Building Community through Public Art Making at MSAP

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Students at Brooklyn’s Middle School for Art & Philosophy are building confidence and cultivating community through a public mural project.

UAP Teaching Artist Elizabeth Traina reports on some exciting public art-making happening in her visual art residency at Brooklyn’s Middle School for Art and Philosophy.

Working on a red brick wall in this bustling middle school’s cafeteria, MSAP students are experiencing the powerful effects of community art-making.

Attracted by the sight of paint brushes and ladders, fellow students and teachers pause to watch Elizabeth’s class engaged in painting a recreation of Raphael’s famous mural “The School of Athens” the original of which can be seen at the Vatican.

The figures in the painting are icons; representations of classical philosophers, they are stand-ins for some of the major pillars of western philosophy.

In line with Urban Arts Methodology, which takes students from experiencing a seminal work of art to creating their own original artwork, students are responding to this visual art “masterpiece” by working together to paint a mural that makes the teachings of the ancient Greeks visible, known, and integrated into the modern MSAP school environment and culture.

Says Elizabeth, “In our adaptation of The School of Athens, both MSAP Students and the original philosophers will be visually represented. The fresco, framed by an arch, is a passageway…and young people can enter the mural and engage with different philosophical ideas and fundamental teachings that are relevant to their lives today. Students involved in the project are learning important artistic tools such as depth of field and perspective, as well online casino as color theory and general painting techniques.”

Besides learning fundamental painting technique, one of the challenges MSAP students have is to find ways to simultaneously honor the classical themes of the painting, while acknowledging the diversity of student voice and identity at their school.

To help achieve this outcome, students from UAP Teaching Artist Mike Cordero’s Design Class have been invited to visit the mural club to offer their feedback, share ideas, and lend a hand.

“Everyone in the school…students, administrators, even parents, are invited to come raise a paintbrush. We want everyone make their contribution to this important community mural project.”

Week by week the art work is coming together. Stay tuned as the students of MSAP work to fully develop their ideas for the mural.

Elizabeth says that there is “a dynamite energy” building around the mural, and she expects that students will bring the project to completion in the spring of 2012.