Monday, January 12, 2009

La Sierra High School Mural Project

Nadi Spencer and I were admiring her piece of art during an artist's reception at the Tulare Historical Society. It was a rendering of a finished mural done at the Three Rivers Elementary School. I had watched the students work on the mural each time I drove by and wished the students at my husband's school, La Sierra Charter High School, could have such an experience. Nadi told me what she charged and when she was free. 

Less than a year later, after receiving a donation from the Phylon Foundation, and a Grant from the Board of Supervisors of Tulare County, we completed two murals. The students worked along side this Master Artist, producing something beautiful for their school, learning to complete a complicated project, working together as a team, "Even with people you don't like," as one student wrote in a paper about the project.  

These students are at risk of drugs, gangs, and poverty. Horizons were broadened, 51 students hands made the murals, and had fun doing it. 

Two classes were held to plan the subject matter of the murals. Nadi put out a stack of images on a table and asked the students to walk around the table and pick out what they liked. As each student touched a picture, she'd ask them what they liked about it. Color, or shape, or style were the answers. There were three magazine pictures of masks on walls that the students picked up the most. They decided they'd like the idea of a wall of masks. Nadi asked what they thought if their faces were supper-imposed on the masks. We had our cameras and could take their pictures. They loved it. At least, most of them did. One boy refused to participate until we started taking pictures. He asked Nadi, "What if my hand hid half my face?" Her face lit up, "What a great idea. I was looking for another element to flush out the picture. Hands." So instead of being a resister, his idea enhanced the art. Notice the hands in the finished mural.

As we took their images, they said they wanted the staff/teachers on the wall, too. So we took pictures of the staff, who started out a little resistent, much like the students, but soon were caught up in the spirit. Nadi then used photoshop to design Mural #1.

The second mural is the school mascot, the falcon. It was suggested by a student in the beginning of the session. Two hours later an idea emerged. After much discussion about the safety net the students felt at school, since they live in the center of gang territory, fear is something they live with all the time, except at school, they said. A student at the end of the two hours suggested that the falcon's wings open, and under the wings animals curl up in safety. Each student could pick an animal to represent them. Again, Nadi took the ideas to photoshop and designed Mural #2.

The Principal, Jan Mekeel, planned to kick off a new art curriculum, a first for the school. The English teacher, Stephanie Sapien, was giving up a prep time to teach the art class, five days a week. They needed supplies. When the Grant was written I added money to supply the new classroom with art supplies. We also provided funds to hold an Artist's Reception, hosted by the Leadership Group of students who helped run the project and did most of the work. Parents, Board of Supervisor representatives, Artists from around Tulare County, and the general community came to celebrate the new murals and the work the students accomplished. It was a special evening.