Joan Bourque paints murals with all ages

Collaboration with students and seniors drives artwork

You see her artwork on walls throughout the Verde Valley. It's inside and outside at most of the schools. It's in Old Town. It's on the Goodwill Store in Cottonwood and the art building at the Verde Valley Fairgrounds. Soon it will be at the new Senior Center on Sixth Street.

Wherever they're spotted, Bourque's murals stop people in their tracks. The subjects always seem to capture some essence of life in the Verde Valley -- either modern day or of some bygone era.

Bourque says that's because the works of art are always cooperative. Not just the painting but also the planning.

"The drive for me is the collaborative effort of mural painting," Bourque said. "It gets you out of yourself. It's one more proof that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts."

When she's working with kids on a mural in their school, the subject matter is what they are currently studying. Now she is even helping the students create murals that reflect character skills, such as responsibility and respect.

Public murals include artists from elementary school, middle school and adults.

"The Goodwill mural was a lengthy process," she said.

On that one, she enlisted the help of elementary and middle school students as well as adult artists. She said about 30 people worked on the mural. They met weekly for five weeks to plan and research the projects, then took about two weeks to paint it.

The mural on the Outsider building in Old Town was a similar experience. Bourque used students who helped with the planning and research stages.

"Research and preparation are a big part of it," she said.

When she's working on a school mural she first teaches the kids to draw and paint before beginning the project. She said that depending on age, she often teaches kids how to use a grid for enlargement of the subject.

"An average school mural is about 80 hours," Bourque said. "The majority is preparation, drawing, research and subject."

But once they start putting the paint on a wall the project moves along quickly. "When you have 25 to 100 kids working on a mural they can put a background in, in a day," she said.

Soon Bourque will begin work on murals on walls around the trash bins at the Senior Center in Cottonwood. For that project, she will use the El Valle Artists Association, Buena Vista summer school students, kids from Big Brothers Big Sisters and seniors through the Lightheart Foundation.

"We're titling that mural Moving Forward," she said. Bourque explained that people and communities both move forward in their lives.

That project is scheduled to run the week of June 5-9 with painting times from 8 a.m. to noon and from 5 to 8 p.m. Two artists, Bourque and Carol Hildebrand, will be on site during those times.

Bourque said that she likes working with high school students so much she hopes to start a program of doing more public murals with that age group.

But no matter which age group she creates a mural with, the payoff comes to Bourque when the work is done.

"It's music to my ears," she says, "when a child brings someone to a mural and says 'look what we did.'"

Bourque can be reached by calling (928) 300-8834 or by going to Bourque@commspeed.net.

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