If “Art is Love Made Public”, then Sense8 fans around the world just made their love for the Wachowski’s sci-fi series unmistakably public as they successfully crowdfunded a mural in San Francisco to honour the show. As an idea that came from the fans, it was Sense8 actress Maximilienne Ewalt who took on the challenge of making this dream a reality by coordinating the project with the help of friend and muralist Diedre Weinberg. The Kickstarter funded mural reached its desired goal in record time, more than two days before the fundraising deadline, surprising project organizers as Sense8 fans in all corners of the world pushed what, for many, seemed an impossibility into reality with their generous donations and creative fundraising initiatives.
Creating history, the Sense8 mural in San Francisco will be the first piece of public art dedicated to the Netflix series and the first to be entirely funded and initiated by the fans. The San Francisco Sense8 mural will also be only the second Netflix series to be a part of US street art as Netflix commissioned a wall mural to promote “Orange is the New Black” in 2017 and filmed the process to serve as promotional material for the new season of the series.
I am Also a We
The stroke of midnight on July 16th was set as the official deadline for the Kickstarter campaign to complete raising funds for the mural, but securing the required amount with days to spare was not part of the thought process or expectations according to the campaign’s online outreach coordinator Susana Grilo who enthused “I am beyond happy! A crowdfunding campaign is always a complicated process and when you get into it after it has begun, things can be unpredictable.” Maximillienne Ewalt who plays Grace Caplan, Amanita’s mother in the series described the mixed emotions she felt upon crossing the finish line as “Fantastic, immensely grateful, exhausted, humbled, overwhelmed, and relieved! I couldn’t believe that we actually did it. We succeeded. It did not fizzle out, the passion for it kept growing, and the amazing uptick in donations that came in the last 3-4 days. It made me cry.”
Muralist Diedre Weinberg added that the entire experience had a deep impact on her personally, adding “I feel an incredible sense of hope for the world because this is an example of many people coming together with the best intentions to do something positive. It makes me feel like if we stick together as humans, we can do anything we want to.”
The message and the title of the mural “I am Also a We”, one of Sense8’s most popular and symbolic ideas and quotes, is not only reflected in the manner in which fans across the globe contributed to the project financially, but also in the recruiting of the campaign’s key players. Susana Grilo recalls how she got involved in the rollercoaster ride that was the fundraising campaign admitting “I am a big fan of Sense8 and when I heard about the idea of creating murals throughout the world I was interested as I had myself just gotten to understand a little bit more about street art not only as a form of activism but as art for aesthetic purposes. As soon as I saw that Maximilienne and Deirdre had launched the campaign I went to check it out. I began writing a message offering my help when I saw that they were already asking for someone else to join them.”
No Ordinary Fan Base
The timing of the Sense8 mural project and its success comes more than a year after Sense8 fans successfully campaigned and secured a two-hour special episode after the shocking cancellation of the series in June 2017. Echoing the sentiments of Creator Lana Wachowski who famously declared her wish to “kiss every single one of you (fans)”, Sense8 actress affectionately known as Neet’s Mom among fans also finds herself overwhelmed by the gratitude she feels for the fans who responded to her call of action and not only raised the intended US$ 15,000 but nearly a thousand more in excess, even after the goal was reached on July 14th.
In a heartfelt message to fans, Maximilienne declares “I want to hug each and every one of you. I can’t say thank you enough. It would never have happened without you. I love you all for everything you did, whether you simply spread the word, donated $5.00 or $1,000 or anything in between, or donated profits from things sold, offered services, gifts, created auctions, and to those who continue to donate after reaching our initial goal of $15,000. I have been floored by the support, love and generosity you have all shown for this project. I know that money is tight for many of us and there are so many causes to support. So my gratitude is huge.”
In addition to promoting the fundraising campaign on social media, Sense8 fans also donated proceeds of fan-made Sense8 products including Sense8 Pins made by Heather H. Fletcher and Sense8 merchandise available through Simply Clustered Designs while Sense8 fan and author Jalpa Williby also contributed the sales of her books to the cause. The IAmWe Campaign auctioning autographed cast photos and other creative offerings of drawings by Sheila Applegate of the Live Sense8 Podcast and New York tours by Sue Shahanan also had a big impact on the steady flow of funds to the mural project.
Susana Grilo feels “This particular mural is a tangible proof of the fans devotion to this series and most importantly to the universal message it portrayed. The fact that people from all around the world joined forces to build a testament to a message of Empathy and Unity is invaluable. We ARE connected. Fictional worlds helped me become the person I am today. Through them, I got to know more people, reach new places and cultures. For me, this mural beside representing the undeniable power fiction has over reality, is a stepping stone for a whole new art movement.” Besides, she explains” I felt like I was serving a higher purpose – the Sense8 Fandom!”
Maximilienne Ewalt goes on to reiterate the message and the purpose of the Sense8 mural which will feature the eight protagonists of the Netflix series in a Shiva pose, serving as protectors of the universe with a face in the shadows representing the very individuals the mural is being created to inspire. “This mural is dedicated to all of you and to all who suffer intolerance and hatred from others or feel unloved and unseen. And for those who hopefully see their own intolerance of others. May it open their eyes and hearts.”
Now that the project is fully funded, Diedre Weinberg is excited to bring the mural to life at the Lennon Studios wall in San Francisco where the artwork will loom large over the neighbourhood and the city best known as the home of Nomi Marks and Amanita Caplan in Sense8. When asked what’s next? Diedre replies “Next is to come up with a schedule and get all the groundwork done— scheduling the scaffolding, buying the supplies, and assembling a team to help. Then we will begin transferring the design on the wall and painting” as Maximilienne adds that the process of completing the artwork will be documented and shared on social media. “We will be documenting the progress of the mural. We are entering stage 2 of the project.”
Fans who donate more than US$ 100 can look forward to seeing their name and country featured on the mural wall, representing the truly global fan base of Sense8 and as a testament to the impact the show has had on lives across racial and geographical lines. No doubt the mural will become a tourist attraction of sorts to fans of the series as it joins the many Sense8 related landmarks across the city in which the popular Netflix series was filmed.
Discussing the design of the mural itself Diedre admits “It is different from other murals I’ve painted in that the design responds to a specific idea and a specific time… I hope it is the beginning of a lot of similar murals and other art around the world and that we can come together to plan it, design it, and paint it. I see this project as a tunnel between walls where we can go through obstacles and meet each other. The best murals serve as a community gathering point to inspire people to generate positive change.”
Sense8: The Story Continues
The excess funds raised during the Kickstarter campaign will be channelled towards the creation of another mural in a different city or country or donated to a cause that reflects the message of Sense8 according to the organizers. Maximilienne Ewalt sees the project as a movement she hopes will continue, reflecting the feelings of Lana Wachowski who dubbed the fan movement that erupted last year after the cancellation “a populist uprising to save a piece of art.”
“Sense8 is a way of seeing the world and humanity. Is not just a show, it is a philosophy, a way of living and thinking. It is what the world should be, what we want the world to be.” according to Marta Duque, a Sense8 fan and campaigner from Barcelona who contributed to the mural. “It’s not about attractive actors and actresses, high fashion or ships. That’s why one year after the cancellation fans are still fighting for its continuity. That’s why this mural means so much. This will remain and remind the world of what our path should be and Sense8’s place in creating that world.”