Last year I received the Rogers Innovative Educator Grant from the Neag School Education at the University of Connecticut. The plan was to implement a mural program at the school where I teach art, McDonough Middle School of Hartford Public Schools in Hartford, CT. But plans are just ideas on paper and paper is easily altered.
I was supposed to work with small groups of kids during a daily enrichment period to create murals on the walls of the school. We were going to monitor their attitudes toward school and see if the community project may change how they feel towards school. By the end of the project my students would have developed new skills, new relationships, and a new found interest in art and/ or education.
However, the world has been changed by a vicious microorganism and the plan I laid out for the grant was not spared. Things had to change, A LOT!! I was afforded a waiver under the Americans with Disabilities Act to stay at home and teach remotely due to asthma. It helped that well over 200 students’ families from McDonough decided to keep our students home for safety.
In late August 2020 I began my class through Google Meets run out of my basement. I said OK! Fine! We’re still doing this! Our community murals will not be created with the community in-person but at a distance with an online community. So, rather than using the $5000 grant to buy lovely art supplies that would be used communally for years to come at McDonough I decided I would attempt a crazy thing. I would attempt to give Middle school age children their own set of permanent acrylic paints and other art supplies which will be used to make one piece of a mural per child. And guess what? I did just that!
It took awhile and our purchasing had many hurdles thanks to Covid’s low store supplies and ransomeware that attacked Hartford’s systems. However, by the beginning of December we were able to purchase paint, brushes, canvas papers, sketchbooks, color pencils, pencils, portion cups (for paint), and plastic boxes to make mural kits (thanks Mom!!) It took a few weeks but my wonderful family and I poured, placed, and pieced together 110 mural Art Kits!! Finally, it felt great to drop off the kits at McDonough for the Art Kit pick up day.
The McDonough office staff has been instrumental in distributing the kits for a last few weeks before the holiday break. Even the security guard was nice enough to bag and hand out the kits which included some last minute district purchased supplies. Ever since the first pick up day families have been happily coming out of their way to be handed an art kit at the school door in the middle of a pandemic.
Some McDonough staff and even Admin themselves dropped off kits to the kids’ homes directly that could not get to the school. It has actually turned out to be a large community effort already! I had no idea so many folks would still be involved even though the classes are remote.
I was fortunate to be chosen as the grant recipient. I was fortunate to be chosen as the on line art teacher. I am grateful for the people that are working to support the effort to bring art into our children’s homes. Success through adversity requires creative solutions as well as a whole community of people striving together to traverse the barrier. I feel we have already succeeded as a community. Art finds a way.