DENVER — According to Assistant Principal Jennifer Anderson, the mission and vision of Noel Community Arts School in Denver is to create artists, activists, and innovators.
Those ideals were on display when students from the school partnered with the mayor’s office to create murals and paintings to cover up shattered windows at the Denver City and County Building.
The building’s windows were shattered following protests against racial injustice in late May.
Students painted several plywood boards that are covering the building's damaged windows. The paintings depict messages of pain, hope, and understanding. One of the murals shows a black fist in front of a globe with a quote from Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.”
Telling a Story
High School art students share their voice through art.
The students took this project as an opportunity to show adults that they are just as aware of the city and country’s problems—racism, police brutality, climate change—as the adults are, if not more so.
“A lot of people, they don’t listen to kids because they think we’re naïve,” said Abijah Baker, a ninth grade student at NCAS. “When we go out and do something like this, we show adults that we are just as good as them; that we can sometimes explain something better than they can.”
Fellow ninth grader Dionna Austin agreed that art can sometimes be the best way to communicate important messages.
“Instead of speaking out and talking about how I feel, I get to show how I feel with art or with music—stuff that is more creative—that can show others that we can speak out,” she said.
Austin added that young Black women especially have not had their voices heard. This mural project, she said, can help rectify that. “A lot of people think that the younger generation can’t stand up for themselves or [don’t] have a voice for themselves,” she explained, “but making these murals showed that we can speak up for what is right.”
“I feel like our mission and vision of being artists, activists and innovators is more prevalent than ever, and it really gives out students a space to let their voices be heard,” Anderson said.
Mistelle Comeau-Jimenez is an instructor at Noel Community Arts School. She hopes that the people who see the paintings not only take in their important messages, but also consider who the artists are.
“I think it’s powerful for the adults in the community to see that this is our upcoming generation,” she said, “and that they’re going to be able to stand up for these rights and try to keep fighting.”
It's not just the teachers who are proud of the students. Austin's mother, Holly, spoke with Rocky Mountain PBS about her "obligation" as a mother to put her daughter in an environment where she can be heard and "to know that she has a voice and that she can create these works of art that other people can see."
Holly Austin in her own words.
"I am proud of her for standing up and knowing that what is going on in our country is not okay, that things that have been going on [are] not okay, but we can do something. We have the power to change these things," Holly said. "Her school...gives her that power. It gives her that voice to do things the right way. She has these teachers that help her and empower her daily to go out and speak justice in art."