International exchange community canvas mural with India and Peru painted in Jackson Heights, Queens, New York, US




The below writing is a case study on this collaborative exchange canvas mural. This was written in collaboration with Teacher’s College, Columbia University







Max Levi Frieder




A&HA 4281 Field Observations in Art Education (Research)

Art & Art Education Program

Teachers College, Columbia University

Fall 2015



The purpose of this qualitative case study is to understand the relationship between collaborative artistic development and community-based public arts for two participating children at the Joseph Pulitzer School in Jackson Heights, Queens. This investigation focuses on the creative experiences of a boy and a girl, as part of a larger group, and their specific developmental experiences of contributing to a large scale collaborative canvas mural through participatory art making. This observational research study will examine the holistic process of bringing a group of children together to cooperatively create an exchange canvas with children in India and Peru. This alternative educational after-school program is then critically analyzed to help understand the artistic development of the children involved, and how this development contributes to social understanding amongst the participating two children.

Keywords: community arts, collaboration, public art, community-based, engagement, community-based public art, community-based art education




Background of the Problem

This study is rooted in a specific process of community-based public arts through collaborative mural making, which I have cultivated and facilitated over the past seven years in fifteen different countries doing projects with over three hundred international programs. These collaborations have been created in cooperation with sixty-five different NGOs, governmental organizations, libraries, schools, and museums. The projects compose an international community-based public arts network called the “Artolution” ([1]. The development of this alternative educational programing has created the context that frames the content of this study.

There is immense dialogue and debate about how community art affects the values of education, schools, and civil society (Coutts & Jokela, 2008, p.20). However, the landscape of research on how community-based public arts is implemented in alternative education is under-represented in public discourse (Hallmark, 2012, p. 94). This is especially true when considering the intersection of public art, community art, and art education in schools and after-school programs. Hallmark (2012) makes this point clear when examining the relationships between participation, facilitation, and representation (p.94).


Problem Statement

This research study will investigate the implications of how community-based public arts can act as a catalyst for artistic development and facilitate communication between the participating children and their environment. This information is valuable when advocating for an increase in alternative education programs in schools. The problem in this study is based on how an after-school mural workshop can create a dialogue among the participating students, and the greater audience who will view the finished mural. This study provides an alternative model using community-based education inspired by the concept of engaging classrooms and communities through designing and implementing community-based art education (Krensky, 2009, p.70).  Krensky (2009) points to many of the problems of stagnation in the contemporary conception of art education, and gives applicable alternatives. The unique language of collaborative art allows participants to explore their visions for their community, and declare those visions in the form of visual statements that encourage interaction (p.70). This study is examining how the collaborative and creative exploration of the two observed participants can act as an example of the importance of community-art-focused alternative education programs. This study will thus seek to demonstrate the value of creative cooperation and its effects on the artistic development of the participating children.

The purpose of this qualitative case study will be to understand the relationship between collaborative artistic development of children and community-based public arts for children in Jackson Heights, Queens. This project will be co-facilitated and organized with local art teacher Ivan Asin[2] at the Joseph Pulitzer School. The collaborative artistic development of children and community-based public arts will be generally defined as the relationship between participatory public art making and the holistic process of bringing a group of children together to cooperatively create a community gift. (London, 1994, p. 100).



Research Questions

What does it mean to collaboratively participate in a community-based public arts initiative and in what ways might it contribute to the artistic development of the children involved?


How would the young participants from Jackson Heights, Queens describe their collaborative experiences of creating a community-based public arts piece?


What discoveries do the participating two children engage in as a result of participating in this community-based public arts initiative?


Theoretical Framework

The theoretical framework of this study will be testing social psychologist and theorist Erich Fromm’s concept of the value of community arts as defined in his 1955 treatise, The Sane Society. Fromm states, “Collective art is shared; it permits man [people] to feel one with others in a meaningful, rich, productive way.” (Fromm, 1955, p. 302.) Through the lens of the two participating children, this study will be operating under Fromm’s perception that collective art has creative value, and can act as a catalyst for social and experiential learning. This framework will be applied to the study using Lowenfeld & Brittain’s (1987) concept that children understand they are members of a larger society and that they have the ability to cooperate with peers. (p. 306.)

