Community Art Project: The Art of Liberation

"The Art of Liberation" is a community mural designed to represent the diversity and pride of the LGBT and Ally community at NIU and to provide visual messages of support and empowerment for current and future students.
We invite you to be part of this project!  No artistic experience is necessary!  Participants can draw a picture, create a collage, write a poem, share a memory, write a letter to someone … leave your mark on the Resource Center and help inspire future students!

You can use watercolor postcards and other papers to create written text or visual images that share memories, thoughts, or messages.  We will supply the paper, paints, collage materials, pencils, markers and other art supplies; you are also welcome to bring in photographs or personal items to weave into your artwork.

Installation

The Story Behind “The Art of Liberation”

The name of the mural is in part a tribute to the history of the LGBT community on campus, which became established as a visible presence in April 1970 when the NIU Gay Liberation Front (GLF) received Student Association recognition as an official student organization.

Excerpt from “A CONCISE HISTORY OF GAY LIBERATION AT NORTHERN ILLINOIS UNIVERSITY, 1971”:

In the beginning there were four …
Long hours were spent in our lavender living rooms, hoping, talking, and, yes, praying for strength.  It came. …
We were Out! Free! Up-Front! We were Liberated!
And we grew – Strong, Powerful, Influential.
And here we are today …

The name also captures the idea that personal expression – telling our stories, expressing our identities through art, and even the creative process itself -- can be liberating.  For others, viewing the artwork and reading the messages can be liberating.

"When we liberate ourselves from our own fears, simply our presence may liberate others."
        Author Marianne Williamson

The name is also a play on words, conveying the idea that the process of liberation -- becoming free -- can be an art in itself.

Students were the catalyst for the project; they expressed their interest in having a new piece of art for the Resource Center that reflected a sense of pride in the LGBT community.

In spring 2009, visiting artist Dr. Ed Check provided the inspiration for an art installation that uses postcards for participants to convey messages to others, something like the notes we post on our refrigerators, residence hall or office doors, or even facebook profiles:  bits and pieces of communication with the world around us.  The metal surface of the artwork allows for continually adding new contributions, with individually designed postcards held on with magnets.  As the project grows, the effect will be that of a contemporary version of a quilt, with many small pieces of art making up the larger work.

Dr. Check envisioned a space where participants could write a message to someone to share something about their LGBT identity or experience with the LGBT community.  The postcards provide a way to write a letter to future students, a thank you to someone who impacted your life related to LGBT identity, to someone in your life that you can’t talk to in person about LGBT identity, or even to your former self … the possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

Over time, the artwork will become a way for each generation of students to speak to future generations.