Monday, January 15, 2018

A New (School) Year, a New Learning Environment!

What better way to start the New Year than with a brand new series of murals?

While painting a mural back in December, in the community centre of my neighbourhood (San Bartolomé Becerra, just outside of Antigua Guatemala), I was approached by two women who work at the local day-care centre. With the question, of course, if I could do something in their day-care. I went to have a look straight away and was happily surprised that the patio wall in question was quite small, so not a major job. Yes, and here, the teacher continued, pointing the entrance hall, and something here in the corridor and two more murals over there. Oops. That was five murals in total, but at least none of them very big and all easy accessible. So I said yes. That is, I specified, if I could get the donations together to provide for paint, prints and other materials needed. Fine, they said, as long as I would have it finished please by January 15, the first day of classes in this escuelita. Oops again, but I had said yes anyway.

Thing is, I have a weak spot for day-care centres and also one for my funky neighbourhood so I was happy to commit. Happier even when by January first I actually had all the money I needed! So the first week of January I worked on the designs. I wanted to do something colourful, happy and apt for young children (the centres caters to 30+ kids age 6 months-6 years old), but nothing cheesy or predictable. No Frozen or Winnie the Pooh. So I came up with the idea to use traditional aspects of the particularly colourful Guatemalan culture with things kids might like, such as a piñata, a wooden dog, birds, a baby. Oh, and some angels. Aspects of Guatemalan folklore that appears in the work are papel picado (paper cut outs used for streamers), carved statues, a sawdust carpet from the processions and motifs from painted crafts and the same papel picado.

I was about to print out the designs and show them at the day-care for approval when there was a knock on my door. The teachers from the day-care. Whether I had forgotten them? Hell no! Between fundraising, prepping paint and making the designs, the day-care had been on my mind quite a lot! But those are the invisible sides of mural painting that few people realise are just as important. They were relieved anyway that I was ready to get started.

A nice surprise was that the teachers had not only cleared the walls from posters, staples and years of layers of masking tape, but had actually whitened the walls too! The patio wall was a different matter. The small original wall has been added to so often, it was total crooked, uneven and partly unpainted. Fixing the gigantic holes was not an option without re-plastering the whole wall. There was also an ugly cable hanging over the top of the wall. So I decided to go the easy way, making the mural a tiny bit smaller and that way avoiding the worst part on top.

I started painting on Thursday and finished on Saturday afternoon, only because on Saturday I had help! Alice Lee was so kind to paint a whole panel, otherwise I would have had to disappointed the kids.
I don’t know yet what the kids think of their new environment, but the parents and teachers who saw the results were very happy. Except that… Could I please paint something in the dormitory too? And maybe transform the little playhouse as well?
Well, we’ll see… J

For now, one more mission accomplished. Thanks A LOT to the people who sponsored this project: Kristin Landau, Jody Paterson, Shoshi Parks, Tommy O’Donnell and Wendy Russell. You guys ROCK!