Theoretically, this has relevance when the conceptions of collective agency and autonomy are included in the operational definition of community-based public arts. John-Steiner (2000) contextualized this by referencing the theory of “agency-in-community” (p.188.).  This applies when considering how the creative agency of the students is contributing to the representation of their artistic development and expression. A similar theoretical model of collective participation is described by Hallmark (2012) citing the arts as collaborative inquiry. The theory of community engagement is described as cooperative inquiry, and includes an understanding that learning comes through all participants involved (p. 96). The field of community-based public arts as defined in this theoretical framework has its roots in fusing community arts with arts dialogue through an intentional paradigm of art education. The structure of this study seeks to understand how the field of community-based public arts can be informed by the artistic development of the two observed participants.


Significance of the Study

This study looks to find significance in the roles that the participating two children play in building the creative dialogue that composes part of the content of the mural. This research is looking at how alternative education can be fused with community-based  public arts, and how this affects the artistic development of the participants. As a researcher, this study is also re-contextualizing the lens in which I view and critically analyze the collaborative process I have cultivated through the Artolution.

The significance of this qualitative case study will be to understand the relationship between collaborative artistic development of children and community-based public arts in Jackson Heights, Queens. This study is intentionally trying to bridge the conversation between different sub-fields of the arts, and put them into a format, which can have multi-disciplinary application. These sub-fields include art education, alternative education, public arts, community arts and cooperative learning (Borwick, 2012, p.21). From the data collected, the significance will come in the form of an informed piece of research which looks at the affects stimulated by this community-based public arts project. This specific project has the intention of understanding the personal experiences of the two participating children, and how their experiences can be representative of the effects this project has on artistic development.


Limitations of the Study

The limitations of this study are contingent on the knowledge that this research is operating as a condensed model of a larger concept of implemented community-based public arts in an alternative setting (Hillman, 1996, p. 54). The study and observations will be conducted in two sessions, each of which will be three hours. The limited time scale and number of participants puts important value on the qualitative observations that come from interaction with the research subjects. One of the major practical concerns is how I, the primary facilitator of the workshop, will be able to simultaneously conduct accurate observations throughout the two sessions. The intended objective is to utilize photography and written observations throughout the different stages of the process. The art teacher, Ivan Asin, will also document the experience.

This study will also only be able to observe the experiences of two of the participating children. The other ten children will be heavily involved in the process; however their artistic developments will not be documented. I will also need to balance interacting with the whole group, while observing the two participants in this study.



The foundation of this study investigates how participation in painting a collaborative exchange canvas mural, facilitates artistic learning and development in the participating pre-adolescent artists. Each of the following themes explores a different lens into the relationship between artistic development and community-based public arts. This literature review looks to examine some of the major discussions about community-based public arts education its relationship to artistic development, and to contextualize this study within the historical and scholarly understanding of these topics.


Group Development Through Creative Interaction

The manner in which the students interact with one another is a key component of how this study’s collaborative art making process needs to be analyzed.  Throughout the after school program, the expressed creativity was fueled by a common motivation for collective expression.  Inherently, collaboration in an artistic form is a series of dynamic, changing processes (John-Steiner, 2000, p.197). The flexibility of expression of the participating children can’t be put into a box. It changes organically with the external effects of the environment and the dynamic of the group of participants. The way in which the students creatively interact with one another is composed of a “…complex mix of attitudes, intentions, constraints, and behaviors.” (McCarthy & Kimberly, 2001, p. 23). It is essential to recognize the specific needs and issues of the context a community project is being facilitated within.  The attitudes and intentions of the participating group greatly affect how the individuals work together as a single collaborative unit. This study is looking into how such participation opens opportunities for artistic development through collaboration.

John-Steiner (2000) continues this discussion by explaining that providing a collaborative context creates a shared zone of proximal development where participants have the opportunity to increase their “repertory of cognitive and emotional expression” (p. 187).  Community art has its roots in stimulating this kind of multi-dimensional expression through the process itself. This study is looking to understand how the proximal development of the pre-adolescent participants can be stimulated through the creation of a single canvas mural. These children’s lives do not exist in a vacuum, and have experience with art making.  However, collective expression inhabits a different creative space than individual art making. The past experiences of the participants play a major role in how the process evolves, and how productive feedback can be given (McCarthy & Kimberly, 2001, p. 23).  Effective community-based public arts relies on an understanding that the continuous feedback of the participants is integral to how facilitation can be truly reflective.

