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Students Collaborate with Local Artist on Mural

Students Collaborate with Local Artist on Mural
Posted on 04/26/2021
TOM visitor with mural in background depicting shopping cart and other items in #myessential student art collaborative projectGrade 9 Visual Arts students at Owen Sound District Secondary School recently participated in a unique experiential learning opportunity to collaborate with a local artist on a mural project displayed at the Tom Thomson Art Gallery (the TOM).   

The #myessential initiative is the TOM’s latest community art project, which reflects on what the pandemic has highlighted as essential in our lives by asking the question, “what is essential to you?”, and urging critical reflection on what we deem as vital.

Due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, the young artists, under the guidance of their teacher Jen Klemm, utilized the Microsoft Teams platform to engage in a three-session drawing workshop with Durham mural artist, JP Morel, and the education team at the gallery.  The collaboration was an example of the innovative ways in which virtual platforms can be utilized, by allowing real time imaginative responses and creations by local youth in answering the important question of what they consider to be essential.

Students worked with the artist to explore the concept of essential items, people, and places, and how this may have evolved through individual experiences during the pandemic.  They were able to respond through text, conversations, and drawings with some of the latter creations donated to JP as inspiration for the mural.  In turn, JP was able to use the art to create a colourful and cohesive narrative of students' experiences, which she developed into the #myessential mural.  The concepts and drawings developed by the students during the workshop were rendered on the walls in the front gallery space.

Despite restrictions around group visits, a few of the students were able to visit the gallery on their own time to witness in person this collaborative effort.  The project represents an exceptional example of how we can make meaningful and ‘essential’ connections to our community even when facing challenges.

Through past, present, and future vantage points, the mural offers a visual diary of the ‘new normal’ we are living in, sharing the experiences of our youth, and what they consider essential now more than ever.  Many thanks are extended to Heather McLeese, Curator of Public Projects and Education at the TOM for helping to coordinate this creative venture.

Members of the public have also been invited to contribute by responding to the question of what is essential, and sharing their #myessential in the gallery space and on social media.

“I learned that things that may have been extremely important before lockdown may not be as essential to you now, and how there are lots of meaning to things.” – Student

“I learned that there is a lot of teamwork that goes into creating a mural, and that everyone has to be open to new ideas.” – Student

“Overall, I learned that a mural can be anything.  You can take so many great ideas and put them together.  The experience that we got to have was really fun and we are lucky our class got to take part in it.” – Student

“A benefit for us, the students, is just the experience of this and getting to see how our ideas are interpreted.  And I think a benefit for the artist, JP, would be that she got to see how things are from our perspective, and that she got to add that into the piece.” – Student

Family visits gallery to view student's drawing of the whole family incorporated into #myessential mural rendered by local artist JP Morel. The family stands in front of mural proudly in the same order as shown in the drawing. Image courtesy of Tom Thomson Art Gallery.“I learned that certain pictures can say so much.  For example, in the mural, someone drew a shopping cart in the ‘what used to be essential’ section, and that picture could mean so many things.” – Student

“I think the biggest thing I learned is that art doesn’t have to be perfect.  Just simple little doodles and sketches can look great too.  Perfectly imperfect art is okay to be messy and uneven.” – Student

“I am extremely grateful for this community project!  With so many pandemic-related limitations affecting students this year, the opportunity to explore the question of ‘what is essential’, through a collaborative mural project with the Tom Thomson Art Gallery and local professional artist JP Morel, was a truly meaningful experience the students found pride in.” – Jen Klemm, Visual Arts and Photography Teacher at OSDSS

“Art and creativity play a vital role in everyday life, helping people adjust to the ‘new normal’ of the ever-changing landscape.  It has been so positive connecting our mural artist JP to local students, leading a series of drawing workshops to answer this timely question.  The #myessential project will offer a collaborative visual narrative of hope, resilience, and perseverance during one of the most unexpected realities of our lifetime.” – Heather McLeese, Curator of Public Projects and Education

Click here to learn more about artist JP Morel, who works with schools and leads youth workshops on artistic projects in literacy, theatre, and visual arts.

The learning team at the TOM continues to offer memorable and creative student experiences, such as engaging virtual tours, talks, and art activities modelled to reflect curriculum expectations.  These experiences encourage the development of students’ skills to recognize, discuss, and gain valuable insight into visual works of art.  Schools are invited to contact Heather McLeese, Curator of Public Projects and Education at [email protected] for details on the TOM’s interactive art experiences and programs, or visit the recently launched digital arts portal for further information.

Take a virtual tour of the exhibition here.

View our photo gallery below.  Please hover on each image for a description.

Installation image of completed #myessential mural project at the Tom Thomson Art Gallery. All four walls full of colour showcasing local students’ drawings answering the question, “What is essential to you?”. Image courtesy of Tom Thomson Art Gallery. Photography by Willy Waterton.
Original drawings from local OSDSS art students collaged for creating larger mural in Tom Thomson Art Gallery space. Collage created and photographed by lead artist JP Morel.
Part of finished mural for #myessential project capturing “present” wall highlighting student drawings of people, places, and things essential to students, such as family, friendships, nature, fishing activities, skiing, farming, and enjoying the great outdoors. Image courtesy of Tom Thomson Art Gallery. Photography by Willy Waterton.
Installation image of #myessential mural showcasing present and future wall. Mural imagery from local youth who answered question, “What is essential to you?” presents colourful drawings of OSDSS, medals, and trophies, school buses, cell phones, masks, music, pets, vacation destinations, sports, and activities deemed vital during the pandemic. Also shown is lead artist JP Morel biography panel. Image courtesy of Tom Thomson Art Gallery. Photography by Willy Waterton.
Lead mural artist JP Morel paints in gallery space the student drawings onto walls, making up the #myessential mural. In room sits larger display case containing original drawings from students of “essential” people, places, and things. Image courtesy of Tom Thomson Art Gallery.Installation image of #myessential mural showcasing present and future wall. Large display case situated in centre of room showcasing original drawings from local students answering the question, “What is essential to you?”. Image courtesy of Tom Thomson Art Gallery. Photography by Willy Waterton.
Section of student mural and table with "What is essential to you?" signage. Photography by Willy Waterton.Section of student mural depicting shopping carts, individual standing on stairwell, and other images. Photography by Willy Waterton.
Lead mural artist JP Morel holds a student drawing in front of her in Tom Thomson Art Gallery space, visualizing what drawings will be included in final mural presentation. Image courtesy of Tom Thomson Art Gallery.Section of mural depicting person standing on stairwell with slogan: #myessential past, present, and future
Section of mural depicting student and staff faces and virtual learning
Bluewater District School Board is located on the traditional land of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation, which is represented by the communities of Saugeen First Nation and Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation.
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