Mural, Mural on the WallDec 01, 2021 ● By Lisa Sciortino
A large wall mural is slated to be officially unveiled to the public this month at the Frisco Discovery Center – more than a year after it was installed at the height of the pandemic.
The piece, which measures 150 square feet and is titled Transformation, was installed in May 2020 at the center, at 8004 N. Dallas Parkway, in a space that connects its lobby to a dance studio and a makerspace. Frisco Discovery Center is also home to the Black Box Theater, National Videogame Museum and the Sci-Tech Discovery Center, among other venues and attractions.
The mural was produced as the class project of the Collin/Denton Counties Leadership Arts Institute (LAI) class of 2020. The institute is a program of the Dallas-based Business Council for the Arts, a nonprofit organization founded in 1988 by late North Texas real-estate developer, philanthropist and art collector Raymond Nasher.
According to its website (ntbca.org), the council “encourages, inspires and stimulates businesses and municipalities to support the arts in the workplace, in education and in the community.” Through LAI, which also has a Dallas County class, it develops “next-generation business leaders committed to fostering the arts.” Many of the program’s alums have gone on to sit on nonprofit art and culture boards throughout the U.S. and internationally.
The Business Council for the Arts offers several programs that work to create “beneficial partnerships between the arts, arts organizations, arts concerns, cultural organizations and businesses,” explains Chief Executive Officer Katherine Wagner. She says there is “a belief among some people that there are artists and there are businesspeople and never between shall meet, and that is completely incorrect.”
The council also supports the national nonprofit Americans for the Arts organization’s Arts & Economic Prosperity study, which takes place every five years and measures the regional economic impact of nonprofit arts and cultural organizations throughout the nation. Wagner says work on the study will serve as the projects for both the Dallas and Collin/Denton Counties LAI classes of 2022.
Most years, LAI classes
select the subjects of their projects. From fall 2019 through the early spring 2020, members of the Collin/Denton Counties class worked together in person to devise the concept for a series of up to four community murals spanning multiple cities within the two counties. The initial plan called for hiring a different artist from within each of the chosen communities to create the artworks.
Of course, that was before the pandemic and its related closures effectively put the kibosh on those plans.
“We were going to do three or four cities at the same time … with the idea of creating something that people would maybe take a daytrip and go to those cities to see the murals and promote tourism” in those areas, explains Brad Sharp, a longtime Frisco resident who was among the 16 Class of 2020 members.
In 2014, Sharp was appointed by the Frisco City Council to the city’s Public Art Board, and currently chairs its Downtown Advisory Board. He is the founding director of Creative Frisco, which according to its Facebook page works with members of the “creative community to empower individuals and organizations by providing professional development training and education, advocacy, and collaborative opportunities.”
Sharp says he wants “people to understand the economic driver that the arts can be.” The 2020 LAI class mural is one of several that has been installed in Frisco in recent years. “At some point,” he says, “when do we have enough that we have people coming to Frisco for the day to visit our murals and spend money here?”
Wagner calls the Collin/Denton Counties LAI classes “unique” because “we have people from Plano, from Frisco, from McKinney, from Denton and that, for us, is a really interesting learning lab” as members bring various perspectives from their cities to the table. “We’re saying to them, `Give us ideas of needs in the community.’”
Over the course of a class session, members are familiarized with nonprofit board leadership best practices, meet North Texas arts and business leaders, network with fellow arts-minded professionals and visit area arts and cultural venues, among other activities.
When the pandemic hit, members of the 2020 Collin/Denton County LAI class decided to scale back plans for their project. They opted to lower their fundraising goal to $4,000 as well as to focus on completing a single mural at one location.
The first step was to determine where to install the mural. Paige Points, Frisco Discovery Center supervisor, was also a member of the 2020 class and suggested the space, which is owned by the Frisco Community Development Corporation and managed by the City of Frisco.
Class members opted for a durable vinyl-wrap mural (which is peeled and placed on the wall similar to giant sticker) versus a more traditional hand-painted one. They put out a call to area artists requesting to see samples of their previous works before selecting someone to conceptualize and create a piece in a smaller size of about 2 square feet. Once completed, the artwork was scanned, enlarged and professionally installed at the center.
Frisco artist Zahra Jahanyfard, who is also director of art education and an instructor at One River School of Art + Design, got the nod. She says it took about two months to conceptualize and create Transformation, which depicts seven butterflies representing “the seven stages of healing” as they flutter around the Earth against a cloud-swirled, sunlit, vibrant blue sky.
Jahanyfard says she took inspiration for the piece “from the ever-changing world that we now find ourselves in today. The butterfly represents the power of transformation when one digs deeply inside. … My hope is that when people reflect upon this piece of art, they seek their innermost layers to find a way to transform and optimize their personality into good thoughts, good words and good deeds for a brighter future.”
When it came to the mural’s theme, “A lot of the class wanted to do something that recognized COVID,” but not obviously so, Sharp says. “The butterflies are on the world because the world is changing. We have sunlight, which represents the light after the dark. So, it’s really representative of the story we wanted to tell about what was happening in the world … but it’s open to interpretation, so it will still be relevant five or 10 years” from now.
Wagner says the 2020 LAI class “really exemplified a very diverse group geographically, in terms of what their core industries are … and they came together to formulate something that would have a lasting impact, especially on youths, and that would be transformational but would have a lasting message.”
Sharp says, “What I hope the community gets out of this is … (the idea) that art can exist anywhere. They will see art in a space that’s unexpected, and I always like to say that true art should be unexpected.”
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