The concept that collaborative arts are beneficial for children, hinges on a basic understanding that people are born and mature in relation to others (John-Steiner, 2000. p. 187). Collaborative development is relational at its core. Whether it is the materials, the environment, or the community, collective art making is a social act. Community-based art education facilitates the social and creative development of children through the act of cooperatively working together as a team to accomplish the common goal of creating a single piece of artwork. The interactions the children have with one another are an essential component to how community-based public arts can stimulate dialogue and learning.




Individual Student Growth Through Collaborative Experience

Although collaborative art is made as a group, the benefits of such actions have substantial positive effects on the participating individuals. Krensky (2009) describes the value of creating community art as contributing to the formation of identity and efficacy for the individuals involved (p. 54). When children have the opportunity to fuse their unique painting styles together, the communal result is greater than the individual components. This method appreciates the various styles children use while making an image with paint. Lim, Eujung & Song (2013) discuss the importance of students exploring an art making experience through the conversational meaning-making process (p. 8). When discussing the process of meaning making, it is critical to recognize the importance of each child expressing themselves independently, within a larger collaborative structure. This study is searching to understand how independent artistic development relates to the cooperative framework of a community-based public arts canvas mural.

The foundation of community art is the experience of developing new skills, creating opportunities for self-expression and cultivating new dimensions of identity (Krensky, 2009, p. 55). The ultimate goal of this process is to have individual growth taking place in the self-expression of each child, and for this growth to be happening in a creative cluster. The recognition of the developmental cycles of the participating children is important when considering the context of this study. The participants in these types of community-based art education programs have practices, which need to be dynamically engaged throughout every step of the process (Lim, (Eujung & Song, 2013, p. 13). It is imperative to engage the participants through a dynamic understanding of how unique it can be to paint a large-scale canvas mural. This takes on individual value when the different ideas of the participants are able to form a single story.

A core value within this field of community arts focuses on the importance of each participating young artist to envision themselves as contributors (Krensky, 2009, p. 55). The feeling of being part of a larger collaboration increases the engagement of the participating young artists. This study acknowledges the developmental importance of each individual child’s creative contribution, as a part of a larger project.


Participants’ Relationship to the Concept of an Exchange Mural

The participating children in the study understood that the canvas mural they painted together is part of a larger exchange mural project with children in Delhi, India and Lima, Peru, where a response canvas will be sent back in conversation. There is an underlying knowledge that this mural is part of a larger creative conversation in the world, which affects the engagement and artistic development of the participants. Bolin (1995) discusses the importance of art-making which creates an environment where meaningful art-learning and world understanding takes shape (p.5). Art exchanges have the capability of creating direct and tangible conversations about how one’s art exists in the world. This inspires many difficult questions about the nature of collaboration. Wright (2004) asks what could be more difficult to pursue than genuinely cooperative labor (p. 533)? When talking about artistic dialogue, one of the primary concerns is how genuine cooperation can exist through art making. The answer to this question lies in the understanding of the participants that they are part of a larger creative conversation.

Bolin (1999) puts as a priority to ask, how can art be shared in a meaningful way (p. 4)? He answers this through examples of socially engaged works in the 1990s by Susanne Lacey and Tim Rollins (Kids Of Survival.) Both of these examples help to analyze the difficulties of socially conversational artworks. The value of their work lies in fusing art education with public engagement through creating conversation-oriented artworks. When applied to this study, the understanding of the relational context of this kind of action needs to be taken into account when looking at the participation of the children. In this participation, there needs to be a knowledge that conversational and collaborative art practices emerge and flourish under specific circumstances (Wright, 2004. p. 534). The historical context of collaborative art frames this study as rooted in a socially aware framework of artistic communication.

There is a need for this framework to maintain flexibility when considering the creative and developmental effects of a collaborative exchange mural. These effects exist in a time when global information is accessible for the participants. Bolin (1999) asks how collaborative art can bring up issues and concerns the participants face in the world, what matters most to them, and why should they care (p.5)? These are the questions that have been an important part of the creative expression and development of the young artists participating in this study.


