Katherine Gressel
Our Arts Community Our Arts Community Our Arts Community Our Arts Community Our Arts Community Our Arts Community Our Arts Community
Our Arts Community
Collaborative Mural designed and painted with the student body of
Fairmount Elementary School, San Francisco, CA, 2005
Acrylic and Latex Paint, approx. 40.1’ X 16’ X 23.7’, minus windows and doors

Our Arts Community was created in collaboration with the Fairmout Elementary Parent Teachers Association (who funded and initiated the project) and the students and teachers at the school. The mural was commissioned for a portable bungalow in the school’s playground, which was to house art classes in the future. This inspired the mural’s theme and title, Our Arts Community. I wanted to open up a dialogue on the importance of the arts in empowering students and building community, and create a mural that would serve as a visual reminder of this importance. I visited almost every classroom (K-5) and asked students to envision a community where everyone could participate in the arts. I asked students what types of arts they participate in (visual arts, music, dance, theater, etc.) and had them produce sketches of people doing these activities. I wound up with over 200 sketches showing people painting, dancing, singing, rapping, doing karate and gymnastics, and taking photographs. Many of the students also drew public spaces, some imaginary and some real, where the arts could flourish, such as museums, dance halls, theaters, and castles. I designed an overall composition that would include as many of the children’s ideas as possible. In most cases I took actual drawings and copied them onto the wall, so that the students could identify their own contributions in the mural.

I also tried to include the students as much as possible in the painting process, having teachers send their classes to help paint during the school day. I staged a painting event at FiestaVal, the school’s annual fundraiser. The aid of parent volunteers, as well as students who stopped by on weekends or after school, was also essential to the completion of the mural.

The mural’s theme is meant to reflect this spirit of creativity and collaboration through the artistic process. In addition to improving the appearance of the schoolyard, I hope Our Arts Community will continue to inspire Fairmount students to express themselves creatively.