New Murals Celebrate Diversity in Clinton
Thanks to the joint efforts of the Clinton Arts Council and the Morgan School Social Justice Club, The Morgan School is now home to two new murals meant to celebrate the pursuit of social justice in Clinton and abroad.
Steve Van Ness, the president of the arts council, told the Harbor News that earlier this year the council teamed up with The Morgan Social Justice Club and, along with help from the Clinton Human Rights Committee, worked to bring two murals to the school that can serve as discussion points for years going forward.
The two murals were unveiled in the lobby of The Morgan School in early July at an event attended by Van Ness, Social Justice Club members, Human Rights Committee chairman Tom Shultz, The Morgan School principal Kerri Hagness, and Town Council member Christine Goupil.
According to Van Ness, the council partnered with statewide public art nonprofit, RiseUP for Arts. RISEUP is responsible for 100s of public art displays across the state celebrating diversity.
“The arts council had received a grant for public arts, and I already did a lot of work with RISEUP so I knew of them,” said Van Ness. “They said they could recommend an artist and in conversations with Tom it came up that Morgan had a social justice club.”
After a series of discussions with artist Jaii Marc Renee about what the students wanted to see in the murals, the artist got to work.
The group commended Renee’s work and commented on possible future plans.
“The murals can be moved around the school and displayed in different areas as well as used as part of things like orientations to show new students what we’re all about,” said Van Ness.
Of note, Van Ness said that the students who helped approve the design of the mural were interested in making the murals attractive enough that people would want their pictures taken next to them. Van Ness said that he plans on bringing the murals to events such as the upcoming Clinton Arts Festivals as an attraction people can visit.
In light of the ongoing examinations and discussions of discrimination in society, The Morgan School started a social justice club last year led by English teacher Leslie Chausse where students can talk about how these issues affect their local community. Van Ness said that the students in the club were eager to jump on board.
“We met with the club and asked them a series of questions. Things like ‘what does social justice mean to you?’ and ‘what does social justice look like to you?’,” said Van Ness.
Van Ness said that the students really took the message to heart and wanted to do something that celebrated the diversity specifically at the Morgan School – where 22 different languages are spoken by members of the student body – as well as diversity in the world at large. That’s where the idea for two murals came from Van Ness explained.
“The artist got the kids’ ideas and then eventually showed them sketches of what he had drawn based on their ideas, and the kids loved it immediately. Then he set to work painting. I was surprised at how easy it was,” said Van Ness.
Van Ness estimated that all together the murals took about four months to complete from the idea conception to when they were unveiled earlier this month.
“I think it went really well, and I’m excited to see how these can be used,” Van Ness said