Participation in Cooperative Story

This community-based public arts project is a result of the children working together through cooperative storytelling. The way in which this story is told, and the imagery which is chosen, has major artistic and developmental significance. Hallmark (2012) states that when creating content, a student’s work becomes arts inquiry, which involves generative construction or composition (p. 96). The arts inquiry in this study is rooted in investigating how the collaborating children will tell a cohesive pictographic story. The narrative of the painting grows through the ideas generated by the children, the material application of those ideas, and the organic creative evolution that comes naturally with the process. This process can inspire connections based on common experiences or interests which emerged amongst participants (Lowe, 2000. p. 366). The creative and conversational connections, whether it is through similarities or differences, are what form the fabric of the artistic communication of the mural’s story.

Lowe (2000) continues by stating that by facilitating collective storytelling, time is provided to learn from each other, to express, and to communicate (p. 367). Learning, expression, and communication are the underlying goals of community art and art education. This study is observing how the cooperative storytelling of the participating young artists reflects a need for more community-based public arts initiatives. However, influential community arts programming needs to identify the importance of the topic and questions that the participants are seeking to answer through their story. The educational process of formulating a good creative question is key to an effective inquiry (Hallmark, 2012, p. 96). The creative question asked of the participating children contributes to the story that is told through the community-based public arts process.

The children’s participation in the formation of the story, communicates the importance of understanding the interactive process of this study. This process requires a triad within the arts as conversational play, arts as narrative inquiry, and arts as material craftsmanship (Hallmark, 2012, p. 93). This study embraces the process of brainstorming, discussion, and material execution. All of these techniques are part of the larger storytelling process. The participation of the students involved relies on the formation of a cooperative dialogic story. The formative ideas and opinions that compose the content of painting came directly through the minds and hands of the diverse group of young artists.

Through community-based dialogue and creative communication, there are many ways to incorporate collaborative arts exchanges into alternative educational programing. These types of programs, during the traditional school day and in after-school programs, often occupy intermittent or short-term posts in the schools, and receive variable support (Hallmark, 2012, p. 94). The primary gap this study is looking to fill is the need for community-based public arts programs to stimulate collective creative development. This development comes through the four primary themes of this literature review; a shared value of group communication through creative interaction, individual student growth through collaborative experience, the participant’s relationship to the concept of an exchange mural, and how the children participate in the formation of a unified story. Through these four lenses, this study is looking to give insight into how community-based public art relates to the artistic development of the participants, and the value of exposing the children involved to painting a cooperative canvas mural.




Design of the Study

This is a qualitative case study using observation as a method of data collection. The methodological intentions of this study will be focused on how collaborative creativity can stimulate a visual dialogue, and how that can represent the conversations between the different artistic development of the participating children.

This study uses an observational data collection method, which combines elements of complete participant and participant as observer (Merriam, 1998, p. 159). As the facilitator of this specialized workshop, I cannot ignore that my presence in the environment is the spark for the process utilized by the subjects being studied. There is an emergent nature to the design of this study. Due to the unknown outcome of this study, the varying methods of acquiring understanding will add a multi-dimensional perspective of creative development. The design of this study will include the use of process photography, quotations from children, and written field observations.


Site Selection

The site that has been selected is Joseph Pulitzer School IS 145, Jackson Heights, Queens, New York. This is one of the most culturally diverse areas of Queens, which is the most diverse of the five boroughs of New York City (according to USA Today, June 23, 2014). This school has a wide variety of communities represented.


Participants of the Study

The two participants to be observed will be determined on site with approval and recommendation of Ivan Asin, local art teacher at Joseph Pulitzer School. The age range for the project is eleven to twelve years. This study will be specifically observing two children within the larger group of twelve students who will be participating in the program.




Data Collection

The most important data to achieve will be focusing on how collaboration affects the artistic development of the children participating in the large-scale canvas mural. The protocol will include a series of visual diagrams, process photos and finished mural photography. The priority of the study will focus on the children being represented by their own words, images and ideas.




Results of the Study

This section will explore the results of my observations and interactions, focusing on how the two observed participating children experience the process of conceiving of and painting a collaborative mural. Throughout the process, there was discussion, questioning, individual drawing, and collaborative painting that took place between the two participants and me, within the larger group project.

