Community-Based Arts Oral History Project

Still of Noah Purifoy
Art by Noah Purifoy

From 1975 to 1987, assemblage artist Noah Purifoy served as chair of the California Arts Council artist-in community committee. His priority was to design and implement the state’s first artist-in-communities program. Concerned that the art world had become too insular and self-referential, Purifoy wanted to challenge artists to discover the relevance of their work for people with no training in contemporary art. The program he designed provided funding to artists to spend part of their work week in community institutions such as schools, hospitals, senior citizen centers, prisons, etc., developing site-specific projects that would involve significant contributions from members of the community to the finished piece. Purifoy anticipated, indeed hoped for, conflict of perspectives. He viewed the “cognitive dissonance” that occurs when two world views come into contact as a positive force generating productive change on the artist’s conception of what art can do as well as on the community’s understanding of how “aesthetic process” contributes to clarifying the problems communities face.

The interview with Purifoy gives an in-depth history of how he came to develop his position on community-based art during his work as founding director of the Watts Towers Arts Center in the mid-1960s, followed by discussion of his work for the state arts council. The interview provides an important historical and philosophical introduction to the concept of community-based art, when can then allow users of the project materials to situate each of the contemporary community-based art projects in a larger historical phenomenon.

Noah Purifoy Transcript [in progress]

Noah Purifoy Video Excerpt [in progress]

Mount Shasta Peace Mural Oral History Project
Mount Shasta Peace Mural

We complement Purifoy's interview with a series of interviews documenting Siskiyou County Peace Mural unveiled in Mt. Shasta, California, in 2007. The interviews are with the lead artist, project coordinator, contributing artists, and community members who participated in the project. They detail the process of designing the mural, enlisting community support, coordinating the contributions of volunteers, and then finding a permanent site for the mural. The perspectives of community collaborators fill out the story of how one community responded to the beginning of the Iraq war by participating in a public art project that required sharing the many different ideas of peace held by residents of this largely rural county.

Video of Peace Mural Ceremony September 30, 2007

The following oral history interviews were conducted by Jess Rigelhaupt in 2006-2007.


Peace Mural Oral History Transcripts

Still of Paul Boerger

Paul Boerger Transcript
Paul Boerger is a reporter for the Mount Shasta Herald. He discusses what it was like to cover the peace mural in the local newspaper. He talks about political divides in Mount Shasta and environmental politics. We also hear about his life working with juvenile delinquents in Santa Cruz and what brought him to Mount Shasta to become a reporter.

