I was approached by NalandaWay to help with a community project they were spearheading to bring groups of students and artists together in a school communities to create a murals. The idea was not only to improve the environment, but connect and integrate arts into making positive relationships. I loved this project so much I think I’m mentioning it twice on this blog. I had never posted the before and after pictures together, but I will today.
In early February I went to the school to choose the place for the mural. The Principal and a a co-worker went with me to help coordinate and choose an appropriate place for the mural. We decided it would be good to place the mural in the hallway, so that when kids saw it, they would be able to see it and interact with it. The hallway itself was an elementary part of the school contained in a larger high school. I would be working with kids in standard four, but the mural would be right outside of the door of the standard one and two classrooms.
I was so excited to be working with kids by this point. I had been out of my own classroom since December 22nd, so I felt like it was about time to have some interaction with kids again. The hard part would be deciding what would go on the wall. I had seen so many murals throughout the city of Chennai, what could I do for this school that could be a little different but also represent the school?
For some reason my mind immediately stayed with the word “school” and I decided on a “school of fish”. I found out that, I actually would have to draw the mural and create the idea. There just wasn’t enough time to include the students input on everything. However, they would be able to paint, mix and choose colors.
The mural had to be created and completed in about 2 1/2 days. It was a fast turn around, but I had some help. Two fantastic volunteers from Fidelity came to help me sketch out the mural and do some preliminary cleaning and painting. Without their help, it never would have been completed.
The second day, the kids would come paint. AND PAINT THEY DID! They loved seeing the wall come to life and already you could notice a change in the environment from just the buzz that was happening with the student painters. They had a blast mixing colors and getting to work. Many of the students passed up playing in the school yard so they could help paint more. They were so focused and dedicated. So many of the students were eager to speak with me in the English words they knew. The students shared how proud they were of their painting with their other friends and teachers, and when students were being picked up after school, some students took their family back to the wall to show off what they did.
Day three, was all in the details. I was working by myself to just clean it up a little and add the details that may have been missing. Many students came by to check in with me to see how it was going. They offered to help again, so I let them. They helped layer some of the details, and clean up some line work and mix colors. One little girl came to sit with me and talked to me a while. She told me stories about what she ate for lunch, and who took care of her. She told me her favorite foods, her favorite cartoon, and what she liked to do in her free time. She was a sweet, gentle, sensitive girl. I tried to persuade her to go back to her class, but she seemed to have no interest in leaving my side. At first I was a little worried that she may get in trouble, but no one came looking for her, and the other teachers who passed by us seemed to think that this was kind of a normal behavior for her. She wanted, maybe needed, some attention and kindness, and I was willing to give it to her.
Below, are some before, during and after pictures. It really was one of my most favorite experiences in India. So much so, that I would love to replicate the experience.