Thursday, February 25, 2021

Art. Leaving a legacy. In a school. Does what?


At Shaker Heights High School in Ohio, students have for a few decades been greeted by murals covering the walls—lacrosse memorials, notable women through the ages, and so on, The Shakerite reports.

(Ainsley Snyder / student newspaper)

“I always loved the fact that there were paintings all over the school,” reporters Ainsley Snyder, Annika Jankowsky, Avery Blaszak, and Bess Von Der Heydt quoted the graduate who painted the first such senior legacy mural in 1991 as saying. “Different paintings, you know? Different people, different things that were all very unique and different, and I’ve always loved that about the school.”

The high school’s walls have over the years been covered in colorful murals, added one at a time, each year as part of a senior project.

“I think displaying artistic talent is motivation,” the student newspaper quoted Katelyn Diemand-Yauman, a new Art Exploration teacher, as saying, “leaving your mark, having pride in something … being able to choose to do something with their interests and what inspires them.”

Sometimes murals and other artwork can contain more than pictures to inspire students. Local artist Kristin Donaldson, a parent volunteer at a few schools in Hanover County, Virginia, spent her summer painting inspirational murals on the walls of the bathrooms inside Chickahominy Middle School.

“It’s something simple. Maybe it catches you off guard,” WTVR-TV (CBS affiliate, Richmond) quoted her as saying. “I mean, you walk into a restroom and see something encouraging. It can make a difference for a child.”

It’s possible that inspirational quotes and art can help children relax and focus.

“If you feel good in that moment, you go into your next class feeling better. You’ll try harder. You’ll be kind to that person who maybe wasn’t so kind to you,” she said.

Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.

Some researchers have also suggested that it can help students focus and relax to look at a clear blue sky: If it’s a nice day, lie on the grass, look up at a clear sky, and allow positive thoughts and images to drift through your mind.

But other research suggests that many people have trouble visualizing the images on their own. Completed images, like the murals on the walls at Shaker Heights, can help people focus and relax. And they can do it with their eyes wide open, as they walk through the hallways.

Along the same lines, promoting “green spaces” around the school can help to reduce stress in students, according to a survey by Michigan State University master’s student Cresha Wee:

Results indicate that students prefer images with more green features when compared with less green images. Images with water features were also found to be perceived as less stressful. The findings of this study will assist designers in designing campus spaces for diverse populations as well as providing features that will promote health and wellness.

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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