Summer Art Program Adds Murals to 2 Local Schools

When students return this fall to the Academy of World Languages ​​(AWL) in Evanston and Rising Stars Preschool in Carthage, they will be greeted by colorful new murals on the walls of all schools.

The murals were created and are being painted by interns from the University of Cincinnati College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP) who work with Heartfelt Tidbits, a local program that helps refugees and immigrants to rise again.

“We work with children every day and we wanted to design things that would speak to them at their level, so we used very bright colors; we made positive affirmations in the bathroom; and very simple shapes,” says Hannah Spitzer, a rising fourth-year fine arts student who plans to become a teacher.

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She adds that the AWL mascot is a dragon, so a lot of the designs are based on that as well.

AWL, a CPS magnet school, has a student population with over 50% of English learners made up of refugees and immigrants from over 35 countries.

affirmation phrases on the bathroom wall

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The artists painted affirmation phrases on the bathroom walls.

“I wanted to create something that kids could see themselves in when people walk into the school,” says Spitzer. “Letting them know they are welcome and see themselves in the art around school and in the classroom is very important and giving them the confidence they need to face their day. Life is tough, and talking to some of these families has really opened my eyes to the quality of life here in America.”

Besides art, Heartfelt Tidbits says the interns also provide social and academic enrichment activities for students at both schools. Spitzer was also an art teaching intern at Rising Stars Carthage. There, she was able to work with 10 to 15 students per class, offering art programs that aren’t regularly offered, she says.

people paint a navy blue wall surrounding a door

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She wants people to know that art is important, even though it’s often one of the first topics — along with music and other arts programs — when budgets are tight.

“I think it’s so important to get art out into the community. Not only is it a creative outlet for us, but so kids can see there’s a place in the world for art. because it’s kind of on the decline in schools. … I just think it’s super important to show the community that it can be an amazing thing (and) it can be very calming for kids.

dragons flank a gate

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The AWL mascot is the dragon.

Kayleen C. Rice