Forecast was hired to work with Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College (SKCTC) to conduct another Making It Public workshop for muralists in Harlan County. In 2018, Forecast brought our specialized Making it Public training to Harlan Kentucky, with a focus on mural making, for the first Great Mountain Mega Mural Fest. We brought GoodSpace Murals with us from the Twin Cities, collaborating with thirty regional artists and creative placemakers to create a large-scale mural. In 2019, we were asked to come back for an expanded mural fest that also included design.

The Workshop

Making it Public is a customizable workshop, typically held over two days, designed for artists of any discipline who want to gain knowledge about the nuts and bolts of public art and placemaking. The intensive workshop gives artists the skills necessary to produce meaningful public art in the 21st century. Participants engage in panel discussions, round-robin sessions, learning activities, and networking opportunities, and leave prepared to move their work into the public sphere. Forecast has brought Making It Public to artists around the country, from Minnesota to Hawaii.

Forecast’s role this year was to do an overview of what it means to be a public artist. Our team on site included Candida Gonzalez, our consultant leading making it public workshops, and Director of Programming and New Initiatives, Jen Krava. Gonzalez and Krava led a one-day version of Making It Public that talked about community engagement and input, creative process, where to find Requests for Qualifications (RFQs), how to budget, insurance, what public art can do and be, and locational analysis.

The Murals

This second year, the Great Mountain Mural & Community Design Mega Fest ran from Thursday June 20 through Sunday June 23, with workshops and painting field projects. SKCTC collaborated with Higher Ground, Harlan Tourism, and the Southeast Revitalization Project to make the festival happen, along with the help of local building and business owners. Fifty volunteers from across Kentucky and the country, including students from the local college and high school, collaborated on the mural design and implementation.

Sited in two locations, downtown Harlan on Central Street and the old Harlan Motor Building next to Huff Park, the murals showcase local flora and fauna in an effort to highlight the area’s vast biodiversity and promote eco-tourism. A fish and salamanders mural, spanning three walls on Central Street, used a pole painting technique, while a possum mural (dubbed Petunia the Possum) used the polytab method. Two different artists led the mural-making. Lacy Hale of Knott County, KY, led the Petunia the Possum mural-making, while the large-scale fish mural was led by Hitnes, a popular street artist from Rome, Italy who has worked on murals across the United States.

The Impact

Forecast was thrilled to be part of the Great Mountain Mega Mural Fest and connect with the surrounding community; we believe in the transformational power of art in our public lives, and are happy to see this festival—and the excitement around it—grow.

Dynamic public art like these murals display the unique aspects of a place—like the rich biodiversity of Appalachia and its relevance to the larger world—revealing community pride and acting as a draw for tourists; the art can impact local business through money spent by visitors drawn to explore a well-designed, vibrant space.

Artists are a part of the workforce, and this session in Harlan was about training artists, a key part of the economy. For Forecast, this knowledge is ingrained, but for some in the community experiencing this kind of collaboration for the first time, it was eye-opening. Hale told a local Kentucky news outlet, “I had one young lady come up to me crying. She said she didn’t realize that was a possibility in Eastern Kentucky. …You know, working with the high school students at Harlan County High School and talking to some of them, they were just so amazed that an artist could live here and work here and make a living here and stay here.”