Maynard Elementary Community Art Project

School of Art

A mile north of the UT campus in a historically underserved school district, students at Maynard Elementary School are expressing their individuality by painting on the walls thanks to Jillian Hirsch, a graduate student in the School of Art.

In January 2018, Hirsch and a group of undergraduate students launched a weekly after-school art program to design and paint a mural in the Maynard Elementary School library. Originally funded by the UT Foundation and School of Art, the project continues with the help of a community incentive grant from UT.

Hirsch’s interest in the program stems from a profound love of teaching and learning. Prior to working on her MFA in ceramics, Hirsch studied fine art and K-12 education. She has also collaborated with nonprofit organizations, schools, and neighborhood groups on large-scale mosaic murals.

“Most of the work I have done is highly participatory in nature and structured in a way to provide many opportunities for direct community participation throughout all aspects of the project,” Hirsch said. “It’s important that community art is democratic, and that the creation and installation of artwork cultivates a sense of community.”

Maynard student painting grass

More than a dozen students from third through fifth grade are the primary artists. Undergraduate students serve as mentors to the elementary school students to ensure they are an essential part of the creative team. Since completing the mural, the team continues to design and install a series of collaborative art projects throughout Maynard Elementary School.

“The whole school is a blank canvas,” said Amanda Beasley, a junior studying art history at UT. “The students are excited about everything, which refreshes my own eagerness to learn. Sometimes they ask questions I don’t know the answers to, and I think that’s really great!”

As the project grows, the group will look for more participants, apply for grants, and seek private donations with the goal of creating a self-sustaining program. The long-term goal is to provide an established platform for UT students and faculty to engage in cross-disciplinary research with various local partners on impactful community art projects.