Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Keith Haring Lower Gym Mural


Sometimes schools get into a bit of a bind in terms of space. That's why teachers are constantly moving classrooms, even teaching out of trailers and off rolling carts. One space issue that EES has been confronting is Physical Education space on rainy or cold days. The EES gym is multipurpose, and gets used for lunch each day.  On rainy days, that means that P.E. classes go to the Lower Gym. For a long time, this is what the lower gym has looked liked:

Geesh.
Not the most inspiring athletic space. It  has no windows, and we couldn't redo the floor, and some ceiling tiles still need replacing.  But kids are flexible, so they make it work.  And The Most Flexible and Kind Colleague in the World, P.E. teacher Tyler Sessions, has made it work. But the idea that this has been her workspace for years made me, well, a little sad.


So, we hatched a plan. The kids would repaint it.  It wouldn't change the facts of the space, but art has many jobs. Sometimes, art fixes things.  Sometimes, art draws attention to problems that need fixing, by initiating a conversation.


Few artists in history have done that as well as artist and activist Keith Haring. His work straddled the worlds of street graffiti and fine gallery art. But in all of it, he worked to use art as a vehicle to engage his viewers in conversations on difficult topics.
Keith Haring, 1986, Logo against Family Violence
His work was a terrific jumping off point for students. Immediately accessible, colorful, energetic, and easy to relate to. Students used his style as the starting point for sketching dynamic, physically active figures.  Everyone submitted an idea, and the grade voted on their favorites to become part of the finished work.


After the work was chosen, seventeen figures in all, students and I prepped the walls by painting big washes of background color and transferring sketches to the wall with the help of an old-fashioned overhead projector. And then, they painted!


And painted...

and painted...

and painted...

and painted!

It was marvelous to see students so excited to change their own environment, working together.  To make it a little better, and to draw attention to the space.


The finished work was outlined, motion lines added.


Mrs. Sessions has been raving about her revamped classroom, and kids are enjoying it tremendously, too, trying out mimicking the poses they painted. Here are the talented artists!

And the lovely Mrs. Sessions, top left, (grinning!) in her repainted classroom.
Leaving their world better than they found it:



"Art is not a thing, it is a way." 
-Elbert Hubbard


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