Green Star Movement is a nonprofit arts organization that provides the youth in Chicago with the opportunity to participate in public art projects in the city, all while making a difference in their communities and getting a behind the scenes look at how an original mural is produced, designed, & installed.
The mural program, which is part of Green Stars partnership with After-School Matters, just completed its spring design session at Farragut Career Academy in Little Village last Thursday. The program concluded with an end of the year celebration and showcase where the teens presented their final design for the mural to family, friends and faculty members.
In the months before the day of the final reveal the teens immersed themselves in a 10-week session that met three times a week in one of the art classrooms at the high school. Participating in the program meant that they could either receive a check for their time or, community hours that are required for graduation.
“My favorite part of the program was making our sketchbooks,” said Berenice Sanchez, a 17-year-old junior at Farragut. “It started off being a plain green folder with no emotion, nothing in it, then we got magazines, cut out certain pictures, edited them all together, and made it our own—whether it was something cool or weird—it was our own.”
Sanchez was selected to be one of the student ambassadors during the spring design session. As a local in Little Village she hopes the mural will have a positive effect on the community. “I want everybody that walks by and sees it to be like, “Wow, how could something beautiful like this be in this neighborhood,” because there’s so much violence, so much aggressiveness, so much graffiti—people are going to be amused and influenced just like us.”
Sanchez and her peer collaborators used their sketchbooks as a place to jot down ideas during field trips to art museums, store their still life sketches, and photos they collected throughout research sessions.
The teens were exposed to a type of mural making called Bricolage, which is a fusion of tile, mosaic, painting, sculpture, and photography. Their final mural design included aspects such as unity, peace, and striving to achieve.
“I want this mural to make other people feel happier and more confident when they’re walking towards school so they won’t be afraid of getting bullied,” said Oscar Soto, a 17-year-old junior and student ambassador number two. “We’re trying to show, with this mural, that we want peace and no disrespecting.”
Other students, such as Corey Williams, a 15-year-old freshmen and Celeste Risper who is also fifteen, said they hoped the mural would encourage people in the neighborhood to follow it’s message and to teach people to say no to violence.
All of the teens in the Farragut mural club enjoyed the chance to develop their drawing skills while sketching real people, fake flowers, and various objects from around the room. They also spent time as a group admiring each others work and engaging in creative criticism.
During one still life session the teens drew Risper as she posed peacefully in the center of the classroom while holding a cello. After, they huddled around a table with all their work lying before them and discussed who had best captured Rispers’ essence.
“I hope they gather a sense of accomplishment, a sense of being a part of their community in a positive manner, and a sense of responsibility about being in the program,” said Michael Taylor, 28, who has been an instructor with Green Star for three years.
Taylor also believes it’s great that the teens want to be part of a public art project and it’s a chance for them to say something positive to the neighbors and get some work out there. “I like the idea of them coming away with on the job experience, being able to work with their peers, managers, older people, bosses, and getting comfortable with that relationship.”
Over summer of 2013, the teens at Farragut will be able to participate in the Green Star Bricolage West program where they’ll get the chance to install the 25 x 210 foot mural they designed for their school.
While programming at Farragut may have ended, the mosaic program at Rumble Arts Center in Humboldt Park had just received a 5-week extension for the mural that will be installed at Inter-American Magnet School in Lakeview.
Daniela Arteaga, a 17-year-old senior from Chicago has enjoyed the program since the first day it began and enjoyed working with others while learning new things. “I feel like I gained skills in designing because before I came to this I never really knew how to draw and I improved my drawing skills.”
She also noted, “Even working together with people on something was good. I’ve never worked with murals or mosaics, so now I feel like I know the materials and how to work and to use them.”
It’s not just the youth in the community who come away with a valuable learning experience, it’s also the creative individuals who want to lend a hand and become a part of the mural preparation.
Whitney Richardson, a 25-year-old freelance writer and Green Star Movement volunteer, started attending the Friday design sessions in February after reading about it on the Chicago artist’s resource.
“I love working in groups, and it had been a while since I was able to work with high school aged youth,” she said. “I think it’s super important for those age groups to be exposed to life outside of the classroom.”
Richardson had never worked on mosaics before but as a creative person, she said she was drawn to the prospect of learning a new medium, one that is so traditional and abstract. “The experience has offered me a context, a vehicle and the support to explore.”
By Rachel Syms