« Epidemiological Methodology and Education: The Fun Stuff | Main | Conceptual Grammar & Education: Prepare to Get Weird »

Urban Art and Education (Part 1)

Day 1 of painting in my Urban Art class, post-sketching.

[I very much regret not being able to include names or give credit to specific students in this post, but I'll be adding credits and posting some student profiles as soon as I receive all of their media releases.]

In addition to the four sections of Writing that I teach, I am co-teaching an Urban Art class with professional artists Patrick McGirr and Josh Finley. I'll publish a post in the future that more vividly paints a picture of the awesome story behind this class--complete with the amazing characters, partners, and related sub-projects--but for now I'll mostly be talking about where we are currently.

The kids are amazing and have sketched everything you see here--none of this was done by myself, Patrick, or Josh. Below is an overview of the concept and actual sketch that we have now begun to paint.

For those of you who follow my posts on education philosophy and innovative practice, I've designed this class using very interesting conceptual grammars and will be posting on this as well once as-of-yet unrevealed sub-projects come to pass.


The 1000+ square foot mural begins with a large "5280," a reference to the mile-high city. The symbolic number floats above Sloan's Lake, where our school sits, and just below a sky/outer-space-scape. Near the end of the numerals, the lake ends with a representation of our school building, and the mural continues into the Rocky Mountains--the backdrop of our school.

This photo was earlier in the sketching process but shows the length of the mural--we are painting from where this picture is taken to the end of the hallway.

Our mural also begins with a huge film canister, the contents of which zig-zag through the entire mural, housing individual student art in each frame. Follwing the "5280," the film spells out "303," Denver's area code.

Paper sketch of our film spelling out 303--Denver's area code.

The film continues after spelling out these numerals to weave through the "community wall"--a wall that bears the word "respect" spelled out in large graffiti lettering. The entire stretch of this section of the wall, several hundred square feet, will be packed full of symbols and representations of our community and the individuals who make it up.

Rough sketch of the "Respect" graffiti lettering on our Community Wall.

The film continues on to the final section of the mural, where one frame fills an entire section of the wall, and Patrick and Josh will do their own collaborative piece centered around the name, mascot, and themes of our school, Strive Prep - Lake.

Current Status

After our first day painting, the energy among other students surrounding our students' mural was palpably more intense. The amazing students who have put so much work into this already have begun to earn some serious cred (among peers and others) through their art, and we're barely getting started.

It's important to protect your art against wandering hands--we got creative with this as well.

I have rarely seen students so enthralled with such a project, and I'm particularly impressed given that most adults would be overwhelmed by the size and scope a project like this. It's incredibly exciting to be working with the students, school admin, teachers, supporters, and other partners who I have both mentioned and omitted (for now) in this post.

[Click here for part 2 of this post.]

I'm very much looking forward to keeping you all updated on our progress. If you'd like an occasional email letting you know that I've published an update, just click here, enter your email, and be sure to click the confirmation link that shows up in your inbox.

Reader Comments (9)

Awesome Job so far guys !! Super proud of you ..this is a huge mural that most artists my age would shiver at or be scared of doing !!! you guys attacked it and made it your own ...AWESOME JOB GUYS !!!!!!!! Super proud to be painting with you all ......Patrick "GIRR" McGirr

February 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGIRR

Great work! It's so inspiring to see youth using their creativity on such a large scale.

February 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMrs.Love

What a beautiful mural! It always amazes me what inspired children will come up with and this mural is a huge inspiration to anyone that explores it! I can't wait to see it when its all complete!!

February 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEmily

Wow, what an amazing project. To see all the kids working together on such a big project is amazing. This kind of project is something that will be enjoyed for years to come. What a positive way to give back to your school and express your creativity. Just absolutely love it and can't wait to watch the progress. Keep it up!

February 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLaura

Really exciting work you guys. The world is your canvas. Make it beautiful, thought-provoking and inspiring.

February 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAlex Hernandez

thanks for the support you really helped us along the way .This means a lot to me. I'm in this enrichment because I love to draw and this enrichment gives me a chance to show the world what I like to draw.

February 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDesire

Thank you guys keep the good luck wishes coming.

February 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

Well, it was all teamwork and it was the school spirit.Thanks for all the support and for ENCOURAGING us all the way.

February 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMarco

What a fabulous project - great talent, focus and passion. This project is motivation enough to get me to STRIVE - Lake Campus before the end of this school year. Hope to see you soon.
Michele Brinn

February 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMichele

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>