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Dunbar Community Center To Unveil Mural Painted By DeBerry Students

December 8, 2004

SPRINGFIELD, Mass., Dec. 8, 2004 -- The Dunbar Community Center (DCC) will unveil a spectacular mural created by children from the William N. DeBerry Elementary School at a holiday celebration on Friday, Dec. 10, from 4 to 6 p.m.

The mural is the project of about 20 children in 3rd through 5th grades in the A4E Program (Art is: education, expression, exploration, empowerment). They have worked after school under the guidance of Springfield College students of art education and art therapy and DeBerry artist in residence Robert Masla, who also is an adjunct professor of art at Springfield College. The A4E Program is supported by a grant to the school from the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) and by the Springfield College AmeriCorps Program.

DeBerry School has no art instruction during the school day and no art teacher on staff. The mural project, which also is supported by contributions from Strathmore Artists Papers Cartpak, Inc., was designed to foster development of children’s fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, visual thinking, problem solving and creative expression through visual art. The curriculum followed the Massachusetts Visual Arts Standards.

At the unveiling, the DCC Youth Chorus will perform accompanied by Debbi Salli on the center’s new piano donated by Health New England and Baystate Health System.

The mural, in the style of African-American artist Romare Bearden, is titled, “The Self and the World Around Us.” According to Simone Alter-Muri, Springfield College liaison and co-director of the project, the mural reflects children’s views of their roles and accomplishments in their community. “In designing and completing the mural, the children were guided through an artistic process that resulted in this lasting accomplishment that can be viewed and celebrated daily by parents, neighbors, and the whole community, but, most importantly, by the children themselves,” she said.

Alter-Muri said that the project empowered children who have no art curriculum in school, and often feel that they cannot express themselves through art, to participate in and enjoy a creative experience. “They experienced accomplishment and a sense of pride in their skills, and many of them even have begun art projects of their own at home,” she said.

In addition to the mural, the MCC grant also enabled Alter-Muri to provide training workshops for DeBerry teachers on techniques for integrating visual art into the school curriculum in areas of language arts, math, science and social studies. The grant recently was renewed for an additional two years. Within the next year, students will create a mural at DeBerry School where they will use geometry and other mathematic concepts.

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