We did it!!! We created 6 murals during a pandemic!! It’s hard enough usually to do such a thing in normal times. However, our McDonough Bears created a group of fine works of public art to beautify their school despite numerous challenges. In the end, the students that attended class online due to COVID-19 designed the murals, I copied their drawings on a given theme onto a canvas, then the kids that were in school during the spring painted in 4 of the 6 murals that we created by the on-line students. What team work!!
When I returned to school after receiving my Covid vaccination in April, I had 4 classes. Each class was in a cohort in one classroom. All students received a personal art kit to use in class. There were no community-used art supplies. This was a blessing for the situation. I showed up everyday with buckets of water and other materials and each class completed the painting of each mural design. I started the Spring courses with a black line mural design drawn on Tyvek Paper for each class to fill in with paint. The murals were like large coloring pages which all students in each cohort fought to take their turn to paint.
The mural station was a fantastic thing to have in the class. It took us all spring, but the kids worked hard and were focused. The end result was 6 new murals that were installed throughout the school. What a boost to the look and feel of the ancient building!
The 1st McDonough Mural Tour
To celebrate the kids’ accomplishment we created a McDonough Mural tour. Three 6th grade girls volunteered to be tour docents. They each introduced 2 of the new murals, and all introduced the mural we created in 2019. Our mural tourists were the school’s principal and vice principal, Marjorie Rice and William Conroy, the HPS Director of Arts and Wellness, Tracy Avicolli, and two representatives from UCONN, Marcy Jarzebek and Shawn Kornegay. You can watch the video and take the McDonough Mural tour (video coming Soon).
Accolades from UCONN
The Dean of the Naeg School of Education at UCONN made a congratulatory video for our McDonough Artists. It was fantastic that he took the time to share his kind and supportive words for our budding muralists. Watch it!
Finally, I wanted to hear from my students about how they felt about the mural process. I wanted know what they thought about being able to participate in this communal, creative project even from their own homes. So, I created a survey for them to evaluate the mural program at the end of the second quarter in January 2021. Here are the results:
I’d say we did pretty well given the conditions. Teaching in person IS far better than virtual teaching. HOWEVER, it is VERY true that necessity is the mother of invention. I needed to change in order to find success. Indeed, we did find success. Creating portable murals is not something I would have considered before COVID teaching. Holding online discussions to develop a mural theme and create images turned out to be a helpful way to communicate. I will definitely use these methods in-person going forward.
Who knows, maybe other schools would love a mural makeover. Now I feel confident that I could aid a school looking to build the culture of expression and creativity in their buildings even from 1000’s of miles away. I don’t know where this is going to go, but McDonough Middle School is definitely looking and feeling very different compared to the fall of 2020.
Thank you very much to the Rogers Innovative Educator Grant from the Neag School Education at the University of Connecticut! Your giving has brought a lot of joy to some kids who need as much support as we can give them. You made a difference in an entire community’s life.
Thank you to the McDonough Middle School staff and administration for helping me develop our Bear’s creative culture during a very trying time.
Thank you to Dupont who donated three five foot by 75ft rolls of Tyvek Paper that we painted all of the murals on. Without this donation these murals would not have been possible. You have given me more than just a few rolls of paper.
Thank you to Hartford Public Schools for helping to bring me the tools and support I needed to pull this feat of visual arts off for our kids and families at McDonough Middle School.
Thank you to my amazing family! Elan, Arion, Seren and Lindsay, You all gladly pitched in to help others. There’s nothing more worthwhile to do with your time. I’m so proud of you all.
Finally, thank you to my Mom for always chipping in with all types of help. You make art happen.