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Community Arts Research at SVSU


Saginaw High School

"Finding the Center" 

Winter 2006

Medium: Digital. Assembled in Adobe Photoshop, output on vinyl.
SVSU Students Involved: Art 499 Digital Community Mural Workshop: Erica Kowal, Howard McLean, Benjamin Robinson and Cole Swinehart.

Digital Community Mural Workshop gave SVSU art student muralists an opportunity to draw high school students and Writing Center student mentors as well as teach non-art students skills to create imagery for the mural.


On February 25, 2006, seven Saginaw High School juniors and seniors worked with fifteen SVSU students for a daylong writing/arts workshop entitled "Finding Our Center.” The SHS students spent the morning working on their writing with tutors from the Writing Center and Eric Gardner's English 383 (“The Art of Tutoring Writing”) course; in the afternoon, these same students worked with my Art 499 (independent study, here “Digital Community Mural Workshop”) students, all generating artwork and motifs for a digital mural.

The "Finding the Center" digital mural project of completed during the winter semester of 2006 gave my art students an opportunity to draw high school students and Writing Center student mentors on February 25th, as well as to teach all these non-Art students art skills to create imagery for the mural for their greater involvement in the project. The four muralists--Erica Kowal, Howard McLean, Benjamin Robinson and Cole Swinehart—organized fifteen-minute mini-workshops for the entire group in figure drawing, caricature, "street" (graffiti-derived contemporary Pop Art) motifs, and watercolor painting.  The fruits of these efforts were collected, scanned, assembled, and manipulated in Photoshop, and other images suggested in group discussion were drawn by the muralists. The resulting mural design was critiqued by the Writing Center, and necessary changes were made.

When complete, the digital file was sent to the Detroit office of billboard printing (MetroMedia Technologies), and returned as 5' x 18' vinyl murals with grommets for installation. One was promptly installed in SE 139, the Writing Center classroom. A second copy of the mural was installed in Saginaw High School.Through a grant from Michigan Campus Compact and SVSU’s College Transitions Program, collaboration took place among Saginaw High School, the SVSU Writing Center, and four advanced SVSU Art students, to create such an innovative and bountiful mural.

Art student Erica Kowal noted, “It was interesting to see how the tutors related with the students they were paired with [in the Writing Center]. I highly enjoyed seeing that connection, for it will leave a great impact on the high school students and their view of college. The students had such interesting ideas and stories, and they worked so hard on writing that they felt was important. The atmosphere of that morning was brimming with excited pens and eager minds. The students were very open to letting me in on what they were doing and the writing they had done, and I was glad that I was able to put some of their work into the final mural.”

“Their excitement also followed them into the art arena as well. They were giving out so many good ideas for the mural that I was worried we would not have enough room on the page! To hear them get excited about things that do not fit in with the stereotypical high school student was so refreshing.”

This community mural will serve as a powerful visual reminder of SVSU’s commitment to Saginaw High School, “centering” not only on the education and development of our university’s students, but the students in our greater regional community as well.

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Mike Mosher
Department of Art
Studio 104