KU to host screening of public-art documentary 'Called to Walls'

Local artists and filmmakers Amber Hansen and Nicholas Ward will screen their new documentary "Called to Walls" at 6 p.m. Thursday evening at Kansas University's The Commons.

The free event marks the first Lawrence showing of "Called to Walls," which follows local artist David Loewenstein (and oftentimes, the filmmakers themselves) on a three-year journey across the Heartland to "create beauty and instill a sense of community" in small towns spanning six states.

"Part road-movie, part inspirational small town drama, and part art documentary," the film documents the making of giant murals in the city cores of places like Newton and Joplin, Mo.

It's the first feature-length effort from KU alums Ward and Hansen. Their efforts were partially funded through the Mid-America Arts Alliance, with the rest provided through Kickstarter and the filmmakers' own money.

Ward says he was inspired by the "diverse" townspeople who came together in each community to form the murals' design teams. Everyone from folks in their 90s to schoolchildren contributed to the projects through reexamining their own histories and imaging the future of their communities.

"We thought it was a really compelling story and a story we wanted to tell," Ward says of the pair's initial experience working on a mural with community members in tiny Tonkawa, Okla. "And film seemed to be the best medium to tell that story."

At this point, the film in question is about "98 percent complete," says Ward, who'd like to make a few more tweaks before its official premiere, which is slated for January at Liberty Hall.

In the meantime, he and Hansen are planning on screening "Called to Walls" in each of the communities visited by Loewenstein. First stop: Newton on Nov. 15, followed by Tonkawa, Okla., on Nov. 30.

A panel discussion with the film's directors will follow Thursday's screening. I'll try following up with Ward and Hansen a little closer to the January premiere date to see how things are going.

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