Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Art Community: Community Art

Art is one of the few things in the world that builds community. Whether it's viewing a piece of sculpture in a sculpture garden, visiting a gallery opening, listening to a symphony at the concert hall, or watching a show in the theatre, art is created to be shared.
Shared in the enjoyment of a completed work. Sometimes even shared throughout the entire creative process.

Art is meant to be shared with others.

A wonderful example of art that is shared in conception, execution and enjoyment of the finished product, is Community Bridge, in Frederick, MD. This piece began as an effort to revitalize and restore a controversial sector of Frederick. The artist, William Cochran, proposed a collaborative art project using a bridge as his canvas. Not just any old bridge though, he wanted this specific bridge that divided the community into a quasi "right and wrong side of the tracks," both racially and economically. Cochran's vision was to use the very thing dividing the city in two and redeem it to become a point of unity, collaboration and community spirit. Hence it's name, Community Bridge.

Cochran asked 174,000 people (both locally and around the world) one question, "What image represents the spirit of community to you?"

In process from 1993-1998, and painted entirely in the trompe l'oeil style (meaning that the bridge surfaces are completely flat. Anything you see that appears to be three-dimensional is an illusion), Cochran and his art team incorporated hundreds of ideas contributed from the world-wide community. In the words of Cochran, "Imagination is the most powerful force available to humankind and everyone without exception has access to that force."

Cochran relied on a community to canvas the public for ideas. Cochran relied on a community of ten painters to assist in making the bridge mural a reality. Cochran now relies on the community of Frederick, and all the out-of-town visitors, to enjoy and experience Community Bridge together. Cochran's vision depends on community collaboration and serves to draw that community closer together. And one could even say that it creates community where there was none.

Cochran hopes to add still more symbols to the bridge. Click here to join the Community Bridge collaboration and submit your answer to the question,
"What symbol represents community to you?"

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