By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – A group of Oklahoma City women have worked together to plan, develop and execute the installation of a large scale photo mural, named “Our Voice. Our Future. OKC.”
The project is comprised of numerous 2×3’ printed photos of students, parents, teachers, administrators, and community members. Each person in the mural is holding a sign that has their personal answer to the question: “For my future I want …..”
As the idea developed, the group focused its efforts on the Oklahoma City Public Schools system. The recently closed 122,000 square foot, former middle school at 900 N Klein was selected as the perfect symbolic site for the mural.
Vacated last June, the empty facility was the former Oklahoma City Public Schools Administration building from 1955-2017.
The mural hangs along the 8 ft high fencing that surrounds the property.
The group of women responsible for the installation includes Caitlin Redding Taylor, mixed media artist; Courtney Morton, Digital Communications Manager for Oklahoma City Public Schools; Elizabeth Chappell, certified chef and caterer; Maria Mancebo, youth advocate and board member for AIDS Walk Oklahoma City; Sara Maynard Moehle, sculptor and photographer; and Suzie Loveless, executive administrator at the Giving Initiative; all Oklahoma City residents.
“The mural is specifically placed around the former Administration building,” said Caitlin. “It’s now just an abandoned school building that our own administrators can’t afford to stay in. It should speak volumes to legislators who are continually cutting budgets to public education. The mural is facing east, directed at the state capital.”
Mancebo added, “I believe everyone should have the right to quality education. When we devalue or make it harder to attain quality education, it hurts us all. The threats to education we are seeing today will have negative consequences on economic opportunities and health for individuals, families and the communities at large. I think this project gives voice back to those impacted most and sends the message that we care about OKC and we need to show our students, families and educators that we care about them too.”
The Oklahoma City Public School system has faced repeated school closures and loss of staff and faculty due to lack of funding.
The group believes this project puts faces with the problem and educates citizens, community leaders and legislators about who this affects.
“It is often said that ‘Children are our future,’ but funding to educate ‘our future’ is significantly reduced year after year,” said Taylor, “Our future needs a voice. This is it.”
The first project by the Creative Arts Group out of Possibilities Innovation Program Class of 2017, highlights the hopes of individuals impacted by public education in Oklahoma City. The mural is the group’s way to engage and empower the community through thought provoking and inclusive public art.
“I wanted to be involved in the ‘Our Voice. Our Future. OKC’ project because I wanted to help elevate the voices of parents, students, and community members and change the conversation about what’s possible for OKC,” Loveless said.
The group of women met in September 2016 as members of Possibilities Innovation Program (PIP). PIP grows leadership skills with tools that transform communities. PIP asks all members, known as Community Innovators, to develop, plan, and execute a major project that will positively impact the community.
“Working for OKCPS has exposed me to the true struggle of education institutions in Oklahoma,” said Morton. “I chose to be a part of this project in an attempt to educate the community about the needs of our students, teachers and staff. The kids walking the halls in our schools want good things in their future. Our installation shouts that for them; and more than anything, they deserve it.”
The women worked with Independent School District 89, the OKC Arts Commission, and the City of Oklahoma City for approval and permits.
“The installation will remain up until it completely weathers away,” Caitlin added. “Being wheatpaste, it will fade and weather; something we hope for. We think the faded faces will make a statement alone.”
The mural was made possible with contributions received from Vox Printing Rebuilding Together; and Possibilities, Inc.; and individual donors. To learn more about Our Voice. Our Future. OKC, call 405-474-7240 or visit the Our Voice Facebook page.