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Rafael Lopez Community Mural

Poudre River Public Library District
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Innovation Summary

The mural project brought together unity and art in celebration of diversity and the Library's role as a cultural institution. Through these efforts the Library's vision of being integral to the community was forwarded, while creating goodwill, greater library awareness, and a unique piece of art to be enjoyed for years.

Innovation Leader: Paula Watson-Lakamp, Communications Manager, pwatson-lakamp@poudrelibraries.org

Problem Statement

As part of a Library District assessment it was identified there was a need to create awareness of the Library District as a community hub for creative cultural experiences. This presented the challenge of clearly communicating that the Library District serves diverse cultural groups. The needs assessed were: 1) To create and showcase our community as being a diverse and multicultural. 2) Establish the Library as a cultural institution relevant to the arts community. Over 25% of the student population within the Library District belongs to a racial minority; and 18% of that is Latino. Therefore the Hispanic population was targeted as well as the foreign students at Colorado State University and other community organizations that serve minorities. The arts community in northern Colorado is vibrant and growing. Fort Collins boasts over 20 art galleries, many arts organizations and hundreds of artists and creative professionals. The mural project allowed local muralists an opportunity to work with Rafael Lopez and be involved with the Library District. The purpose of the Rafael Lopez Community Mural was to present the Library District as serving a diverse population and as an important cultural institution. This goal was at the forefront of all stages of the program, as demonstrated by the selection of an off-site (non-library) location for the mural, and the establishment of new partnerships with businesses, minority groups, local artists, volunteers, and community leaders.

Innovation

The Community Mural Project was leveraged with other library activities including the annual summer reading program and the Imaginantes Bilingual Youth Workshop, (a joint educational initiative of Colorado State University and the Poudre River Public Library District for at-risk Latino teens). Rafael Lopez was the illustrator for the national 2011 collaborative summer reading program so the graphics used by the Library District to engage the community in summer reading activities helped to promote Lopez's visit to Fort Collins. The promotional campaign used for mural project was extremely effective in presenting the Library as culturally relevant to the arts and multicultural communities. This was evidenced in the overwhelming, continued, and unexpected media coverage and sponsorship support. The excitement was increased as we gained partners and sponsors and they shared the project with their circles of influence. Media coverage included TV, radio, print and web. New partnerships formed included ACE Hardware who donated all the paint, the City of Fort Collins' Art in Public Places who assisted in identifying the mural location and helped with recruiting volunteer artists. More than 10 professional artists donated over 120 hours to the project. Over 300 community volunteers assisted the last day of the mural painting, which allowed for the 61x15 foot long mural to be finished in 4 days.

Progress

Although this project involved many partnerships, the public saw the Library as a community leader engaging in programs of interest outside the library walls and beyond the focus of books. It contributed to creating the perception of the Library District as being culturally relevant. The District identity was advanced by the community “buzz” not only about the project, but specifically about the Library as the project sponsor. It also brought an increased awareness to the Summer Reading Program and helped us reach out to non-Library users, such as minority youth, and the arts community. The Library and its services were presented in a new and culturally-interesting way. In evaluating participation of non-traditional library users, it was discovered that the overall program had a positive effect in attracting male Latino youth as Library users and collaborators. The group recruited during the summer has continued to be engaged and are amongst the most committed library volunteers. In addition, the ten local artists who volunteered their time have requested the Library District to support future artistic events. An estimated 351 children, teens, and adults participated in the final mural painting event; of which 30% represented an ethnic minority. In addition, about 78 volunteers contributed in the preparation phase, including ten professional local artists. During the preparation phases and final painting event, the following public officials visited the site: Fort Collins Mayor Karen Weitkunat, Fort Collins City Manager Darrin Attenberry, and State Representative Randy Fisher. The Museo de las Tres Colonias hosted a neighborhood fiesta for the visiting artist which reached out to their circle of influence. As a result of this project, the Library District now benefits from an improved perception by the media and target groups of the Poudre River Public Library District’s identity as a community hub for artistic and cultural expression.