So ... within the last few weeks: Dia de los Muertos came and went, Halloween was sweetly celebrated, the crisp weather has declared fall officially here, the winds of change are a blowin, a super moon is a brewin, but for real y'all ... the REAL magic is here on the walls of James Weldon Johnson Middle School!!!
Our long awaited week of (literally) painting the school began last Monday,m October 24th and stretched all the way through that Friday. Over 600 student artists are now able to say that they have left their unique mark on their campus for decades to come.
Nicole Holderbaum, the founder and director of local non-profit Jax Kids Mural Project, graced us with her presence, talent, heart, and determination for the duration of our large scale project. She is an incredible Jacksonville artist whose passion for inspiring kids is beyond contagious. She showed up before sunrise and stayed until well after school got out every day that she was here, and worked her fabulous little tooshie off for these kids without hardly even a break. We here at JWJ are forever grateful to her and the grant funding she is able to receive in order to inspire and empower all of our amazing young artists. And although I could easily gush all sorts of art teachery goodness about her, what I really want to show you is the mural itself :)
Our initial day of painting was a long wall that faces our central courtyard comprised of eight separate panels. We decided on a quote from James Weldon Johnson himself because this ties in a cross curricular focus for our College Preparatory campus model. The quote originally says:
"There is a world waiting for you,
Yours is the quest that's just begun"
Nico and I thought it would come across stronger to the children if we altered the words slightly to reflect a more 'student centered' reading:
"There's a world waiting for us,
Ours is the quest that's just begun"
But the mural magic did not stop there, oh no!
After my 300 plus students had their full two days of art making memories, Nico came back for round two with the second batch of talented JWJ artists from all of Ms. Pierre's classes too!
They splattered color and love all throughout our end of campus, filling nearly every inch of plain wall space from the courtyard to the parking lot behind our art department building!
These future Cassats and Rothkos even painted the art room DOORS! I can't even tell you how many times both Pierre and myself have already accidentally walked right past our own rooms :) :) :)
We truly shared an art-fully bonding week of making mural magic together here at JWJ!
And then there's the clean up after the party is over ....... (art teacher perks, y'all!)
Now, I don't need to be bombarding you with a million pictures (even though I really want to!) because this mural is a work of art you most definitely need to come check out for yourself in person. JUST DO IT!
One last thing I just can't help but share with you folks is a few of my kids' beautiful essay responses that almost had me tearing up.
We discussed why public art is important, and each student reflected on their personal experience being a part of this group project. They we re asked to write about their favorite part of the process, here is a tiny sampling of their reactions:
This is the stuff that memories are made from, guys, and I feel pretty certain my students now have a strong sense of how powerful and life changing the process of artistic creation truly is.