What does it take to turn an ordinary school cafeteria into a visually stimulating environment? According to decorative painter and Smack Mellon board member Rebecca Graves, all you really need is pattern samples, adobe photoshop, a projector, and paint…and a talented design team.
For the past two weeks, Rebecca has been working with such a team, of Art Ready students from past and present years, and former Smack Mellon Summer Arts Intensive students, to create an original decorative mural for Metropolitan Corporate Academy (MCA). MCA is a small public high school in Downtown Brooklyn where several Art Ready students attend. The mural will be painted by students and other community members over two Saturdays, March 19 and 26.
In these design workshops, Rebecca taught participants each step of the mural process–starting with measuring the cafeteria walls and making scale drawings with architectural rulers. The first workshop was mainly dedicated to selecting students’ favorite patterns from Rebecca’s volumes of books of different ethnically-inspired designs, with the goal of ultimately combining several into one unified mural.
At the end of the workshop we discussed the relative merits of participants’ different pattern selections: some designs were too complicated to be painted over only two days, especially ones with too many straight edges, which are naturally more difficult than curvy lines. Some were too feminine or old-fashioned-looking for a co-ed, urban school. The design had to look good against the existing blue color of the walls, since we were not going to be able to re-paint the entire room. Everyone in the group seemed to gravitate towards including animals, and elements that suggest their surrounding environments.
At the second workshop, Rebecca brought in her computer with a few different possible mural designs she had begun, based on different combinations of the students’ favorite patterns. These included an African motif and a Japanese motif. They had been generated in Photoshop by collaging jpg files of the patterns onto Rebecca’s photos of the cafeteria walls.
After some discussion, the group decided on the African motif with its freestyle lines and quirky, playful animals as the favorite design of the bunch. We tweaked the colors and wall placement in photoshop. We had to still make sure the amount of painting would be do-able in just two Saturdays so we realized we had to cut some of the background pattern to leave some patches of plain blue on the wall.
Rebecca completed the final design after the workshop, and emailed the design team and school for final feedback. These images will be projected, traced, and painted onto the walls over the next two Saturdays.