February 20, 2011

Community Mural #1

I am sharing some mural projects I've done because I won't be in school for a while. This was by far the most ambitious.

Sometimes the journey of getting to the final piece is almost more interesting then the work itself.
For me, the process of making this mural was so powerful that it overshadows the final result.

As you know, I teach in an urban community that is not thriving. We are minutes from the capitol of Connecticut and once a booming city full of industry. Now, we are left with awesome architecture from our golden age but it is not cared for and for every mansion there is a project in it's backyard. Not many teachers choose to live where they work for good reason. But, my one good teacher friend grew up in the city. She overcame a lot of adversity and decided to come back here to live and teach, dedicating to helping kids like herself. She has been one of the most amazing people and teachers I have worked with here. Unfortunately she doesn't work at my school anymore but that is just teardrops on my keyboard! Another school is lucky to have her.

When we worked together, we collaborating on a lot of projects. She was in college getting her masters while teaching and one of her professors collaborated on this mural with us as well. We decided we'd make a mural with the theme of community. But we wanted to have a conversation about our community that was honest for the kids. We let kids talk about what we noticed about our community that needed to be changed. The kids told so many personal stories which I can't share, but here are some of the more general ones. One student was mad that people threw their trash down from their third floor window past his window instead of walking it downstairs and putting it in the bin. Another talked about the noise pollution of other tenants fighting when her and her sister tried to do homework or sleep. The list goes on but you get the idea. This shows what a community this teacher created in the classroom that they were able to talk openly.

Next we decided to paint all the UGLY things about our community. This was the art part. I instructed the students to be bold and simply paint because we were more interested in the color and feeling then the image. We would later be "transforming" these pictures to make something beautiful. I told them not to get too attached to their picture because it is was going to be changed to become another piece of art work. If you told a group of adults to do this it would never work but the kids understood. After the paintings were dry the kids cut or ripped the paintings that represented the "ugly" parts of our community so we could use them to make a mural to show what we wanted for our community.

We looked at Keith Haring's murals and discussed what it would take to change the community. The students all agreed that it would take all of us to change the community. So with that a few students laid down on the canvas and the others traced them. We added everyone's pieces of the paintings with modge podge, let loose with paint (many of the paintings were painted over to create a layering effect, they're there but under paint), and finally modge podged positive words from magazines that expressed what we want for our community.

If you've read this far CONGRATULATIONS. . . Here is the final result.


Stringbean Art said...

Kudos to you on a very cool mural! Where did it end up and what ages were the students? It sounds like the collaboration was pretty awesome with your fellow teacher too, I wish there could be more of that for all of us. There is so much focus on the tests and not enough on personal expression like you were facilitating.

Barbara's Thought of the Day said...

oooo. I love your mural and the idea behind it. I would love to hear more about the process, but I'll leave that question for another time. I'm thinking of you every moment and really looking forward to some baby news real soon. Best wishes for an easy labor and delivery and a happy and healthy baby girl!

Unknown said...

Ended up stretching the canvas and displaying in the "art" hallway. It goes from floor to ceiling. I really need to print a caption with it to explain the process and recognize the artists. It was made by fourth graders.

As for the process it was really organic. There was the discussion with the trained psychologist and professor about our community. Then making the paintings about what's ugly in our community. Then the destroying the things that are ugly (ripping and cutting the paintings). Then we sorted the pieces by color. Next we brainstormed how to send a positive message to the community. We discussed how and who could change these problems. We thought of different images we could use, some kids thought a city scape, winterscape, then we decided on the people. When we first made the people (which I think were inspired after seeing Haring's work) it looked like chalk outlines! The kids wanted something more cheerful and it was looking like a hot mess! So we started painting over to add some cohesiveness. We found words in magazines to drive home their ideas. Finally some students came down during lunches and such to add finishing touches like the outlines and touch up painting. The whole process took entirely too long as it was my first mural project with kids my second year teaching. I had really huge ideas!!! I love getting older because now I feel like I can take those big ideas and make them more manageable. It all takes a lot of time and experience though. I hope to one day get as good as you guys as some of these blogs I see!

Shar said...

I love the idea that you started with what was ugly and transformed it. I imagine that would be quite cathartic for the children.

Phyl said...

Totally cool - the idea, the process, the result. Love it all!

Baby yet?

Unknown said...

Thanks Phyl, no baby yet! The date is set for Thursday going in Wednesday night for some pre-stuff. . .unlesss. . . . keep your fingers crossed for us!

Marilyn said...

LOVE this!!! So creative.. I'm officially following you ;)) I'm Marilyn from http://theartsygirlconnection.blogspot.com - excited to indulge in more of your fun and creative posts.. Please stop by sometime ;)) Happy Friday...