Vince: A Summer and a Labor of Love

Local artist Vince Bobrosky spearheaded this summer's creation of a Not In Our Town/McLean County Diversity Project mural at East/Albert and Olive Streets. The mural will be dedicated October 10.

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Thanks to the McLean County Diversity Project I had a very rewarding experience this summer. What began as an idea to recreate some artwork that already existed within Not In Our Town (NIOT), ended up being something quite different thanks to the foresight of Tricia Stiller Executive Director of the Downtown Bloomington Association.

Tricia contacted me and asked if I would be interested in doing a collaborative mural project with scholars from the McLean County Diversity Project. Since I really enjoy working with kids, I immediately accepted the challenge. I have to admit however, I didn’t know much about this group, but that would all change in due time.

Workshops were scheduled with the scholars to create the concept for this collaborative mural. I must say, I was a bit nervous, but it was excited nervousness. I met each of the kids at the door of our workshop room greeting them with a smile and a handshake as we introduced ourselves to each other. Little did I know that this would become the start of something that would create an experience  that will last for the rest of my life.

We started with a few presentations. Camille Taylor from NIOT shared the story of Billings, Montana, where a rock was thrown through a bedroom window of a 6 year-old boy who had placed a picture of a menorah during Hanukkah. The story goes on to tell how the town of Billings united together by placing pictures of menorahs that were printed especially for this purpose, in windows all across town. This is where NIOT started, and has now spread across the country. Bloomington/Normal actually celebrated 20 years of involvement with NIOT this year.

I also shared a few videos, one of which showed astronaut Scott Kelly as he circled the earth on the International Space Station. He talked about being able to see the world with no borders as you would normally see on a map. He describes that the earth appears as one global community, one which radiates peace and hope. He goes on to say that he wishes for the day when mankind can live in peace and happiness. These presentations were very emotional. They set the tone on what would become some challenging and fun workshops to follow.

As we continued the workshops, I got to know the kids more each time. I was so impressed with the thoughts they had, and the images they drew. All in all the kids generated almost 150 words or quotes and countless images that reflected their thoughts what NIOT and diversity means to them. We brainstormed ideas on how to create a mural to represent all of this. Eventually we landed on an idea that would give each scholar their own space and colors to paint on the wall and create the message that they had to share. Bright colors and bold messages became a foundation. We titled the mural: "Let Our Light Shine."

What truly impressed me, was within this diverse group of young people, a common theme became apparent. The thought that we should all accept one another for who we are and simply get along and work together to make the world a better place became a common message. These scholars each had bold messages to say and this mural was going to give them an opportunity to show just what their message is.

As artwork began to emerge on the mural, it soon became apparent that each of the scholars’ individual space was as unique as each one of them. Their personalities shined along with each of their unique messages. It was fun and very rewarding to get to know each of the scholars as their painting progressed, not to mention their fearless leader Jeff. I told the kids they would hear all kinds of positive comments and compliments from many people passing by the mural while they worked. This happened numerous times.  As more and more artwork was painted, I could see the excitement and proud feelings that built within them. Each scholar took ownership of their area and did an absolutely wonderful job. They stuck it out to the end.

Having never been involved in such a project, I am sure that they learned some new skills and perhaps a little about themselves and the others that worked beside them. I know that I did, and for that I will be forever grateful for the experience that I had and new friends that I made.

The sincere thoughts and emotional expressions that are now a painted mural, will be a lasting message for countless people to see and experience. It has already touched many in a positive way. There was a gentleman that came up to me one day while I was painting. He asked “what is all this about?” I gave him a brief explanation. He replied with quite a negative comment. As I continued to walk him along the wall and show him some of the messages that were written, he couldn’t help but be touched by what he saw. When he left that day, he had a change of heart. This gentleman has returned many times to see the progress and compliment everyone for providing such a positive message. The light has truly shined on this individual.

No one can deny the positive message that this mural has. One person at a time, the light will become brighter and brighter.

- Vince Bobrosky, Artist and Community Leader