A colorful mural designed and painted by Fredonia High School students will adorn the school hallway, thanks to the vision of art teacher Mackenzie Sheldon and the mentoring partnership she created with a group of students at SUNY Fredonia.
Through their connection to the Art Forum, members of the High School Art Club see how student artists work in their work. “This experience will give them the opportunity to work with other role models of artists, discuss how artists come up with ideas and possibly learn new painting techniques,” said Ms. Sheldon, a 2015 Fredonia student.
“Brainstorming can be a place where high school students struggle, as it is such an abstract concept. The mural that is being created will become part of the visual history of FMS, helping to inspire a sense of pride and imagination in students who see it, ”said Sheldon.
Art Forum members have significant experience working on a large scale so they can generously share tips and perspectives on how students can make their ideal mural. “The mission is to work in collaboration with (high school) students and enable them to create something to be proud of,” explained Angelina Ginsberg, president of the Art Forum and Senior Ceramics major at Lindenhurst.
“After our first meeting with the sixth graders at the club, they were eager to start thinking about ideas and have already come up with designs on paper that we will expand on,” Ms. Ginsberg said. “They like the idea of using FMS letters and words that represent school.” School paints will also be incorporated.
According to school principal Paula Troutman, Sheldon, who holds a degree in visual arts and new media from SUNY Fredonia, “caught the ball” to form a partnership relying on her connections with her alma mater, including associate professor of visual arts and New Media Peter Tucker, who linked Sheldon to the Art Forum.
Mr. Tucker, the group’s faculty advisor, recalled how Sheldon came to him to see if there was a good way to get her students and SUNY Fredonia students to work together. As it turned out, Art Forum students “liked the idea” of collaborating with high school students, Tucker recalled.
From Ms. Troutman’s perspective, the mission of the partnership is to create mentoring between students and her high school students that provides them with a real-world connection to the work they do in the art classroom. “I hope that the artwork created will bring positivity, pride and stronger ownership of the students over their school,” she added.
The School Art Club is large – with over 40 members in grades 5 to 8 – who meet alternately for weeks in small groups. Members of the Art Forum Executive Board meet regularly with smaller groups until the end of the semester.
Ambitious artists sent rough sketches of mural ideas and reviewed them together, identifying which elements they liked. Sheldon compiled a list of their findings which she synthesized into the final composition. She then showed the students the composition and got additional feedback on what else they would like to see on the mural.
“They’ve been thinking about ideas for this mural that help present feelings and ideas related to their high school experience,” Troutman said.
“We are in partnership early on, but we hope to see older, more advanced art students think, design, create and master the product of a work of art,” she added.
The mural will feature a set of different characters, created by a seventh grader, representing the student body, and the words the students “brainstormed” will pop up on three ribbons. Creation, fun, involvement, courage and kindness are among the words, Sheldon said.
“The rest of the space includes pictures that represent their experiences at Fredonia High School, as well as some interesting doodle elements,” Sheldon added. FMS and year will also be included.
“FMS students are excited to be able to work with SUNY Fredonia students,” Sheldon said.
Art Forum students also give encouraging support to the emerging partnership.
“So far, our e-board is excited to be able to work with students. It’s a nice break from our study work and allows us to collaborate with younger students who enjoy art just as much as we do, ”Ginsberg said.
The Art Forum, one of the older student groups on campus, hosts creative projects and programs that help inspire art and events across campus. Community engagement is of particular interest to current members.
The finished mural, which will be made on a 4 x 8-foot plywood panel, is expected to be placed in a hallway near the high school’s main office in early June, Sheldon suggested. “They’re extremely excited to start painting,” she added. Blocking in a large area of paint began last week.
“We are always looking for positive role models for our students and I believe this experience will give our students other role models besides our teachers, from whom they will learn and grow as artists and young adults,” Troutman said. The Art Forum sees the partnership as “just the beginning” of new opportunities for SUNY Fredonia students to enter high school classrooms to grow and learn.
“I hope this can be a lasting partnership so that one day our hallways will be filled with positive, impressive works of art that help create the positive environment we want for our students,” Troutman noted.
“I think SUNY Fredonia is a great resource for our district, and I also think we can offer SUNY Fredonia students great experiences,” Troutman said. Partnerships in other subjects, such as science, mathematics and social sciences, could also be established.
Tucker is excited to see this campus and the connection to the community, especially since it started with the arrival of the alum. “I was also pleased that my high school student asked to join the Art Club after learning that she would be working with students,” he said.