Annapolis High School visual arts educator Jessica Jackman wanted to find a way to help her students find a deeper connection with the art they made. She decided to go big.
In a collaboration with the Light House, an Annapolis homeless prevention and support center, more than 200 Annapolis High art students recently completed 12 murals, each 8 feet by 4 feet, full of fantasy and representations of books, music, trees and happy children. All are on display inside the Light House services center on Hudson Street.
“I wanted to find something that the kids could connect with,” Jackman said. “We are a Title 1 school, so a lot of our students endure a lot of poverty and some even stay at Light House.”
Students predominantly led the creative process for the project. They spent months designing and painting murals that would suit the unique spaces at The Light House. The finished murals are now mounted in four different areas of the center, including the entryway, community room, and employment resource center on the main floor, as well as the shared family room area and the children’s play area on the third floor.
In the children’s play area, the mural highlights the fantasy world inside of books, showcasing novels growing from limbs of a beautiful tree. Surrounding the tree are figures and characters from books the students have read. Another mural highlights the students’ favorite music and another shows children laughing and hanging at a playground.
“There were a few guidelines before the students started,” Jackman said. “The designs couldn’t be wild colors since we wanted them to be calming. They also had to be relatable across multiple cultures. Just an emphasis on diversity.”
To commemorate the completion of the project on Feb. 28, The Light House hosted a community celebration to unveil the murals attended by community leaders, faculty, students and their families.
The Light House serves over 2,500 community members in need each year and relies on community support to operate, said Sarah E. Ryan, Light House director of community engagement, during the unveiling ceremony.
“It was amazing to see a semester of work come together so well,” said Olivia Shulman a junior at Annapolis High School. “I’m very proud of what we accomplished.”
That sentiment wasn’t just unique to Shulman either, Jackman said. The inclusion of all the students regardless of art level working together allowed everyone to connect to it in their own way and be filled with pride seeing their work go up around The Light House.
“I saw students that never lifted a finger in school actually coming in on their off time and working on it,” Jackman said. “That’s a big deal, mind-blowing actually. A lot of them didn’t really believe we were actually going to put the murals up somewhere.”
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At the unveiling of the murals, she emphasized how important it was to have a warm, inviting environment within the walls of The Light House. She mentioned how grateful she was for Jackman and the students who shared their talent and love with the community.
“They are a shining example of community art,” Ryan said.
Annapolis High School Principal Patrick Gelinas said he was happy with how well the project’s goals were realized.
“I really appreciated that this project was not only engaging for the students but it was something that could connect them to the community, something that could reflect their efforts,” Gelinas said. “That was the most interesting component of this project.”
Gelinas added that the best reactions from the students came during the unveiling of the murals.
“The students, I think, enjoyed the fact that this project wasn’t just something that would come and go,” he said. “They saw firsthand that their hard work was received at the shelter happily and also that this school assignment had turned into something that would exist permanently.”