Senior Art and Design students from the University of Indianapolis brightened up the hallways at Hornet Park Elementary School and the faces of its students by working with first grade students to paint a mural for their ART 473 Pre-Art Therapy Field Capstone course, according to professor of the class and Assistant Professor in the College of Applied Behavioral Sciences Michelle Itczak. She said that the project was an opportunity for her students to experience working in different settings and with different age groups.
“My students are already getting experience doing art one-on-one with people, but this was more of an opportunity to kind of create a sense of community for the school and have them all contribute and be a part of it,” Itczak said. “Seeing the dynamics between working with somebody individually on their own project, versus something that several people can work on and the community can experience, it creates a sense of cohesion and gives the [Hornet Park] kids a sense of pride in their school.”
Itczak said she had not planned to do the mural at the start of the semester. She said that she was at Hornet Park to prepare for a research grant she had been given when she noticed there was construction being done at the school. While with Hornet Park’s principal Erin Probus, she overheard one of the construction workers say that a wall was ready to be painted.
“I was like, ‘Can we do a mural on it?’ And she was in agreement,” Itczak said. “Then I came back and looked at my syllabus and found some times that we would be able to go, and planned it and executed it. It was kind of a last minute opportunity that I saw and wanted to take advantage of.”
Students went and created the outline for the mural before they had the first grade students come in small groups to paint it in, according to senior pre-art therapy major Kaitlynn Davidson. The idea behind the mural was school spirit and something that the kids would be able to take part in, Itczak said.
“That’s where we did the ‘HP’ for Hornet Park, and we put their school mascot on there because we thought that would be appealing to the kids,” Itczak said. “It was more simplistic, ‘What could we do quickly in the limited amount of time?’ and ‘What would be developmentally appropriate that the kids could help with?’ Those were kind of the two big factors.”
Davidson said that her favorite part of working on the mural was interacting with the kids. She said it was neat to see the different ways the kids approached painting.
“It was just a lot of fun to get to talk with them and see them get excited about all the colors on the wall because they’re doing a lot of construction in the school right now,” Davidson said. “Just walking into the school, there was so much gray and blandness, and so that mural just brightens everything up and makes it feel more exciting to be in the school. And you could sense that, with all the classes walking by or the students that were coming to help paint, there was just energy immediately lifted up as soon as I saw the colors.”
Itczak said that she hopes her students see how great community projects can be after working on the mural. She also hopes that they see the impact art and color can have on a space. Every person that walked by the mural was smiling and excited about it, she said.
“I think it’s important for them also to see the importance of giving back to the community,” Itczak said. “When you have a skill set that is not easily accessible, or that not everyone has, to be able to use that to benefit others. I think that’s a really important characteristic to have as well.”