underpass project

Students in my Spring Semester Draw Paint Print (Level 1 & 2) art class have been working with the city of NYA to paint murals in the new underpass built last summer. The project idea was brought to me by Superintendent Schochenmaier who learned about the opportunity from the city. The curriculum was written to fit into our Draw Paint Print Courses. 

To start the project, students are shown murals from Minnesota. As a class they critique the murals and try to figure out what makes them successful. Then they create a list outlining their own artistic strengths. I use these lists to analyze the student’s talents and create student groups that reflect a wide variety of strengths within each group. Students will work in the same group of 4-6 people for the entirety of the project. Then the real fun begins when students brainstorm design ideas for their mural both individually and as a group.
After students determine their final design idea, they make a clean representational sketch and that sketch is submitted to the city for approval. Accompanying the sketch is a proposal completed by the students explaining the rationale for the group’s design and how it fits into the project guidelines of community, positivity, and kindness. 
Once everything is approved, the painting starts. Students walk as a class to the underpass during class time and work on the project for about 2-3 weeks. We have found time to be our biggest challenge, by the time the students walk to the site and get all the materials set up, it seems when we finally get painting, it’s already time to start cleaning up and heading back to school. I complement our students in doing a really good job of being efficient and helping one another. 
From start to finish, this project is completely the students' work and ideas. As an instructor, I provide feedback and suggestions taking care to make sure the students are the ones making the decisions so it stays their original idea. The purpose of this project is two-fold: it is tied to community pride and serves as a deterrent against unsightly graffiti in the underpass and it provides our students a platform to show off their talents. Any artist can come in and create a mural, but to have the art come from our community's youth is a pretty special thing. 
It has been so fun to see our students using their creativity and problem-solving skills in a real world setting outside of the classroom. I am incredibly proud of them for working together to create something for the greater good of our community. Talk a walk, run, or bike ride and see for yourself the beautiful work Central Students have completed.