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   from the issue of July 26, 2007

Art project reaches out to area youth


A course led by Sandra Williams is offering art students - both college and middle school - real-world experience in community art projects and grant writing.

GROUP PROJECT - Park Middle School students work with UNL students on their mural. Courtesy photo.
GROUP PROJECT - Park Middle School students work with UNL students on their mural. Courtesy photo.

Through the course, "Art in the Community," the class completed public art projects in Lincoln's Park and Humann middle schools in the spring and worked with nearly 1,000 children at the two schools.

Thirteen UNL students signed up for the course in the spring semester. Williams said about half were studio art majors from Art and Art History, and the other half were art education majors in Education and Human Sciences.

"The whole concept of service-learning has been very valuable in my own experience," said Williams, associate professor of art. "Students want hands-on learning that is useful to them."

The students began by studying books on art activism. They also learned about grant writing and preparing a budget.

Their first public art project was at Park Middle School, where they helped students in Nissa Sturgeon's art classes complete a mural for their school. The 5-foot by 15-foot mural features four trees, each representing a season. The students at Park traced their hands in clay and added texture. The hands overlap to create the leaves on the tree.

"I love being able to expose my students to different types of art, artists and processes," Sturgeon said. "The UNL students were able to work one-on-one with our students. Usually there is only one teacher, so here there were many more people for students to get help, opinions, share ideas. The students loved it, and their hand is permanently installed on Park's wall."

Bachelor of Fine Arts sophomore Meredith Sandberg said the students were excited to see the process of the mural unfold.

"I don't think they understood at first how much involvement they would have," she said. "They look up to us, and they were excited to see it all put together. When they get older, they'll realize what they were a part of and will understand the process."

Sturgeon said the mural has received a positive response from others at the school and the community.

"It has been amazing how many people have responded to it," she said. "This has been a way for our students to invest in our community, and it gives them a wider audience. They leave their mark on our school. Art brings us all together and is universally understood."

The second public art project was a 6-foot by 15-foot mural at Humann Elementary, where students worked with first- through fifth-graders in Kathy Stewart's art classes. Here, the students created a flat mosaic of a Nebraska landscape that will be displayed in the school's cafeteria.

The Humann students also drew four pictures of Nebraska featuring a Sandhill Crane, Chimney Rock, the top of the State Capitol with the Sower sculpture, and a farm scene.

The four drawings formed the basis of four additional murals created by the students, which will also be displayed in the hallways at Humann. UNL students Sandberg, Wasson and Bachelor of Fine Arts senior David Gries came up with the idea.

Another component to the class was that each UNL student wrote a grant proposal for his or her own community art project.

Williams said the class will be offered again in the fall. The class will work with students at Park Middle School and the Art and Humanities Focus School.



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