On Labor Day afternoon, visitors strolling through Strong Alley curiously looked on as 15 families worked together to paint a mural. Adults and kids of all ages stood together and let loose with color. A kid sits perched on their dad’s shoulders to reach higher. A mom squats down to guide her eager son’s brush. Two sisters chat as they stand on ladders. Over 3 hours, they make great progress.
The final image is our solar system with the earth in the center hugged by a boy and girl reaching for each other. The boy wears an orange shirt with cogs while the girl wears a blue shirt with constellations. On the earth and clouds reads parts of Muse Knoxville’s mission: Discover, Create, Learn, Play, Inspire and Empower.
Whether they live here or are visiting, people in our community should see themselves in the mural.
The mural is the latest community project from Muse Knoxville, a science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) museum that focuses on the power of play and creative exploration for children. Alexa Chapman, the Muse maker space artist, was the perfect person to design the mural. Drawing on her experiences creating projects for children at the maker space, Alexa visualized the mission of Muse in a fun and meaningful way. To address the need for diversity and representation in community murals, Muse was intentional in their choices of color for skin tone and hair of the children. As the Executive Director and former Director of Belonging, Allison Comer emphasizes their mission to serve all children. She challenges her staff to consider who is missing and why they are missing. “Whether they live here or are visiting, people in our community should see themselves in the mural,” Allison said.
We want families to feel proud. When the mural is still up in a year, those kids will remember they were a part of that.
There was overwhelming support from the community for the mural. While families were volunteering, Allison chatted with the observing visitors. “The compliments are such a confidence boost for kids,” she said. “We want families to feel proud. When the mural is still up in a year, those kids will remember they were a part of that.”
Now more than ever before, kids and adults need to engage with the power of play.
With few opportunities for families to keep their kids engaged and safe during the pandemic, “kids are starved of those rich play experiences,” said Allison. “Now more than ever before, kids and adults need to engage with the power of play.” Like many art and educational nonprofits, Muse endured hardships during the pandemic that limited their resources and challenged them to pursue community outreach in new ways. Over the last year, the Muse staff created Learning Pods to connect families through virtual education and developed new outdoor activities that allow families to safely distance while engaging in the power of play. Muse has also increased their efforts to partner with other community organizations and nonprofits. “We just push through and hope our community can get to a place where this is behind us… we are stronger as a community because we all want what’s best for our community,” said Allison.
What's next at the Muse? On Thursday, October 28th, Muse will be hosting their annual Muse After Dark fundraiser. Adults 21+ can dress up for the costume contest and enjoy themed drinks. Ticket proceeds will go towards Muse for All, a scholarship that allows Muse to provide programming for all kids regardless of economic, social, or physical barriers. Check out the Muse website, Instagram, and Facebook for more information about their upcoming programs.