Friendship Academy Students Display Creativity Through Murals

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Artist in Residency Program Sponsored by Pennsylvania Council on the Arts

Local Pittsburgh artist Alison Zapata spent several weeks with students at The Watson Institute Friendship Academy creating a series of murals depicting Pittsburgh scenes and icons. The results of their efforts are six murals that will adorn the hallways of the school in Pittsburgh’s Friendship neighborhood for many years to come.

Alison brainstormed ideas with groups of students responsible for each mural. As the respective themes for each mural came together, Alison guided the students through the process to turn their visions into reality. Murals depicted famous musicians, sports figures and other dignitaries from Pittsburgh, as well as Pittsburgh’s famous skyline and rivers.

“The students came together with many ideas to form one collective voice through visual art” said Alison. “The process of immersion in the arts created an atmosphere in which the students were able to transform from the individual to a team. Their voice, success, and gift of sharing will be on display for years to come. I was moved by their enthusiasm and persistence to achieve.”

Comments solicited from students who helped to create the paintings were insightful, including:

  •     I liked working together with friends
  •     I liked having the help of a professional artist, Ms. Allison
  •     I liked learning teamwork and how to get along with others

These comments demonstrate that the students learned so much more than how to create art.    Teamwork and togetherness were a common theme. Many comments also referenced the enjoyment of “splatter” painting, a method where the brush does not actually touch the canvas, but the paint is thrown at the canvas from the brush with a flick of the wrist.

Ms. Zapata’s participation with this project was made possible through the Arts in Education Partnership of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency. It is funded by the citizens of Pennsylvania through the annual legislative appropriation. This residency was administered locally by Gateway to the Arts. The Pennsylvania Council on the Arts is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. The Pennsylvania Council on the Arts’ Arts in Education Division provided administrative and financial support.

Lauri Kragness, Education Director at Friendship Academy, facilitated the application for the Artist in Residence program. “The Watson Institute Friendship Academy is dedicated to harnessing the potential in every child and nurturing the spirit of ‘curiosity seeker’ in each of them” said Ms. Kragness. “Friendship Academy recognizes the essential role the arts play in helping all students to succeed in school, life and work. With this purpose in mind, the Friendship Academy Mural Project, in partnership with Gateway to the Arts and the PA Council of the Arts fostered creativity, self-esteem, and teamwork. Gateway to the Arts provided our students the opportunity to work with an artist who brought her love of the creative world to our school. Our students benefitted from this experience and are proud of their collaborative murals.”

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Shari Bruce
The Watson Institute
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