IN THE CLASSROOM: Peace, Love, Respect

News • Urban Gateways News

In the Classroom is a monthly feature created to take you inside Urban Gateways programs and share with you the experiences of the teaching artist and their students.

A half-dozen male teenagers spent their summer creating a mural for their South Side neighborhood that focused on stopping the violence. The six-week mural project took place this summer in the Back of the Yards community as part of Urban Gateways Art Options program, which provides paid arts apprenticeships for middle and high school students that culminate in a community-based arts project.

Partners for this project included Artisans for Peace, Precious Blood Ministry, the Peace and Education Coalition, and the Chicago Community Trust.

Over a six-week period, teaching artists Jeff Maldonado from Urban Gateways and Victor Lopez from Precious Blood worked with seven high-needs youth ages 14-19. The young men were paid a stipend to research, design and fully construct a mural on a prominent public site located at 51st and Laflin. The program focused on job training and skill-building in the arts as motivation for participants who are at a critical juncture in their lives.

Teaching artist Jeff Maldonado describing the mural: The subject matter (of the mural) is peace, and the images and ideas were culled from our students’ work. The ideas came from the idea of people living in harmony through music. The center is the image of the earth and we who live in it. The peace key and the stop violence sign signal not just peace in our communities but among all nations and the earth itself. The musical notes reverberate throughout the mural and the notes are carried by the dove of peace.

Urban Gateways Jill Potter speaking about the project: The focus of this community-based project has been young artist apprentices and lead artists sharing a unified vision and voice for the creation of a public mural; a monument within their community. Peacemaking and Peace-building are the guiding principles in creating this mural. By engaging in the mural-making process, this group of talented young artists has been empowered by the freedom of artistic choice and expression. That they have identified music as the great equalizer and catalyst toward peace sends a message likely to reverberate throughout this community.