Walking through the halls of Frankfort High School (FHS) these days, you might notice things look a little different. That’s because, with the help of teaching artist Alfredo Escobar, students in Spanish and art classes at FHS recently designed and painted a tradition-inspired mural on the once drab walls outside the school’s cafeteria.
The mural, completed in early February, was the culminating project of a two-week artist residency with Berea graphic and fine artist, Alfredo Escobar, a teaching artist in the Kentucky Arts Council’s Teaching Artists Directory. FHS and Escobar partnered to create the mural through a 2013 Teaching Art Together grant from the arts council. The painting is made up of images that uniquely represent the school and the community of students’ within it. The mural was inspired by Escobar’s work “Mi Vida,” an acrylic piece that depicts the artist’s life from childhood to adulthood. Escobar worked with multiple classes over the two-week period to brainstorm concepts and incorporate those ideas into the mural design.
“I never tell the students exactly what they should paint; I lead them into their own decision-making process through which they choose their own content, spatial organization and color scheme,” said Escobar. “The emphasis of this project is not on the realism of the final product; rather, it is on the students’ expression of themselves and what is relevant to their lives.”
The full-time artist completes residencies much like the one at FHS with students and schools across the state. Using his own career and creative process as an example, Escobar strives to teach students how to creatively express themselves, whether through art, writing or other career paths. Parents, teachers and fellow students were invited to view the finished product.
The Teaching Art Together grant allows teachers to collaborate with practicing, professional artists on the design and implementation of residencies like Escobar’s. Ranging from one to four weeks, the residencies provide teachers with the tools to continue to incorporate the arts into the curriculum long after the artist is gone. In Frankfort High’s case, Escobar’s residency has allowed teachers to incorporate more art concepts into Spanish classes because the students have a better understanding of the steps and processes involved.
“The mural project was a great way to bring our student body together and give them something to be proud of,” said Tabatha Doyle, one of the teachers involved in bringing Escobar to the school. “The students take great pride in their work and our mural has motivated them to continue art projects throughout the entire school.”
Schools and teachers may apply for the next round of Teaching Art Together grants until April 15.
Alex Newby, program assistant