The question that informs these observations is how these two individual cases can explore the relationship between collaborative art-making and artistic development. This study attempts to gain insight into the experiences of these two young artists, and how this can be an example in understanding the effects of collective mural making. This observation is composed of an explanation of the surrounding context, the idea drawings contributed by the two students, the process of painting, and the conversations with the young artists.

Description of the Results

The 6 ft. by 15 ft. pre-primed canvas mural was stapled to the wall of the art classroom in the Joseph Pulitzer School, I.S.145, in the heart of Jackson Heights, Queens, NY. The group of twelve participants entered the room on December 11th, 2015 at 2:15 pm for a three-hour Friday after-school program. The group was shown a projection of the Artolution website, which contained a collection of murals painted by children and communities internationally. All of the students were then told that their mural will be part of an exchange project with children in Delhi, India and Lima, Peru.[3]Art teacher, Ivan Asin, co-facilitated the project alongside Artolution Co-Director, Joel Bergner. Having multiple mural facilitators allowed photography, interviews, and written field observations to be recorded throughout the mural-making process.

Mr. Asin was consulted beforehand to recommend two specific students for the study. Upon his recommendation, I focused on the observations, interviews, and conversations with two of the participating eleven-year-olds, a boy and named Atif Hossain and a girl named Samantha Dowlatram. Atif ‘s family is from Bangladesh and Sam’s family is from Guyana. Both children openly and excitedly shared their background information early on in the conversation along with their classmates, who’s nationalities ranged from South America to Asia.

Figure 1. Group of participating young artists at Joseph Pulitzer School, with focus on Atif and Samantha.


After the explanation of the process, the participants had twenty minutes to draw their individual ideas on paper. Both Atif and Samantha diligently went to work on their drawings.  Atif chose to draw a man painting trees in a forest with the branches coming out of his brush. The man was wearing checkered trousers and had three buckets of paint and a kite on the ground next to him. Atif then drew a city skyline behind the two trees, with a word bubble on the right- hand side with Bengali letters inside. Samantha took a different approach. She chose to draw a multi-colored Humicornn (making sure to explain that this is a human mixed with a unicorn). Emerging from its blue, red, and green long hair is a word bubble stating, “I’m one of a kind and so are you.” Samantha’s drawing was small and condensed with color in the center of her white page. Atif’s pencil drawing spans across his entire page creating a background, foreground, subject, and landscape. Both of these drawings have an emphasis on imagination, yet they come from different experience bases of artistic development. This variation in creative perspectives made for an interesting and lively conversation with the group who was gathered around the drawings which were taped up at the front of the room. There was a large blank sheet of paper in the center for the mural plan.

Figure 2. The preparatory paper drawings, with focus on Atif and Samantha’s drawings as part of larger canvas mural composition.


As the conversation ensued, there was a high level of engagement inspired by the different drawings, and a lively discussion as to which statements and images should be included in the message to the children on the other side of the world. Samantha was very enthusiastic about the importance of the inclusion of the humicorn, in the larger painting. She described this creature as “…half human, half unicorn. It’s throwing up unicorn colors! Throwing up all the emotions it has.” She went on to describe how this represents how important it is for the group to tell the kids who will see this art, that they should feel confident in “expressing their own imagination.” The group agreed, and this comment inspired the integration of imaginative creatures. Atif played a very different role in the group dialogue. He was much quieter, and attentively paid close attention to every interaction within the group. When discussing Indian colors and themes, the group stated that India is “warm.” He corrected this by mentioning that “ No. It is actually cold in the Himalayas.” With this comment, he continued to quietly explain why it is important that the mural has a person painting a tree into both sides of the story. He voiced the importance of the image of a child bringing a tree to life from imagination, so the other kids will “see what we are saying.”  The group was very receptive to this idea as well, and we agreed to use this idea of a larger tree to unify the ideas of many of the other children.

  Figure 3. The transfer of ideas onto canvas with pastels, concentration on additions of Atif and Samantha.


