High School and College students tend to enjoy real-life projects and learn so much about art and working with others when helping a community to create murals. Included on this page are tips for instructors who want to have their students collaborate with a community for mural design and/or painting, though the ideas also work for other types of design projects as well.
WAYS STUDENTS CAN HELP
- Help a community figure out a plan
- Do the design (art or graphic design courses)
- Do graphic design such as posters and social media to help spread the word about the upcoming project
- Paint the mural!
- Help with Community Paint Days
- Take some of the financial pressure off of a community
WHY COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT?
- Great experience for the students
- Good teaching opportunities are found everywhere in this process
- Students learn about the greater community outside of school
- A student may get a small monetary amount or will at least get some recognition
STUDENTS LEARN HOW TO:
- To work within restrictions set up by the client or by boundaries of the project
- Brainstorm collectively
- Be bold to make suggestions to clients
- To receive criticism from the client
- To understand that there are many viable approaches by seeing work from all the other students
- Work on a team (optional)
- When the project is more than a school assignment, when there is a real possibility for actual use, students tend to work harder/learn more on the project.
- Sometimes the person or organization may give a monetary award or gift certificate to the designer of the chosen work.
- Good will of your school extended to the community
FROM BETNI KALK: I work for a Jesuit university (Creighton) so this is an obvious way for the Jesuit mission to be evident
- Real projects = variety to your semester
TYPES OF COLLABORATION
1. Designed with Community / Painted by Community
2. Designed with Community / Painted by Artist(s) and Community
3. Designed with Community / Painted by Artist(s)
- Your own department, school or university
- Clubs and groups on campus
- Non-profit organization
- Your neighborhood, associations or alliancesSMALLER IS BETTER FOR STUDENT PROJECTS
Avoid projects involving large numbers of community members. All of the many ideas that will be thrown at students can be overwhelming and difficult to sift through
It is a good idea to work with a community that already has a general plan, timeline and a budget!
- If they need help with that, the instructor can provide guides and a checklist for them. Communitymurals.info will have helpful info here in a few months.
- Though if your class has time, this can be a valuable meeting for students to attend.
What the designer/artists will need to know:
- Aesthetic/style of mural – the community partner should have a few examples to show the artist. If no images are provided, that is extra work for the professor or student group to find and discuss with the community.
If the design is to be printed and installed, the style is mostly irrelevant except if a design student is doing the design instead of a painter, skill sets might vary.
If design is to be painted, these example images should be determined by whom will be painting: non-art-professional community members, paid artists, students, varied ages, etc.
Color preferences or color palette
Which to avoid – which must include?
Restricted color palettes also make community paint days much easier!
- Which wall, building or site?
Has permission been granted from building owner?
– External or internal wall, fence, building?
– Distance from viewer should impact the intricacy of design
– Car viewing & at what speed?
– Pedestrians walk past?
– Coming onto to it and viewable from distance or just drive/walk past with mural to left or right only?
- To be painted or printed/installed?
- Subject matter decisions
Ideally, community should have at least a general idea before meeting with the designer(s).- One basic theme?
– Multiple themes? If so, what is priority – what should be the main focus or foci?
THE DESIGN MEETINGS
Meetings with the students & community are more efficient if the community already has a plan. Instructor should meet a couple times with the community ahead of students.
If the meeting with the professor is the first mural meeting, this first meeting should be long or split into two.
- Students Visit the site + Meeting the community members = direction on the mural design & brainstorming together. Additionally, video & photograph the location if not already done.
- Students shows initial design(s), community gives feedback
- Students shows final design(s) again, community gives further feedback
- Final meeting, celebration
- Decide on strategy, paint whole background first?
- Donations? Paint, lifts or scaffolding, basic supplies
- Organize paints into small quantities
- Select appropriate brushes and other painting materials.
- Painting days with community?
- Rainy Days? What to do instead?
WAYS TO FIND COMMUNITY PARTNERS & PROJECTS
This usually is easier if an instructor is already involved in a community and is known for their own art/design, over time – community partners will find the instructor as they hear of projects in other communities or parts of a community.
- Contact a potential community partner if you like their organization to see how you can be of help
- If your university has an academic service office, they can put instructor in touch with potential community partners
- A local non-profit art center can recommend an instructor/school for projects, let them know of that you are looking for community partners for a mural or other project.FROM BETNI KALK
- As a designer and muralist myself, if I’m approached with a project with a generous timeline and the project aligns enough with a project in the syllabus, then I will offer it for a class project.
- I work with a high school student art mentoring program called the Kent Bellows program through the Joslyn Museum in Omaha, NE – perhaps your local art center or museum has a similar opportunity?
TIPS FOR SUCCESS
- Realistic goals outlined to/understood by community partner
- Be sure to allow enough time, this usually means start at the very beginning of the semester for a project (this means instructor begins talks with community partner weeks or months before the semester begins)
- Some professors might need to change their normal class times or add a lab time in the week specifically for work in the community
- Avoid projects involving large numbers of community members. All of the many ideas that will be thrown at students can be overwhelming and difficult to sift through.
- These projects are recommended for advanced courses or for students who aren’t overwhelmed with technical or basic issues
At the end of the project…
IT IS SO WORTH IT!
- Clients are either happy with the result or now have a much better idea about the direction they wish to go with
- Students have learned about their own design or painting aesthetics and how to use it while still abiding by client wishes
- Students are are proud of their work because they have thought and worked through a good/difficult design or painting problem.
- You have connected yourself, your school and your student to a community!
This content is a work-in-progress, please email us helpful additional content or changes at firstname.lastname@example.org.
EXTERNAL HELPFUL LINKS:
Public Art with Children: Think of the Sandbox
by Ginny Sykes