NEW BEDFORD — What does the underside of a city look like?
That’s the question Global Learning Charter Public School educators posed to a group of fifth-graders and the students came up with some thoughtful, creative and very colorful answers that took the form of a 4-foot by 14-foot mural.
On display in the school’s lobby, the mural is “large and detailed, realistic and whimsical at the same time,” according to a GLCPS news release.
“I want to get students thinking about community art as early as possible,” said GLCPS art teacher Jon Vecchiarelli in the release. “As residents of New Bedford, they are able to see public art. Fortunately, there are a good number of murals throughout the city, so this fits the students’ definition of what art is. They are making real art, just like the art they see in New Bedford.”
Before the students began working on the mural, they looked at exposed pipes in the school, noting how they are connected, the fixtures on the pipes, their various sizes and placement, explained Vecchiarelli, a GLCPS art teacher for 13 years. Then, they worked on their own sketches before collaborating on the paper canvas.
At first, they were excited to work on the project together, said Vecchiarelli in the news release. However, he noted that at one point, that excitement gave way to some frustration.
And, as it turned out, that taught the kids some Life Lessons.
“The students had to work through disagreements and conflicts. They had to communicate their views and learn how to compromise,” Vecchiarelli said. “They were riding a wave throughout the process. With this type of project, students learn to persevere. They learn how to collaborate.”
After the frustration came a wave of satisfaction and pride in what, together, they had created, he said. The excitement returned as the students, who are all first-year students at GLCPS, now see their work prominently displayed in their school.
As for the details of the mural, here’s what Global Charter shared:
Bricks, pipes and electrical lines make up the background of the piece to display a myriad of creatures, some realistic and some whimsical, living beneath the city. Among the details are dripping pipes, spiders and spider webs, and a creature’s tiny home complete with a refrigerator and television. There are worms, mice, bats and rats. There’s a beehive and bees. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are there too, peeking out of a hole. There are also two workers underground, a man and a woman.
Vecchiarelli, in the news release, said that beyond the challenges of collaborating on an art project, this marked the first time many of the students worked on a large canvas.
“Younger students typically work in small spaces,” he said. “Even when given a whole sheet of paper, they often use just a small part of the space. With a mural, they are challenged by a large scale art piece. It takes them outside of their comfort zone.”
This is the first of six Grade 5 groups that Vecchiarelli will work with, meaning that by school year’s end, there will be six unique murals to display.
He said each group of students will have their own ideas and opinions about what kind of mural they want to create.
“It’s going to be fun to see what they create,” Vecchiarelli said.