Halton District School Board students used their artistic skills to help create images at the Welcome Centre in Milton
as a way to help newcomers feel more included.
As part of the Welcome Centre’s Arts to Build Bridges project, which received a donation from the Halton Learning Foundation, multilingual Grade 9 students from Elsie MacGill Secondary School were invited to design typography murals using different languages to reflect aspects of their cultural identity. The design of each student’s mural is inspired by song lyrics in a language spoken by the student who designed the mural. Students designed and created murals using the following languages: Korean, Urdu, Farsi, Chinese, Turkish, Arabic, Spanish, as well as incorporating American Sign Language.
Eric Keunne, Program Lead, Youth Settlement (K-12) and Equity & Inclusive Education for the HDSB, says the art project was an effective way to provide students with experiential learning opportunities while making a positive difference in the HDSB.
“The goal of this activity is to provide newcomer students and families the opportunity to experience how diversity and inclusion are reflected through art and music in the physical space,” Keunne says. “This also helps to reinforce the sense of belonging through the work of different artists from diverse backgrounds. We hope to help our newest members of the HDSB communitysee that we value their identities and that it is through our diversity that we find strength in our communities in Halton.”
Teacher Jamie Sumner says his art students were excited to take part in this project.
“Students worked hard to take something personal to them, turn it into a design and develop it into a large mural. Participating in a project like this one gives young artists the opportunity to build leadership skills through the process of collaborating with their peers to create large-scale work.”
Grade 9 student Saly Abu Dakka says she “loved” taking part in this activity.
“I enjoyed how we were able to work with our classmates and how we were able to see other students work and learn about their murals since they were all in different languages. The language my mural uses is Arabic, which is my first language. I also included Palestine's national flowers because that is where I am from.”
"Representing my culture in a mural for other students to see gives me a sense of achievement that I can help other students,” says Grade 9 student Jessica Han.
In describing her mural, Han says: “‘Today’s adventure is tomorrow’s most unforgettable scenery’ is the translation of ‘今天的闯荡是明天最难忘的风光’ and it is one of the lyrics that I chose from a song.” “I have included ‘出场’ as the text in this mural design, which is the name of the song that means ‘it’s your turn to go’. This song was written by Charlie Zhou for the 2022 Winter Olympics. In this mural I have also included pandas and bamboo.”
The mural project connects to the Equity and Inclusion and Mental Health and Well-being areas of focus in the HDSB's 2020-2024 Multi-Year Plan
, Kuenne says.
“We see first hand how collaboration amongst students is such a key aspect in designing and working on these creative projects.”
Keunne says the next Arts to Build Bridges project will involve staff and students from Abbey Lane Public School, and is likely to start in the fall.