About Bernie Wilke
My passion for community art has given me the opportunity to create 95 murals across Pennsylvania and West Virginia. To me, the collaborative creative process is every bit as vital as the finished product. Seeing how a wide range of ideas can coalesce and converge into one cohesive design is one of the reasons I love my job as a Community Muralist. When I work with schools, the designs are usually driven by the curriculum that core group students are learning. Each mural is unique and site-specific, however most of my murals show the influence I’ve taken from the Magic Realists, along with Diego Rivera and Judy Baca.
Community murals have a unique and important role to inspire, inform, foster connections, and show our truths and stories in ways that add beauty, color, and vitality to our local spaces. They can build social capital and be an important part of the revitalization of an area, economically and otherwise. They show care and nurture and make a place more dynamic. As artist Glenn Weiss put it, “(Murals) become part of a memory of a community, part of how a community sees itself.”
My work as a visual artist centers around large-scale community murals, teaching, and studio artwork. A desire to work with communities to bring inspiring art into shared spaces has been the driving force in my career. After receiving my M.F.A. from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 2001, I became a Community Muralist and Teaching Artist instead of pursuing a career in academia. Working with communities on murals that tell their unique stories merged several of my interests and passions. I have since completed 95 public murals in schools, downtown streets, community centers, and many other settings. My vision is to continue to utilize the power of art to strengthen communities and cultivate personal and societal wellness through beauty and collaboration.
Sharing my love for art has led me to be an active teacher. Along with grade schools and colleges, I have prioritized teaching in therapeutic and interventional settings such as youth homes and prisons. My artist residencies involve leading students in permanent curriculum-based murals, where the students do most of the work from design to completion. Students creatively explore with a wide range of materials and media, including video and movement, to help synthesize what they are learning.
In addition to murals and teaching, I also pursue individual studio work — a body of paintings and mixed media works (called Innerscapes) that show life, color, and energy inside physical bodies and spaces. My studio work has been featured in over 40 juried exhibitions, with 5 being solo exhibitions.
Other Creative Skills