FRANKLIN – Throughout this week, Franklin-Simpson High School students worked with a professional artist to adorn the hallways in the school’s Career and Technical Center with murals that reflect the career pathways they’re pursuing.
Principal Tim Schlosser said he saw a mural that artist Andee Rudloff painted in downtown Franklin last year, which inspired him to bring her to the school for a project that involved splashing some color on the school’s walls.
“Sometimes school hallways can look kind of, for lack of a better term, prison-like,” he said. “It’s just concrete block walls.”
Schlosser said he wanted to involve students in the mural-making process to make them feel more invested in the school. “This gives us an opportunity for our kids to take ownership (of) their school,” he said.
Schlosser sent Rudloff a Facebook message asking if she’d be interested in working with the school on a mural project and before long, the two were collaborating on writing a proposal for a $1,300 VSA grant.
VSA, which is dedicated to providing arts and education opportunities for people with disabilities, was formerly known as Very Special Arts, according to the group’s website.
Rudloff said the idea of the grant they received was to ensure the art project would involve students “with different ability levels.”
The process began Monday when Rudloff met with students enrolled in the CTC’s five departments to determine what sort of elements they wanted to be represented in the murals.
Schlosser said the five departments are Business, IT and Marketing, Agriculture, Family Consumer Science, Allied Health and Welding and Masonry.
In the sessions, Rudloff handed out sheets of paper asking students to list five words that describe “experiences, skills (and) subjects” related to the CTC classes they take, circle the word they chose that they’re most passionate about and then draw an icon that conveyed their thoughts on the subject.
“I asked them how they would convey their word through an image,” she said, adding that asking someone to draw a picture invites them to say “I can’t draw.”
“When you ask them to convey meaning, they don’t think about that they can’t draw,” she said.
Rudloff then took the designs and planned ideas for each of the five murals, loading them down with stylized images based on the icons the students provided.
On Wednesday, clad in overalls covered with countless dried splotches of paint, Rudloff painted the outlines of the murals on the walls, in preparation for Friday, when she and the students would add color.
“I think it’s important for people to be a part of the design,” she said. “Come Friday, they’re going to be like kids in a candy shop.”
On Friday, the hallways grew more colorful throughout the morning as students, working in small groups, painted the murals, each of which was a dense collection of symbols representing different fields and skills taught by the departments.
Bailey Taylor, a senior in the agriculture department, said she liked the department’s mural,which brought together a wealth of symbols like overalls, flowers, raindrops, a tomato and one of the dark blue jackets Future Farmers of America members are known for wearing.
Taylor, herself a member of FFA, said she suggested the idea of the FFA jacket during the feedback session.
“The jacket was a big thing for me,” she said. “That’s a big thing for our school.”
Taylor said she liked having a mural to represent her career pathway because it gives people a better idea of what it entails.
“I think the kids that aren’t in FFA or the ag classes don’t understand what we do,” she said. “This mural represented all that we are.”
Isai Mendez, a junior IT student who took red paint to the wall while standing on a ladder, said he liked being a part of the input process that ultimately gave rise to a mural that represents Business, IT and Marketing.
“Mine was a big picture,” he said about the icon he drew to represent the department. “Mine was like a dude with a head open and a light bulb coming out and he had a robot and a rocket to illustrate the idea of creativity.”
A robot and a few light bulbs, even before the color was filled in, could be clearly seen in the mural, which included other symbols like gears, the outline of a guitar and a dollar sign.
Mendez said he’s enjoyed participating in making the mural. “I’m enjoying it, just the fact that we get to have our own idea represented and show what we do in class,” he said.
Mendez said he likes the idea of having the murals because they introduce a splash of color to the hallways and indicate what goes on in the classrooms.
“I really like it because this hallway, I hate how it’s one stale color,” he said.
Schlosser, who took some time Friday morning to see the process unfold, said he was happy about the progress being made.
He said he hopes the murals inspire other students to start painting projects on other walls across campus to give the building a more vibrant personality and to make the students feel more invested in the school.
“My whole vision is to have kids say, ‘Let’s keep this going,’ ” he said.
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