Issue: Access to Higher Education / Closing the Achievement Gap
Grant Amount: 25,000.00
Los Angeles, CA
Year Funded: 2011
Organization: Sharefest Community Development Inc
Murals for Motivation is a project dedicated to completing beautification projects in the form of murals at local elementary and Jr. High schools around the Harbor, South Bay Areas throughout the year. We hope to inspire and motivate youth towards better grades and higher education with encouraging murals, painted in strategic, common areas on each campus.
This project will enhance the academic experience closing the achievement gap and put into practice many of the concepts core to academic success being taught in the classroom such as the importance of work performance and management skills, the value of civic engagement and responsibility, and time for self reflection considering the inspirational messaging being worked on in the mural. We believe this project will have an empowering outcome on the lives of those students who participate. The contact with creative artistic professionals/adults will serve to expand/inspire youths’ thinking about the world around them and how they can impact their world-providing youth a voice. This project allows for meaningful engagement with the community they live in.
Gulf Avenue Elementary School Gets a Little Brighter
Great partnerships have always yielded great results. There are some partnerships that are constant winning combinations, like chocolate and anything it’s paired with. One of these winning combos comes in the form of Sharefest and State Farm. Together, they have made it possible for “at-risk” students of Avalon Continuation High School to provide their community with works of art that are inspirational to everyone.
Since the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year, students have been teaming up with local artists to visit elementary school campuses in the Wilmington area, plan a relevant work of art, and execute it with aesthetic appeal – all while learning artistic techniques that they can benefit from in their personal and professional lives.
The largest project so far has been a huge two-bungalow classroom sized mural at Gulf Avenue Elementary, on the west side of Wilmington. A handful of Avalon students got together with L.A artist, Arnaud Damasceno, and dreamed up a fantastic, inventive, and encouragingly literate mural for the younger kids at Gulf to enjoy. In about 3 months, students were able to help Arnaud transform the classrooms into a (much) larger than life bookshelf, complete with book ends, some classic stories, and Dr. Seuss’ Lorax – certainly a topical addition because of the film hitting theaters soon.
Many students were enthusiastic about the project from the beginning, perhaps not realizing how much hard work it would require and instead focusing on the delicious pizza they would be eating at the end of each session. They soldiered through the job, however, and by the end of the Fall semester had almost completed the mural. Perhaps the most enthusiastic student was a young man by the name of Elvis. He certainly ended up being king of the murals class. In a short interview with Elvis, he told me that he “didn’t think it would be as laborious, but [his] appreciation for murals was strengthened after so much work on this Gulf mural.” The students weren’t the only people learning, however, when it came to the class.
Although Arnaud was the instructor for the murals class, he ended up learning a few things from the Avalon High students as well. Specifically, Arnaud said he learned to be patient when it came to showing the students how to create, and he learned how to effectively employ collaboration in order to complete different parts of the project simultaneously. The experience is certainly one that I enjoyed being a part of, and I feel I learned the incredible sense of community achieved from creating together; after all, quite a few people will be able to view the art piece.
The mural is definitely in a prominent part of the elementary school’s campus, which means our work of art will be showcased to the surrounding neighborhood. I know the Avalon students feel a sense of pride when reminded that it is their project that is helping to beautify the school, unite the student body and surrounding community, and provide a source of inspiration for the students who grace Gulf Avenue’s campus. Hopefully, years from now when the students are casually walking or driving by the school, their work will still be on display and they can point out to people just how much hard work went into this beautiful, inspirational masterpiece.
Satisfaction of Completion
The students at Gulf Avenue Elementary School are finally able to bask in the glory of their completed mural. As March rolled around, artist Arnaud Damasceno and a couple of Avalon High volunteers finished up the literacy related mural spanning the school's most visible double classroom bungalow.
One of the most exciting things for me, as an avid reader since childhood, was the opportunity to share with the Gulf students the titles of some of my favorite books as a child. Not only will kids enoy seeing Dr. Seuss' Lorax and other figurines, but they will also have the opportunity to take in - and hopefully check out - titles like Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach or Natalie Babbit's Tuck Everlasting. These stories are classics, and because literacy is so important to the principal, staff, and student body at Gulf, having a beautiful representation of that concept is inspirational for everyone involved.
