They each printed off numerous coloring pages from the internet.  The simple drawings were easily enlarged to the primed panels by using an overhead projector.”

At the beginning of the semester my art students were ready for something different.  They were told that we were going to look at ways to get their art out of the art room!  They all had many years of art and knew a lot about art history, multicultural art, master artists and how to express their own views through a variety of art media and techniques.  So this semester started differently when I asked them, “How can art and community be connected?”

When I say community here I am referring to the city of Maturin, Venezuela where I was in my second year teaching K-12 Art at an international school.   The school is located outside of the city and was fenced and guarded.  To look for connections right outside our gate would be great but there were mostly fields of cattle.  The gated community “next door” was the most prestigious living complex in the city, and most of the students attending the school lived there.

The school was “separated” from the local community due to its location, socioeconomic status, and it was also the only school (that I knew of) where English was the primary language.  I would say that 99% of the students spoke Spanish so the language barrier was not an issue.

Our school already had some community service projects started and so it was easy for them to put their focus towards the children’s ward at the Manuel Nuñez Tovar Hospital.  Just last Christmas the school had collected gifts to take to children.  Also we raised money through a variety of fundraising (even proceeds from the annual art auction) to repaint the ward and buy curtains for the windows.  To say the public hospital was bleak would be an understatement.  After it was freshly painted and with the new curtains, really all it needed was some uplifting art on the walls.

After a trip to the children’s floor, my high school students decided that they wanted to paint murals on the walls to decorate as well as add cheerful inspiration to the children and their families.  Our school schedule did not permit them to paint at the hospital so we bought large panels from the local home improvement store.  Each student would work on their own panel and then we could have more to place around the different sections of the ward.  As for subject matter, the average age of the children on the floor was 2 years old.  After asking them what kind of subject matter they preferred, it was decided… the children loved cartoons!

The art students started searching for images they would like to paint.  They each printed off numerous coloring pages from the internet.  The simple drawings were easily enlarged to the primed panels by using an overhead projector.  As they “copied” their selected coloring page, I kept wondering “Is this copyrighted?  Is it bad to copy a coloring book page?  Does this lack creativity?”  I think maybe yes but in our defense, we could not change the characters too much or the children at the hospital would have most likely noticed.  The art students had to research and mix the paint needed for their panels.  They also had to consider the background, most coloring pages don’t have a background so they had to decide to add one or not.   After their paintings were finished, they added varnish to protect them from the many little hands that would surely be admiring them.

At the end of the semester, the school handyman went with us to permanently affix the panels in the various locations of the children’s ward.  It was so nice to be there and look at the excitement on the faces of the children and their families.

It was our goal to extend the boundaries of artmaking and connect with the local community.  I believe that this project allowed my students to make a significant art-life connection.икониПравославни иконииконописikoniбългарски икониподаръци