to bring attention to issues. His projects typically promote unity, non-violence and diversity.
The Brown Project should be completed before the end of the summer.