Painting a mural in Gjirokaster, Albania, was simply a no brainer for me. I had friends there to make any and all of the necessary local connections. All that needed to be done was locate a wall to paint. I left that in the very capable hands of Vita. She went to her local school. It really was her local school. Both she and her husband, as well as their two children, attended the Urani Rumbo School. There was no way the director could say no when a "world famous artist" offered to paint a mural for them. World famous or not, there was no way the director was going to say no to one very determined Vita Kotoni. She was a woman with a purpose.

I actually had reservations about painting at a school. My previous murals were at places like a burn center and an Aids daycare. I'm not sure why I had any second thoughts. The kids at Urani Rumbo totally amazed, impressed, and overwhelmed me. There was a flood of kids willing and wanting to paint.

Yes, there was some chaos. And, yes, it was a bit overwhelming in the beginning. However, the main emotions to last long after the brushes had been put away were utter joy and deep pride. The students loved what they were doing. There was laughter, smiles, and some paint on a few faces. There was even fresh graffiti -- in English -- on the bathroom walls in red paint that said, "fun!!" My text, also in red paint, read "Gjirokastra ime!!" which translates "My Gjirokaster!!" There was a sense of pride that this project was painted for their school and community.

But, there was probably a greater pride that they helped create the mural. Much to my amazement, in three and a half hours, the entire mural had two coats of paint. When the students left school, they were so excited to show their friends what they had done. That was the kind of ownership I wanted them to have. But, they wanted to own more. They wanted a second mural.

Many people who I talk to about the murals say they want to come with me and paint. Few actually mean it. However, John was the exception. He had the time to help, and even though his wife was envious, he had her blessing to go to Albania for ten days. Not only did he help with a lot of the painting, but he took on the role of official photographer. He documented every step of the murals (taking about half the photos on this site) and then made PowerPoint presentations for the school and our hosts so they could never forget the experience. He made my third trip to Albania much easier and a lot more fun.

Copyright 1995 and 2009 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.