When asked about his final thoughts on the completion of this enormous project, Principal David Kooper said he felt the mural "has exceeded all expectations, is a source of pride for the school, and is a catalyst to the school's mission to bring colorful projects to the Gulf campus." He has heard many compliments from students and parents alike, stating that "if we're trying to change the culture, this mural is definitely a good start."
Kindergarten teacher Miguel Galaz felt that the mural "brings excitement to the students, but beyond that makes parents more proud to bring their children to a more enriched environment; as the mural has developed, [he] has heard students exclaim their appreciation" for the art that is being created. He, along with many other teachers and staff, agreed that the mural radiates a positive vibe not just on their campus, but also in the surrounding community.
It was certainly a positive experience, and I feel even more enthusiastic about being able to provide colorful projects to other campuses.
The Gulf Mural and experience can be summed up best in the succint words of one of the school's 5th graders, Itzel Rivera: "Cool."
For a look at the Avalon students in action throughout their painting process, explore Sharefest's flickr sets devoted entirely to the Gulf mural project here
New Semester Brings New Talent and Fervor
As the new semester unfolds, Avalon and Sharefest are joined by a new, also local, artist for our Murals for Motivations project.
Vanesa Andrade, who not only teaches art but runs a local gallery, has brought to Avalon her passion for art and creative development. She is teaching students how to plan murals, and is also inspiring those who may not always be inclined to pick up a brush.
The students' first project is on their very own campus, and is proving to be exciting for not only those involved, but also those who are merely enjoying the aesthetic beauty of the campus' art.
The students will also soon be completing murals at Fries Avenue Elementary, and Rancho Dominguez High School. It is going to be lots of work, but they are up for the challenge!
Fries Avenue Mural on its way!
Here, Sharefest tutor Sandra Rivera helps students paint a beautiful blue sky for their mural at Fries Elementary
Avalon students Samantha, Elizabeth, and Michelle taking pride in their efforts for the day.
Making connections through art
Here, a few of Avalon's most creative young men provide their neighbors at Rancho Dominguez High School with some school spirit in mural form
Avalon ladies showing off their modeling skills
These young women know how great it feels to give back to their community!
It's hard work creating lasting memories and masterpieces
Our Avalon students have been making tons of progress with their murals (having soldiered together to work on three simultaneous murals!)
It has definitely been a lot of work, but the kids greet their projects with smiles as they hear thanks pouring in from students and teachers alike.
Check out the link to see the Fries Avenue Mural's most recent shots. The Avalon students look forward to finishing up this project soon so they can go onto the next!
Blue skies on the horizon
Good examples and great art
Many of our Avalon High students are returning to their former Middle School in order to provide current students with an inspirational mural focused on the theme of Respect
Avalon students finished their mural at Rancho Dominguez High School, leaving behind a wonderful symbol of pride and spirit for their newfound friends one town over.
This past Thursday, May 2nd, Avalon students Judy and Elizabeth ventured out with artist Vanesa and tutor Sergio to map out and outline our project's next few murals at Dominguez Elementary, Hawaiian Avenue Elementary, and George De La Torre Elementary.
We can't wait until the rest of our students bring life to these pieces of art!
Moving on from Dominguez to Hawaiin
And finally De La Torre ...
Students Discover that Murals are More than Meets the Eye
Avalon High School Student, Axxel Martinez enrolled in Murals For Motivation, sponsored by State Farm – Youth Advisory Board in February of 2012. He was interested in getting his elective Service Learning Credits to round out his spring schedule, and work towards graduation.
What Axxel discovered during the mural process is that these murals are so much more than elective credits. Each wall became a canvas where he could express his artistic talents. Currently, Axxel works with his uncle painting cars at an automotive painting company and has come to learn the importance of paying attention to the details. A natural leader, and phenomenal teacher, Axxel has led a group of 5 other young men through the process with a heart of servant instruction. Working along side his peers, he graciously suggests, guides and leads the team as to the nuances of painting. He speaks to them about the strokes, the lines, the depth of color and all the while, with a perfectionist eye, he steps back constantly to look at his work to get a different perspective, smiles for a moment and goes right back to work.
The beauty of the Service Learning component is that the students are able to see the validity of their contributions to the community, take ownership in the quality and the outcome of their work, and begin to step back and look at their own lives to get a different perspective. They now see the possibilities available to them and can begin to paint a future with all the possibilities and hope of making a difference included in their life mural.