IMAG NING Toowoomba

IMAG NE

IMAG NE, I read as I step out of the Toowoomba City Library after a day of workshops. Seems fitting for the end of a day in which we played with materials and thought the world and ourselves with them, noticing what things are and imagining what they could be.

I was invited to Australia's city of Toowoomba to work with librarians and educators working with young children in the context of First Five Forever, a State Library of Queensland program to support “confidence around communication and learning” in the early years. In connection to activities like Story Time, we discussed artistic experiences, engaged in material explorations, and experienced how play, art, and learning can be one and the same when we take ownership of our own processes.

As we walked to dinner last night, my wonderful hosts talked me through Toowoomba basics: best coffee in town, the public library and how to get there, and street art. So after a successful day of workshops, with my coffee in hand, I explore the murals spread around the city, created during the latest edition of First Coat Mural Festival - described on their website as “a Queensland based creative initiative, driven by making arts & culture accessible through the transformation of public space.”

I wander around before the sun goes down, observing details in each mural and picturing scenes I was told about: artists painting the walls, passersby captivated by unexpected sites, kids mesmerized by the sight of an artwork coming to live in their neighborhood.

Some of the painted animals have so much color that we need to take a breath before we look again, so much texture that we wish to touch them, so much mystery that we are compelled to imagine stories for them - like we did last night, three grown-ups wondering about stone angels, friendly snakes, and strange-featured animals.

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But then again we had just came from a day of creating stuff out of trash, constructing stories with random materials, imagining possibilities.

Over time, the murals in the city are painted over again and again, maybe building on each other and being inspired by what was there before. The people who lived with them, I hear, are inspired as well - inspired to observe and notice, and to experience what it feels like to have your city change right before your eyes - and own it.