Silvermine’s Art Partners and Silvermine Elementary School celebrate 20 years of mural artHamlet Hub. Gwen North Reiss. June 26, 2020.
Silvermine Arts Center’s outreach education program, Art Partners, and the Silvermine Elementary School in Norwalk (a Dual Language Magnet School) were able to reach a milestone this year with the 20th anniversary of the fifth-grade mural project. Just weeks before the recent pandemic closed all public schools throughout the state of Connecticut, the fifth graders at Silvermine Elementary completed their parting gift of a collaborative mural gracing the school’s main hallway. Every year the fifth graders create a 9’ x 20’ mural, a legacy that remains as they move on to middle school. Past subjects have included “The Rainforest,” “A Multicultural Feast,” and “Birds and Insects of New England.” This year’s theme was “Hoyt Island: Nature and Environmental Awareness.”
“This is an important literacy and visual arts program,” said Missy Savard, Silvermine’s Coordinator of Outreach Education. “Research is an integral part of this large-scale art project that is embraced by the entire school community. This year we are highlighting a twenty-year commitment to this program as well as celebrating a mini miracle. Ordinarily, the murals are finished toward the end of the school year, but for 2020, we got a head start and began the work in January. As a result, the painting is complete and the fifth graders at this special neighborhood school are leaving their creative efforts as a gift for all who follow.” The 12-day program is led by Teaching Artist Marta Kot and Silvermine Elementary School teacher Lindsey Buono. Kot, Buono and the other fifth grade teachers and staff guided 88 fifth-grade students as they researched topics, create sketches, and answered questions about their research. One student studied the Belted Kingfisher—making notes on its habitat, diet, and migration patterns. Others researched animal species or particular plants and flowers to learn about their characteristics, structures, colors, and scientific names.
With the help of the Norwalk Land Trust, which was deeded the property in 1979, Hoyt Island, one of the Norwalk Islands, was recently designated a bird and nature sanctuary. Students had the opportunity to learn about environmental concerns and about the unique qualities of Long Island Sound’s groups of islands. Sharing the topic of Hoyt Island in the form of the mural makes for a story of collaboration, community and commitment to the environment—brought to life by the fifth-grade students.
While they gained an understanding of sustainability and human impact, the students also learned to explore spatial relationships and a sense of volume, balance and composition in their art. During the painting phase, detailed sketches and written research are hung nearby on the wall alongside fifth-grade hands working with a variety of brush types and techniques. Kot, who is a Silvermine faculty member as well as a Teaching Artist, has guided the mural project for all 20 years, so the anniversary is also a milestone for her. “The murals tell a story and are dialogical performance pieces,” said Kot. “In the most recent one, we are reminded of the beauty of nature on our shared globe through a small island on the Norwalk coast where over 150 birds migrate. The development of a mural as a group project enhances a sense of belonging and social awareness, and feelings of connectedness. The audience, the children, faculty and staff, walking by, were ongoing members of this process. The mural, with its sheer size and vibrant colors, is a virtual space for dialogue and reflection for everyone.”
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