Anyone involved in cultural production today -- but especially those in public art -- hope more than anything that their work will be noticed and elicit meaningful audience reactions. In the case of a commissioned mural painted by Cristi and a few collaborators in Derry, Northern Ireland, the work fueled a vivid public debate. When petitions start circulating, well -- there’s your noticeable and meaningful reaction. And while the experience certainly put Cristi in the hot seat for a few tense weeks, he also deeply valued the public discussion and dissent motivated by the project.
Cristi was one of four American artists -- the others were Sidd Joag (New York), Ernel Martinez (Philadelphia), and Man One (Los Angeles)—invited to Derry to do the mural commission and lead a series of classes and workshops in four different communities, each of which then had its own additional mural project. The Playhouse Derry-Londonderry organized their activity as part of an urban arts program called the What If? Project, which is part of a three-year initiative funded by the European Union Regional Development Fund called the International Culture Arts Network (ICAN). ICAN’s ambition is to bring “world-renowned artists to the counties at the interface of Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic” in order to “bridge barriers between current and formerly conflicted areas worldwide.”