Although different in approach, both of Atif and Samantha added an emphasis on the integration of imagination into the larger mural. With the completion of the discussion of the preparatory drawings, it was time to paint the color ground for the mural. The background colors were agreed upon to divide the canvas in half, one side cool colors, and one side warm colors. After the entire canvas was covered with color by the participants, pastels were brought out for the children to draw their ideas on top of the color ground. Samantha, an outspoken social leader with her group of two friends, vehemently believed that the humicorn needed to be in the world of cool colors. Nobody objected, and upon her initiation, this decisive act set the pastel-drawing in motion, and the voluntary delegation of roles. The girls of the group followed her lead, and clustered at the cool side of the painting. The boys instinctively went to the warm side of the canvas, focusing on their birds and creatures. Atif however, inhabited the unique space of being the bridge between the two sides at the center. He calmly volunteered to sketch the unifying tree, which grew into both sides of the painting. Influenced by his quiet diligence, another girl and boy continued his tree drawing, allowing him time to complete the boy painting the tree into existence on the warm side of the mural.

Figure 4. Painting process with focus on Atif and Samantha’s addition to canvas mural.


With the concept and preliminary sketch complete, the final step was to bring the  compositional structure to life with paint. Atif and Samantha took very different approaches to painting in their individual elements. Samantha took her time to diligently paint in the stripes of her Humicorn, and kept her pallet clean and contained like her painting. Atif took a more collaborative approach. He focused on painting the branches of the tree, spilling across the top of the canvas. As he concentrated on the larger composition, he gave permission to one of the girls to complete the tree-painting boy he had initially drawn. The detail of Atif’s brown, shaded branches added a maturity to the whole mural, which brought the different styles and images of the group into a singular conversation.



I began this study with the question, “What does it mean to participate in a collaborative mural and how might this contribute to the artistic development of the children involved?” As I examined the literature on community arts, along with my observational notes on the experiences of the participating children, the question of artistic development needed to be answered by the voices of the children themselves. McCarthy & Kimberly (2001) explain that in order to eventually influence change in participation, one must understand how the creative process actually works (p.12).

When the painting process came to a close, I had a series of concluding reflective conversations with Atif and Samantha. Samantha spoke for a long time about the mural, describing the painting as “full of emotion,” and that the exchange will mean “whatever [the recipients] want it to mean. They could describe how they feel when they come up with the meaning.” It was clear that the most important part of the project to her, was discussing what the mural meant to the people who would see the artwork in the future. Atif took a different approach, and was simple in his response. He was clear that his contribution showed that “Messages can come from both sides. We can respect difference in one piece of art.” He spoke of this both figuratively and literally. He felt that all of the different perspectives of the individuals in the participating group were the strength of the piece, because they showed that different kinds of people could come together, even with unrelated ideas.

When asked about how he felt to be part of a larger collaboration, Atif spoke to the value of the allegory imbedded into the mural. “I was thinking water and fire, both opposite elements. Maybe the message could be that you don’t have to be on one side, you could be on both.” As he said this, he ran his hands along the warm and cool areas of the painting. He explained that his contribution was trying to bring the whole piece together, to create a strong message. When asked the same question, Samantha wanted the mural to inspire larger ideas in the minds of the viewers; “To love yourself and be yourself and don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do what you want to do.”  When saying this, Samantha excitedly jumped up to show the excitement she had for this idea. To her, this moral value of freedom came in the form of imaginative creativity and open expression.

Figure 5.  Completed canvas mural.


Through the questions and observations I had with the students, the answer to the problem statement of this study is twofold. The first element is the importance of the mural to develop artistic connection between the participants. The second is the value of the mural to connect the students to the outside world. Both of these individual accounts support the concept that community-based art helps youth use their art as a mechanism to connect to others and, to recognize their role in creating personal and collective change (Gargarella, 2007, p.1). Both Atif and Samantha used the art to advance their sense of creative connection, and artistically develop their concept of the power of collaborative arts.



An important implication of this research to the field of art education is that community- based public arts programs foster artistic development through an active understanding that art can affect others. This kind of imaginative dialogue is stimulated through programs which use the arts classroom as an environment to connect students with the outside world and each other.  My recommendation to art educators is that community engagement and collaborative arts programs need to be advocated for, because many times they are overlooked. Such programs also need to be encouraged by administrators, non-profit organizations, parents, students, and community organizers. Hopefully, this mural project in Queens will encourage more alternative educational arts programs to exist in the future. Borwick (2012) states that education and the arts should exist to serve communities (p.2). The synthesis of artistic development and community-based public arts has the potential to yield a body of research that would be a persuasive tool in advocating for the advancement of the arts.


