A community artists takes cues from whichever environment he/she lives in (i.e. from architecture, community spirit, community ideals, and from the people) and chooses to create something in response to it. There is no wrong way to be a community artist except to refuse to be a part of the community. We are all connected to the world around us and to reject that sense of interconnectivity would be a rejection of what makes us who we are. A person who makes community murals, paintings, engravings, etc. can be considered a community artist, but community art also encompasses any work that is representative of the community spirit. The work could be anything from a statue of George Wallace to a cookbook of local recipes. I think that whatever community/location the artist finds him/herself in, it will be impossible to not recognize and participate actively in it. The community draws those dedicated to making art and capturing the spirit of the world around them to it. The “doors” of the community can be difficult to find, but if one is open to their discovery, then they will present themselves to him/her.
Few artists can (or should) create willingly for no one. I can not see how an artist can create in a way that is uninfluenced by the place around them. I would call my mother a community artist in Montgomery, and because she is such, I have gotten to meet a huge number of artists who live and work in the city. Strangely, none of them seem to work together in the way one might think of “community artists living and working together.” Every artists’ work is dissimilar, and yet when I think of Montgomery, I think first of the city and then of the city’s art. Maybe that’s because it has been such a huge part of my childhood. My family has a huge collection of community artists’ art up on the walls of my house. Being surrounded by all of that art is my community to me. So, I don’t think that it’s completely true that it’s just the community that influences its art; it’s also the art that inevitably becomes the community.
Summer Upchurch has been a freshman at the University of Alabama for the better part of a year. You can find a short story of hers, The Soot Beneath the Flame, in the 2012 issues of the campus literary magazines DewPoint and Marr’s Field Journal. Currently, she is busy talking about her feelings in New College, writing short stories that always end up too long, and staring at her Basil plant, wishing it would grow. She has just started to wear a watch, which means, technically, she is an adult now. If you’d like to find her, she’ll be hiding in Riverside East behind walls of paper.