The Hartranft Elementary School project kicked off a long-term collaborative community project Monday, Jan. 21, that intends to beautify the school located on Eighth and Cumberland streets in North Philadelphia. Members of the surrounding North Philadelphia community, Mural Arts, Tyler School of Art and eighth-grade students of the Hartranft School initiated the project with the painting of a long mural in the school’s cafeteria.
“It was a space that students use all the time but has been pretty unpleasant to be in,” said Shari Hersh, coordinator of the Mural Corp program at Mural Arts. “The impact is for everyone to come together and to get to know each other as we do this larger project.”
The Hartranft Elementary School project will incorporate painted murals, ceramic and glass mosaic, tree planting and landscaping onto the premises of the school.
“Hopefully we’ll be drawing more nature to the area and the kids will see things grow, and there will be more life here for kids to witness,” said Jennie Shanker, lead artist and professor at Tyler School of Art.
The project is also part of Shanker’s ceramics workshop at Tyler, which allows university students to work alongside a group of Mural Corps youth. All of the concepts come from Shanker. However, the designs and artwork are solely the work of the students.
“With any of the projects I’ve done, the artwork has been the work of the students and of the people who have participated. It’s their ideas, their images and their drawings that become the final piece,” said Shanker, who has been teaching at Tyler for six years.
According to Shanker, the goal of the project will instill a strong sense of the environment and community.
“The theme draws parallels between a healthy ecosystem, a healthy environment, and a strong community,” she said. “When a healthy ecosystem and environment operates well, everything is interdependent and things need each other.”
Hartranft third-grade teacher Cheryl Hite said she believes in the importance of relating her students to their environment.
“We picked the theme in showing them how they relate to their environment, and the pictures we place in the [auditorium] will certainly depict that,” she said. “The students will be able to appreciate the things that are around them.”
Shanker will continue her work in beautifying the school through the spring. She will work on landscaping and the mosaic on the school’s exterior.
“I’m trying to draw a correlation between [the environment] and a strong community,” Shanker said. “Every link, every person is an important element in this bigger picture.”
Neal Santos can be reached at email@example.com.