Brandon Long is an artist from Lancaster, KY, who embraced his artistic identity at an early age - telling his kindergarten classmates, “I am an artist." While he enjoys working in many different types of artistic media, he is most drawn to creating mixed-media art with found/recycled/repurposed materials.
He began teaching art in 2001 with Community Education in Danville, KY before teaching and mentoring students in after-school programs with Lincoln County's 21st Century grant program.
He currently serves as Visual Arts Director at the Art Center of the Bluegrass in Danville, KY, where he has worked since 2007 as an exhibitions curator, art instructor, and graphic designer/visual artist. He graduated from Georgetown College in 2001 with a BA in Fine Arts and a minor in Communications.
His collaborative mural technique in which he combines and arranges student drawings to create large, vibrant wall art has been utilized in schools in Kentucky as well as Northern Ireland, where he and his wife (Kristin, also an art teacher) served as exchange artists between Danville, KY and Carrickfergus, NI in the Sister Cities International program.
Potential Residency Project
My proposed residency will combine student drawings and ideas with my mural-making experience to create a long-lasting work of art that will positively impact the students for years to come. This process results in a professional quality mural with the charm and creativity of childrens' hand-drawn features.
Before beginning on a project, I will meet with school officials regarding proposed project space, area of coverage, addressing any structural issues or material concerns. Shortly after this meeting, a budget will be drafted based on the scale of the mural.
Upon approval of project:
I will meet with teachers, school leadership, and/or parent representatives (i.e. PTO) to discuss the theme of the mural. This meeting may be virtual or in-person. The theme most often revolves around identity – either the student's identity as an individual (i.e. “What makes me unique?") or the identity of their school/community (i.e. “What makes my school great?") The theme may be adjusted for special, more narrowed focus projects (i.e. leadership, character building, or content-specific subject matter) if the leadership team desires.
Residency phase one (a one-day session):
I will meet with groups of students to create and gather drawings. I will teach using interactive methods of how the process will work so that students have a clear understanding of the steps and stages of the overall project. During this meeting, the theme will be shared, explained, and discussed with the student artists. Students are welcome to share their input and are encouraged that all ideas will be considered. The students will create drawings of their ideas and concepts as line art and submit their finished work (along with any relevant notes and explanations) to me so that I can begin to build the mural layout.
Offsite (allow at least one month for mural composition):
Some behind-the-scenes time will need to pass as I combine the student artwork to compose a black-and white line art composite, similar to a coloring book, to fit with the proposed theme. The student's original line art will be utilized whenever possible, and may be adapted, merged, or combined with others to create new features if necessary. Examples of adaptation in the past have included students' drawings of clouds being turned into bushes and trees, and the combining of several drawings to create an image of a student in a wheelchair. The finished composite will be shared with the school leadership/project leaders for feedback and necessary adjustments may be made. Upon approval, I will create a hand-colored version of the composite to serve as a reference guide for the remainder of the project. I will purchase the necessary paint colors to complete the project.
I will use a digital projector to transfer the line art composite onto prepared panels as painted black outlines. I will use dots of paint to color-code the mural to communicate which colors should be used on the different sections of the mural.
Residency phase two (may be a duration of two days to one week):
I will return to the proposed project space with the color-coded mural composite panels. An open room with lots of space and access to water is suggested for the painting stage.
With assistance from groups of student painters (usually no more than ten students at a time), we will begin to fill in the mural panels with the appropriate colors. The amount of time that this stage of the mural takes may vary considerably depending on the students' ability level and scale of the mural. I will depend on teachers to assist with developing an appropriate schedule (based on student attention spans and available class time) of rotating student artists. Adult assistants and supervisors are welcome to manage student artists and may also get to help with the painting process. I will rely upon teachers to photo document the stages of the mural development and record student interviews and reactions about the artistic process which may be shared during the final reflection and mural reveal.
Once the general areas of the mural fields are sufficiently covered, I will work alone or with appointed assistants to tidy up the mural, filling in small details and refining outlines. The amount of time the “finishing" stage of the mural may vary depending on the scale and complexity of the design. The finished mural should be clear coated with a sealant to protect the artwork. I may need access to the space outside of normal school hours to complete the final touches.
The finished mural will be installed by the school maintenance staff.
Mural reveal and reception:
After installation, the students and their families along with community members will be invited to an after-school mural reveal reception where students will get to exhibit their creation, and share their experiences with their families. A digital slideshow of images of the process, along with video interviews of some of the student artists may be shared at the reception.
Students and teachers will be asked to reflect on their mural-making experience with a follow-up survey specific to their role – giving their feedback on the theme of the mural, rating the personal impact of the creative process, and how they feel that the mural has impacted their community. A video slideshow of the process will be shared online so that the students will have a reminder of their collaborative experience.
Sustainable practices for teachers to incorporate post-residency:
Teachers can include students in creative decision making.
Teachers can value student creative expression.
Teachers can use visual literacy to encourage student communication.
Teachers can exhibit student works of art.
Teachers can appreciate the creative expression of students who may or may not identify as artists.
Teachers can allow students time to reflect on creative processes through writing and verbal communication.
ACCESSIBILITY AND INCLUSION
Collaborative mural projects are adjustable for students with disabilities. Two of the three collaborative murals that I have completed were made in classrooms of students with special needs. By nature of this type of programming, students are representing their world and their identity through their artistic choices and mark-making. Classroom adaptations for the painting phase may be implemented through various painting surface heights. Other adaptions may be made for students with sensory issues. For example, if a student is uncomfortable with the tactile sensation of paint, they may instead collage bits of pre-painted paper onto the surface of the mural.
Inclusion is a priority on collaborative mural projects as I try to reflect the makeup of the student population. A wide variety of skin tones is used on the characters represented in the murals. If I find that a particular population is underrepresented, I make efforts to include representation. For example, in my most recent mural in Hogsett Primary, I noticed that none of the drawings specifically represented children with disabilities, so I created a student in a wheelchair in the foreground by combining and collaging several other student drawings.