My buddy and fifth-grade teacher invited me to a mural painting at his school in Paramount, CA, last weekend and it was rad. Visiting artists for this second annual outing included Dustin Klein and Rich Jacobs from Oakland, Tim Kerr from Austin, and Koji and Kota Toyoda, Yosuke Hanai, and Hi Dutch from Japan.
What a killer collection of artists and how cool did the completed mural look. The school faculty and parent volunteers that I met on Sunday were thrilled. On Monday, it was the kids’ turn to be blown away.
Building up to the weekend, 130 or so fifth graders were invited to submit art inspired by the visiting artists as well as Shepard Fairy, Albert Reyes, Mel Kadel, Keji Ito, and Thomas Campbell. The pieces were displayed in the cafeteria, and on Monday there was not only a viewing but an old-time music concert by Tim Kerr with his pal David Bragger followed by video presentations from the artists. In each clip, the artists applauded the students’ creativity, shared some favorite pieces, and then gave away artwork as motivation for the lucky ones to develop their art.
Of course, Erik is very happy with the sense of community, campus beautification, and excitement among students that his brainchild has spawned. But even better, he says that the students who are put in the spotlight aren’t always the most academically or socially successful kids. Being recognized for their unique thinking and creativity gives them a reason to be interested in school–and stoked on life in general.
Unhappy with the defunding of the arts in his classroom, Erik started the program about five years ago by asking some of his favorite artists to participate. To see it grow, inspire kids, and create a partnership with other teachers, the principal, local businesses, and the PTA is as inspiring as it is cool.
I love that my generation of peers who grew up on punk rock, skateboarding, outsider art, and other DIY ways of thinking are changing the world like Erik is. Congrats to Erik, the artists, and the sponsors, and bravo to the supporters in the PTA, faculty, and district. Can’t wait to see next year’s event as well as the ripples of awesomeness to come.