by Sue Ann Rybak
Springside Chestnut Hill Academy and J.S. Jenks Elementary School students have been working with mural artist Ann Northrup to create a companion mural to Bredenbeck’s Bakery mural art project, which began earlier this week.
It was important to Judy Callas, a member of the selection committee for the Bredenbeck’s Bakery mural, to involve not just the students at SCH but other students in the community. So, she met with Cristin Harrington, art teacher at Jenks, and Ann Northrup to discuss the idea of a companion traveling mural.
Callas said students at both schools were asked to design a mural using the same criteria as the artists for the Bredenbeck mural. She said the companion mural had to focus on the Wissahickon. Callas said it could not include people, and students had to incorporate “Trompe-l’œil, an art technique using extremely realistic imagery to create the illusion that painted objects seem to exist in three dimensions.”
Students from both schools sketched ideas and drew thumbnail sketches.
“Remarkably, the students … had similar concepts depicting the Wissahickon, its native plants and animals and a bridge that represented a connection to the two schools in their community,” Callas said.
One of the main themes of the traveling canvas is the idea of bridging the two schools.
“I believe sharing the work for this mural has made a difference in how students begin to trust, empathize and appreciate one another,” Callas said.
Callas said she enjoyed “watching the canvas evolve and change and grow each day.” She added that “watching the students work” and noticing that “the canvas had gone off to Jenks to be worked on by other student artists” was a joy.
“Paint plus kids and a little guidance equal magic,” Callas said.
Caroline Estey King, local resident, mother of two middle-school girls at SCH and a consultant to the Mural Arts Program, explained how the idea for the travel canvas came about.
“It is very important to the Mural Arts Program that the community be involved in the mural process,” King said. “By establishing a design committee made up of Chestnut Hillers, we opened up the door to the idea of involving Jenks and SCH students. Their mural is meant to be a companion piece to Ann’s, and I know that Ann was thrilled to be working in these two schools.”
King said the companion mural was funded by Chestnut Hill Hospital. Dr. John Cacciamani, CEO of Chestnut Hill Hospital, said the hospital “is proud to be part of what we expect will be a beautiful new addition to the Avenue.”
“The mural at Bredenbeck’s will give local residents and visitors yet another reason to explore Chestnut Hill’s businesses and attractions,” Cacciamani said. “We especially appreciated the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program’s suggestion to extend the wall mural project into the community and incorporate the families that we serve. The hands-on student mural companion piece is a great way to bring neighbors together for a common good.”
Harrington, the art teacher at Jenks, commented on her school’s recent collaboration.
“The Jenks’ family is very excited and pleased to be working with SCH and Ann Northrup so that we can further the arts in the schools and the community,” Harrington said.
Northrup said it was a pleasure to work with students and teachers from both schools. She added that the students were involved “at every step of researching, designing and creating their traveling mural.”
“The art teachers were especially great and took a lot of creative initiative from the beginning, tying the project into their own curriculum and their students’ interests,” she said.
Northrup said her favorite part was watching the students gain confidence in themselves and their artistic talent.
“You see amazing talent in children everywhere, and it is fun when you can foster it, especially when you can get them to step back and appreciate what they’ve done,” Northrup said. “But students are alike also in their misgivings. Sometimes you look in their eyes and you can see they are thinking they are not going to be any good at this.”
For example, Callas said she asked students, “What are the first things you need to start painting?”
She said she expected the reply to be “color and shape.”
“One girl immediately responded with ‘confidence,’” Northrup said. “I guess, then, the first thing you need is the courage to try!”