School of Education student teacher leaves lasting impression through student art project

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The project stared the art teacher in the face practically from the time he started his job. Rob Freese, BS’08 in visual arts from the Indiana University School of Education, said the subject of putting a new mural in a south hallway at Batchelor Middle School came up even before he was gainfully employed.

“I'm pretty sure in my job interview they asked me if I could replace it, about three years ago,” Freese said. After some time, a student teacher from the IU School of Education came up with a thought. “She approached me with the mural idea and I said 'Hey, why don't we have the students come up with this mural?’”

The idea came from spring 2013 student teacher Rachel Bollero, who has just earned her bachelor’s degree in art education from the IU School of Education and is continuing study toward a fine arts degree she’ll complete next year. Working with Freese during the semester, she took up his challenge and came up with a concept. “I came across this project on a web site on a way smaller scale, and so I decided we should try it out and it grew to the size of this mural,” Bollero said. “So we decided it was a great idea and we started researching from there.”

In the end, Bollero and Freese directed 120 Batchelor 7th and 8th grade students over a period of about two weeks to create panels that would come together as a dramatic, black and white mural display covering about a 16 foot span of wall, about eight feet high. The mural is comprised of hands forming sign language spelling out “diversity,” each hand different than the other in a manner emphasizing the point of the mural’s subject. A word cloud of text concerning the topic floats around the hands, with words in English and other languages. The actual word “diversity” is spelled out along the bottom of the mural.

The image is striking and effective. A single glance doesn’t give the full impression of the piece. A second and third look reveals new words. Detail on the hands (drawings based on photos of actual Batchelor student models) becomes more apparent with further examination. “This mural is on the hall by my classroom, and the mural provides a lesson to us every day,” wrote Claire Schaffer, Batchelor Library Media Specialist in a comment on the Monroe County Community School Corporation’s Facebook entry about the mural.

Making the completed project more special was that the students had little idea about the finished product until it went on the wall. “They didn't know what it was,” Bollero said. “I made it on a small scale, cut it up, and they all got a piece of it and they didn't know what it was so they all had to work to do their piece and put them together. We stressed the fact that if one person didn't finish their piece, the mural was going to have a hole in it, so it was a good motivator. And it was also cool for them to see the pieces come together, even though they're all different. In the end it makes a beautiful mural, which is a whole other diversity thing.”

Freese and Bollero took about three weeks to gradually place the mural on the wall. Each piece was then decoupaged into place. When it was complete, the students had gained a sense of accomplishment through teamwork, perseverance, and hard work. In the end, the students solved their own mystery and left a lasting monument to their work.

“The fact that they didn't know what it was until they put it up on the wall had them definitely motivated to all work together and get their pieces done,” Bollero said, “so they could see what the final piece was going to be.”