Still of Donna Bringenberg Donna Bringenberg Transcript
Donna Bringenberg was the project coordinator of the Community Peace Mural Project. She came up with the idea after attending a peace conference in San Francisco in 1997. She discusses at length the details of coordinating the project, including putting together the funding, and working with Jenny Reeves Johnson, the lead artist. We also hear about her childhood, growing up in Long Island, but later moving to New York City, Colorado, San Francisco, Canada, and finally to Mount Shasta in 1978. Other topics discussed include: her conception of peace and community; a conversation at an anti-war rally with a protestor in support of the war in Iraq; attending church as a child; driving across the country in a van; the connection between birth and death; her two children; eurythmy; her work as a midwife, as well as her work as a facilitator the Wraparound Program at Northern Valley Catholic Social Services; her role in the Siskiyou Arts Council; the ArtsBus; and being moved by art.
Still of Jacob Dalton Jacob Dalton Transcript
Jacob Dalton was a high school student in Mount Shasta when his mother first brought him to a meeting about the peace mural. He describes his work on the peace mural and how it taught him about communicating in a peaceful way. We hear about his connection to nature, and nature’s connection to his idea of peace. Dalton’s mother, Cynthia Marconi, was also interviewed.
Still of Joel Glick Joel Glick Transcript
Joel Glick is a jeweler in Mount Shasta. He became involved with the peace mural through an art group. In this interview he discusses the mural as a source of good energy, compromise between different ideas of images for the mural, and a coming change of consciousness. We also hear about his life in Chicago, Florida, Yuma, San Francisco, and Mount Shasta.
Still of Anne Hinchcliff Anne Hinchcliff Transcript
Anne Hinchcliff became involved in the peace mural through her friend, Jenny Reeves Johnson. She works as the Instructional Media Center Director at the Siskiyou County Office of Education. In this interview she details the physical process of making the mural. She describes the relationship of the mural to politics, and how working on the mural helped to alleviate a sense of helplessness in the face of great social issues. She discusses her exposure with war, as a mother of a boy who had to register for the selective service, and as the daughter of a Navy doctor during the Vietnam War. We also hear about growing up in Oakland and Berkeley, her decision to move to the Mount Shasta area with her family, and the importance of art in the curriculum.
Still of Cynthia Marconi Cynthia Marconi Transcript
Cynthia Marconi became involved with the peace mural through her friend Donna Bringenberg. She was involved primarily in the construction of the mural. Marconi was born in Mount Shasta. She discusses her hands-on work with the clay, her childhood in Mount Shasta and inner peace. She talks about the community of mural builders that was created during the construction of the mural. We also hear about how she attended UC Berkeley during the Vietnam War and participated in the anti-war movement.
Still of Catherine Mero Catherine Mero Transcript
Catherine Mero was a high school student in Mount Shasta while she worked on the construction of the peace mural. She talks about cooperation and compromise among the artists, particularly in choosing the colors for the mural. We also hear about her experiences with her grandfather’s church, especially putting on free luncheons for the community, and how that affects her ideas of peace and community.
Still of Jenny Reeves Johnson Jenny Reeves Johnson Transcript
Jenny Reeves Johnson was the lead artist for the peace mural. She describes the process of gathering ideas of peace from the community in great detail. We hear about her balanced relationship of teamwork with Donna Bringenberg. One interview session takes place in front of a previous mural she did at McCloud Elementary School. Other topics discussed throughout her interviews include: inspiring the community with the longevity of a clay mural; involvement with the community; her childhood in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson; fond memories of art in elementary school; President Kennedy’s assassination; older siblings as role models; teaching art at the Arapaho School on the Wind River Reservation; taking art classes in college; arts education’s application for other academic subjects and problem solving skills; the process of making the mural at McCloud Elementary School; how she came to live in the Mount Shasta area; and the importance of touch in art.
Still of Gael Ruby Gael Ruby Transcript
Gael Ruby became involved with the peace mural in its early stages after her friend Donna Bringenberg invited her to help plan the mural. Ruby was involved in the early fundraising for the mural, as well as gathering ideas of peace from community members. She remembers working with religious members of the community to come up with images of peace that were non-religious, but still reflected their conceptions of peace. We also hear about Ruby’s childhood, spending her teenage years in 1960s Santa Barbara, and how she came to live in Mount Shasta after being born in Missouri.
Still of Jack Shaw Jack Shaw Transcript
Jack Shaw works as a sculptor in Mount Shasta. In this interview, he describes how he worked on the peace mural, contributing primarily the two sculpted hands that reach out to the viewer at the edges of the mural. He also talks about his work for environmental organizations in the area. We hear about how he used creativity as a way of understanding the Free Speech Movement and critical thinking, growing up in a conservative household in Berkeley in the 1960s. Finally, he describes his hope for the mural, that it will one day move someone to do something that will benefit many people.
Still of Kelsi Villarreal Kelsi Villarreal Transcript
Kelsi Villarreal worked on the peace mural as a high school student in Mount Shasta. In discussing the process of creating the peace mural, she tells us about the give and take of deciding how to incorporate into the mural different images of peace held by the community artists. We hear about the mural as a communication of a message of peace by the community. She talks about seeing in colors, and developing her conception of peace through the practice of Aikido.
Still of Elizabeth Wolff Elizabeth Wolff Transcript
Elizabeth Wolff grew up in the Portland, Oregon area, and now lives in McCloud, California. After earning a degree in Forest Technology, she worked with the Forest Service. Currently, she teaches art to elementary and middle school children and does survey and cartography work for the Cave Research Foundation. In this interview, she discusses her personal conception of peace, and the influence of her Christianity. She describes how the blending of artistic styles in making the mural reflected the unity that the mural sought to create in the community. We also hear about McCloud as a mill town in the early 1980s, and local racial harmony.
panel of Mount Shasta Peace Mural

Related Links

Siskiyou County Peace Mural Page

Additional Peace Mural Photos


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