by TaLeiza Calloway – firstname.lastname@example.org
Seventh- and eighth-grade students at Kennedy Community School channeled their “inner artist” to create a mural for the school. The project was funded through a grant from the Central Minnesota Arts Board, a nonprofit organization that works to promote and encourage the arts in the four-county area of Benton, Sherburne, Stearns and Wright counties.
More than 50 students at Kennedy worked with visual artist Dan Mondloch and Kennedy art teachers Jackie Bautch and Peggy Eigen to create a multi-panel mural installation depicting one of three naturally occurring biomes in Minnesota known as an “Oak Savannah.”
“It’s kind of a tribute to the way things were,” Mondloch said of the mural.
Students worked well together and displayed the kind of togetherness the program promotes. Mondloch said he was also surprised at how fast they worked. By the second day of the week-long project, students had every panel covered with paint. It usually takes a little longer.
“Art is very personal,” Mondloch said. “One of the outcomes was for them to learn to work together.”
Mondloch is a rostered artist with CMAB and in his first year as an artist-in-residence. While this was his first time in St. Joseph, he has worked on similar projects with students in Sartell and Little Falls. He said he enjoys working in school settings.
In addition to a lesson on teamwork, another learning outcome for the project was sharing how to mix colors. It worked. The panels of the mural are made of masonite and pine boards. Students used acrylic paints to paint the nature scene that includes shades of blue, brown, orange and gold. Teacher Bautch said this was the first year the students participated in a group-mural project. She said she hopes to do similar projects in the future.
“It’s pretty amazing,” Bautch said. “ They’ve really enjoyed it. It’s been a learning process for a lot of them.”
Student Peter Nelson thought painting a mural would be a difficult task. As the project wrapped up, the St. Joseph resident was glad to see how it came together.
“It was a lot easier than I thought,” Nelson said.
Erik Hennings of St. Joseph is familiar with the art of painting, but this was his first mural. The 14-year-old has assisted his father with theatrical painting to help create sets.
“It was fun,” Hennings said. “I learned a lot about teamwork.”
On the last day of painting, the spirit of teamwork couldn’t be missed. All were analyzing the final product. As clutches of students added finishing touches, Maggie Hamerlinck finalized some of the mural’s details before it was varnished.
“I like it,” Hamerlinck said. “I think it will look cool on the wall. It’s something different.”
Many students liked the idea of being able to see their work in the hall of their school. Bautch said this was one of the main perks of the project. She wanted to add permanent art to the school and what better artists than students to create it. Seventh-grade student Mohammed Ali was one of many students eager to see the mural completed.
“It’s really nice,” Ali said. “It’s going to turn out nice when we’re done.”