The main goal of this study is to understand how the participating two children engage in learning and artistic development through community-based public art. It must be taken into account that this case study only involved the observation of two children. From the results of the study, I conclude that this community-based public arts project inspired collaborative artistic development through expanded understanding of the outside world in the two participating children. Both students verbalized and demonstrated their ideas about collaboration through creative participation and strong beliefs that what they painted had significance to the greater world. Both participants left the program having contributed to a communal art conversation and developed an understanding of what they each had to offer to a project that was larger than themselves. I therefore conclude that collective artistic exchange encourages both artistic development in both the individual child and the group, and enhances the understanding of the greater world.



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Student Participant Quotations:


“To love yourself and be yourself and don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do what you want to do. What are the hardships that you face so far? When you grow up would you like to make any changes to your lifestyle?”

“I have a lot of confidence and perseverance and when I start something I really hope to finish it”

“ Its half human half unicorn. It’s throwing up unicorn colors. Throwing up all the emotions it has.”

“How are you going to bring the canvasses?”

“What are their foods and traditions?”

“ I started off with darker colors and worked my way down to lighter colors, so it has an hombre effect. Sometimes they do it at salon’s on nails.”

“This is full of emotions. What ever they want it to mean”

“Could describe how they feel, they are the ones to come up with the meaning”

“ Tell them I say hi.”



“What’s their daily routine? What type of art do they do? “

“Messages can come from both sides. We can respect different races in one piece of art.”

“Can I use my phone for  reference and inspiration?”

“They (referring to my pants that were covered in paint) have been through the world of art.”

“We can switch spots, through art. ”

“Did you know India was found en route to Asia?”

“Do we need to let it dry?”

“Get ideas and knowledge from other people.”

“Dragon protecting the tree.”

“Not true”- [India and Peru both have cold climates]

“Stars in the background instead of the sky.”

“I was thinking water and fire, both opposite elements. Maybe the message could be that you don’t have to be on one side, you could be on both. You don’t have to judge by being on both.”

“ Do I use black, or shaded brown for the tree branches?”

“Indian people, they don’t use dull colors, they use bright colors. I know because my dad had a factory that exported colorful fabric to India.”

“ Could you put the photos from the mural on Pupil Pad?”


Personal Observations:

The participants were very respectful to one another.

They worked together on symbolic representations.

They all had smart phones and wanted to use them for ideas.

Using India and Peru represented the sharing of different cultures through art.

The participants concentrated and took the project seriously.

The participants looked at Google images and consulted options for their drawings.

Participants Nationalities: Ecuador, Bangladesh, Colombia, Italy, Mexico, Guyana

There was fluidity of conversation throughout workshop. All participants participated strongly.

Some had painted before on large-scale projects.

There was a strong willingness to clean brushes and they were very respectful and polite using phrases such as “please” and “thank you.”

They wanted to use colors representing each country.

There was major discussion and controversy which side will go to India and which side will go to Peru, it came down to a vote to make the decision.

The group painted as single team, with an emphasis on teamwork.


















Figures of Process:


Figure 6. The idea making process of drawing on paper, and looking at photography of murals painted by children internationally.


Figure 7. Atif drawing his unifying tree with pastels on painted color ground.

Figure 8. Samantha in front of her “Humacorn”, during painting process.

Figure 9. Atif’s completed tree and painting man, collaboratively completed by other students.

Figure 10. Samantha’s completed “Humacorn” among cool side of painting.

Figure 11. Completed mural divided in half.  Left-hand side was decided to got to Peru, and right-hand side was decided to go to India. On both sides there is a message in Spanish and Hindi stating, “ To our new friends in Peru” and “ To our new friends in India.”

[1] To see more information please visit

[2] Ivan Asin is an Ed.D (Education Doctorate) Candidate at Teachers College, Columbia University and has been teaching in the Joseph Pulitzer school for over five years.

[3] The mural will be divided into two after its completion, and brought to each location.