Collaborating on a Mural – “Neighborhood of Happiness”

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In the Blue Room children collaborated on a large mural that pulls together all of the things they have explored, experienced, and created in the Art Studio over this past year. The impetus for this work started last week with a discussion with some of the children which prompted the idea of working on a really BIG painting. After examining some references of large murals for inspiration, they discussed the main ideas behind the work. They roughed out quick studies of a neighborhood using sharpies and then used black paint to create guidelines.

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As their work began to take on more form, we talked about how they would feel as other children added to their painting.

Student: I think it will be really cool. It will look good all together. Kinda like a neighborhood but kinda something else.
Student: Yeah, ‘cause we’re really good at doing things together in the studio. We’ve had lots of practice.
Student: And…we can find the spaces in between, like you said.

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As each group added to the painting, they indeed, found ways to “make their marks” without obscuring the painting of their classmates. Their work was careful and purposeful, and built on the practices they have had in the studio throughout the year. Looking closely at their work and process, it is easy to see traces of the learning that they acquired through the various collaborations this group has completed throughout the year.  Traces, that are not only creative and expressive, but also, of their connection and relationships to each other.

Surprised by the “BIGNESS” of the painting, one group of students spontaneously decided to hold hands and spread themselves out as a way to measure how big the painting is.

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“This is the biggest painting I have seen in real life! I’ve only seen bigger at a museum!”

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“I noticed that in the pictures of the other murals, it didn’t all look like real things. I’m going to make some patterns. Look… dot…dot…line, dot…dot…line.”

Working so carefully and respectfully of each other’s work, one group decided that there wasn’t the space to add more guidelines. Next, came adding color to areas where the black paint had already dried.

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In progress mural, after day one.

The next week in art, the students finished their work on their abstract neighborhood mural. With all of the line work painted last week, this week’s focus was to add color. Again, they were careful to not cover up the work of their classmates; they found spaces to add their paint-sometimes even switching to smaller brushes if the spaces were very small.

“I think that’s where the neighborhood starts. Everyone can come. It’s for everyone. It’s a beautiful place to be!”

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Also, this week, per request of the children, we painted to reggae music. This music helped to set the tone and flow of how they painted. They moved their bodies and swayed while working and the general feel of their process radiated a sense of well-being and camaraderie.

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“This makes me feel good. It’s like a real painting! I love it!”

“If we really lived here, would you live here with us? Your house might be that yellow one ‘cause I see you like yellow shoes. Maybe everyone’s house would be the color of their favorite shoes. That’s why this place is called happiness.”

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“Do you know why I keep moving around and painting in different areas? I’m being very careful not to paint in the wet spots. I don’t want the colors to mix up so much. I want everyone to be able to see all the colors. There are so many colors in the world and they all are very beautiful.”

The work  has really been the culmination of work the children have done over the course of the year, what they have explored and experienced in the studio and in the classroom, and the strong connections they have with each other.

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The completed mural, “Neighborhood of Happiness”