The Pennsylvania State University

School of Visual Arts

Penn State Graduate Student Leads Production of Community Mural in Belize

A Painted Conversation Mural in Belize

Penn State School of Visual Arts art education doctoral candidate Natalia Pilato led the creation of “A Painted Conversation,” a community mural project in Cayo District, Belize.  The mural, totaling 800 square feet, is a collage of photographs and drawings, which were traced, color-coded, and hand-painted on panels. More than 175 people, ranging in age from 7 to 71, from across Belize, as well as across the globe, joined together to paint the mural.

“A Painted Conversation” is an international collaboration, spanning over one year that began in November 2014 with Galen University and numerous Belize community members.  In the summer of 2015, Pilato taught a special topics, community-based art course at Galen University, where students learned design principles and painting techniques as well as how to participate in civic and community relations.

The concept of the mural was the result of a survey done by Galen University students, which asked residents of the tranquil town what they considered their biggest assets. Pilato then visualized the mural’s design based on the survey responses. “This project was an amazing experience for all involved,” said Pilato. “It is proof that community-based art has the incredible potential to bring a multitude of people, ranging in age, socioeconomic status and ethnicity, together to create something positive and beautiful that benefits society.” 

Pilato lived in the Cayo region of Belize for ten years, where she married and began a family. It was always her hope to return to Belize to work with the people of the country on a community engagement art project. Through her dissertation research, which focuses on building and sustaining constructive relationships through socially engaged art practices, she was able to make this dream a reality.

There were a multitude of financial and in-kind contributors that made the project a success, as well as a Kickstarter fundraiser in the United States to raise money for high-quality art supplies.  “A Painted Conversation” was unveiled in an official ceremony and community celebration in November. To view an image gallery, visit: