2nd Year, Art Education Major
Murals: Peace, Place and Identity
The collaborative mural activity was a very positive learning experience and provided these future-teachers with information to guide these them through similar endeavors. The murals acted as a creative exercise where one accepted and rejected ideas with respect.
ARTE 320 ‘Multi-Disciplinary Approaches to Art and Teaching’ is a second year course offered in Art Education at Concordia University that explores ideas surrounding collaboration and community. Our professor, Linda Szabad-Smyth, invited us to participate in an experiential learning activity that consisted of groups of students collaboratively creating murals. Linda prepared the class for this exercise by showing several examples of peace murals that were created in different places and we discussed the impact they had on their communities. We spoke about how these collaborative murals brought people together to create a message of peace. The purpose of the assignment was for us to experience first hand collaborative work and to have an understanding of how we can use this type of project as art educators in a community setting.
Art has always been a part of human activity whether as an individual or collective expression, providing an expressive space where people can exchange and learn from and about one another (Anderson & Milbrandt, 2005). In order for us to experience making a collaborative work of art to gain a better understanding of one another, our class was divided into three groups of approximately seven students. We were given an hour and a half to complete a mural with the theme of Peace, place and identity. There were no restrictions for the size and materials of the mural, although the time constraint played a crucial role. It was exciting to see the result of this project. Each group described the creation of their distinct and unique mural, sharing with the class their collaborative creative process and role of their synergy in the completion of the mural. The first group, Spirits, used canvas and acrylic paints. Their chosen method was to start painting without any discussion of intention. Rather than in verbal communication, their process was based in intuitive consensus, as students started to paint animals on the canvas, taking turns. When one pre-service teacher began a section of the mural, another finished, as if all was meticulously planned. They created a nature scene with all types of animals and a unifying colour scheme, resulting in a cohesive aesthetic. This group designed an imaginary environment where all their identities could live peacefully in one place.
The ideas of the second group, Bringing Us Together, were so varied that they opted to have each participant create an individual piece for each theme of Peace, place and identity, brought together within a quilt format for visual unity. The group used a paper support and mixed media to create their mural. Every participant had a column of three squares in which to complete his or her respective imagery. To unify everyone’s images both physically and metaphorically, a string was applied to the mural. The dark coloured thread had no boundaries as it travelled within and around the squares. The ordered structure of the quilt was contrasted with the flowing organic movement of the thread, which also represented how people from different places and identities need to be joined together to create peace.
The third group, Growth, had a brainstorming session to search for ideas of how to represent their diverse identities. This was a peaceful negotiation of “That’s a good idea,” “ I don’t like this idea because…”, or “What do you think if we…”. This exchange of ideas was crucial to the success and enjoyment of creating their mural. This group used kraft paper, coloured chalk and acrylic paints. They worked together to create one image on which all the members agreed. This process was an exercise in listening and responding in a harmonious and respectful manner and made the time spent together enjoyable. The group opted to use the symbol of the tree to represent the three themes. Starting from the roots of the tree, each participant’s foot was outlined with her/his chosen coloured chalk. Each root was personalized to represent the individual. The journey of each student began at their distinct root and merged with one another in the trunk area, representing the university as a place of shared experience. Once their studies are completed, each member will leave this shared experience, the trunk, and branch off on their individual journeys.
The collaborative mural activity was a very positive learning experience and provided information to guide these future teachers through similar endeavors. The murals acted as a creative exercise where one accepted and rejected ideas with respect. Through this process, we built on one another’s contributions and created a shared place and identity. As a result, stronger bonds were forged amongst classmates and reinforced an overall sense of community within the group.
Anderson, T. & Milbrandt, M.K. (2005). Art for life: Authentic instruction in art. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.