The Vermillion High School’s (VHS) Gender & Sexuality Alliance (GSA) and the Mural on the Wall teamed up to create the new mural in downtown Vermillion on the west-side of Café Brulé.
Lead artists on the project were Amber Hansen, USD assistant art professor, and Reyna Hernandez, the senior secretary in the USD English Department.
Mural On The Wall is a community-based mural team from Vermillion and was founded in 2019. The team has facilitated several mural projects in various communities, beginning with the two-part mural at the Coyote Twin Theatre.
The GSA received a grant from the It Gets Better Project, an organization dedicated to uplifting, empowering and connecting LGBTQ+ youth around the globe by funding projects that align with their mission to uplift, empower and connect LGBTQ+ youth around the globe.
One school in each state is awarded a grant. VHS was one of these recipients. Weekly meetings started in the fall of 2022 with the GSA students and the Mural on the Wall artists.
“Our design team with the GSA consisted of 10 to 15 people. Many more people came out to help us paint. We had over 40 people painting with us on our community painting day and nearly 70 people who contributed throughout the painting process,” Hansen said.
The mural gained a lot of community support and had many contributors to the painting process, Hansen said.
“We both served as lead artist on this project and were assisted by Kayli Stiles, Marie McLaughlin and Darcy Millette during the painting portion, along with many individuals from the community who came to help paint. The star quilt was designed by Clair Packard,” Hansen said. “Sonia Packard manages our social sites and media. Nina Jordre is the GSA president and the project organizer.”
Stories in communities directly impact the art created, especially communal art such as a mural, Hansen said. There is an art to storytelling and an art to the creation of an entire mural.
“Humans have been decorating the walls for thousands of years with images that are meaningful to them,” Hansen said. “They are a reminder that we have power and agency to write and tell the stories that are important to us and that we can also share those stories with others for everyone to enjoy.”
Art provides agency and the power allowing individuals to tell stories, Hansen said. Murals provide a sense of support for other forms of content in our environment like advertisements on billboards don’t.
“Murals offer a space for us to fill our visual environment with images that are meaningful to our lives and our experiences living in this place,” Hansen said. “They are a counter narrative to advertisements that target the insecurities that exist within our identities and our understanding of who we are and messages that are constantly telling us that we are not enough and are needing something.”
There’s much meaning to be derived from all of the murals in Vermillion. Recognition of the GSA students and the identities of people within the LGBTQ+ community is vital, Hernandez said.
“We hope that people will spend time looking at the imagery, asking questions about its meaning and assigning meaning of their own to the imagery. Additionally, we hope that the artwork will remind people of the highschool students who led this project and the importance of Two-Spirit People and the LGBTQIA in our community.”
Photo: Madison Martinez | The Volante