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All In

New public art exhibit encourages others to join in with coloring pages that will become murals.

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Like so many artists, muralist Hamilton Glass has experienced scores of rescheduled projects as well as cancellations as a result of the pandemic. But what’s affecting him most is the uncertainty of many of the community engagement projects he’d had planned for 2020.

“Since we won’t be gathering in large groups for the foreseeable future, I have no idea when those types of project will resume,” he says.

For artist Matt Lively, his ability to work has only been affected by the difficulty in accessing his normal materials the way that he’d been used to.

“At the onset of the shutdown, I immediately shifted to making things that would help people who needed it most,” Lively explains.

Eager to keep the creative spirit alive while everyone was apart, Glass thought back to a project he and Lively had done with Freeman High School students in 2015, in which they’d created a mural from a single image with 216 of the high school’s art students.

“The starting point for me was when Hamilton called and said that he had an idea brewing based on an expansion of Coloring Pages, a project that I – and other artists – had been doing for parents of kids who were home from school,” Lively says, adding that the pages were made available for download on his website. “Plus, I’m always up for a collaboration with Hamilton.”

The result is All in Together, a public art project seeking to engage people from all walks of life, ability and age. A series of coloring pages are available for people to download and color, paint, sketch or collage as they see fit. Once completed, they can be uploaded to the All in Together website so that Glass and Lively can assemble them into 8-by-8-foot mural installations to be placed around the city in schools, community centers and in public.

“We’re trying to reach everyone who is interested in collaborating creatively during this time,” Glass says. “This project is for all ages and will be a symbol for us all coming together once we are able to physically get together and see these murals in their completed forms.”

With a goal of making multiple murals by and for the community, the artists also see them as almost time capsulelike.

“I believe they’ll be somewhat of a time stamp of the 2020 pandemic and what we went through,” Glass says. “I think they’ll also be a symbol of us being together while social distancing.” They are particularly eager to get the community’s involvement right away to help complete four murals for the Virginia Museum of History & Culture’s entrance banners. Come mid-June, the museum will hang the banners that display the coloring sheets from the front entrance.

The goal of the mural project is to use as many submissions as possible and will be determined by the demand it has for murals. Because the two artists had collaborated a few times before, when it came time to create the coloring sheets, they combined some identifiable images from past work and, according to Glass, “just had fun with the rest.” Lively enjoys collaborating with Glass, saying, “Our work combines in a strange way, which is exciting. For one page, Hamilton started the drawing and I then added to it.” They chose the river and a bridge as part of the imagery to describe a connection between two separate places.

Lively sees multiple benefits to the project.

“I liked the opportunity to give people who were stuck at home the ability to work collaboratively and look forward to seeing the results later,” he says. “My own kids are searching for some hope that this thing will end and working on a future project always helps me with that feeling.”

Already, All in Together has worked with Chesterfield and Richmond public schools that are each funding one of the murals for their schools. Next up, the artists will be creating a crowd-sourcing fundraiser that will allow anyone to fund a mural in the place of their choice, with the hopes that they might get interest from all sorts of community-based organizations.
Both artists agree that it’s been both fun and satisfying to find creative ways to collaborate during a time of social isolation.

“Everyone was in the same boat feeling disconnected,” Lively says of homebound life. “We wanted to use our skills to alleviate some of that.”

Glass is on the same page. “Collaborating on a scale this large is something that I think will remind people that we truly are all in together.

Coloring pages and sponsorships are at allintogetherva.com.

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