During Fall 2010, Gordon students from Introduction to Painting had an opportunity to participate in helping design, create and paint images representing six character traits for students at Harrington Elementary, a diverse, public school in neighboring Lynn. While Gordon art students had created two other art displays at Harrington in the past, this particular idea came from The Six Pillars of Character originating from Josephine Institute Center for Youth Ethics. Each 4” x 4” pillar symbolizes an ethical, humanitarian value. As the characters do not promote one political, religious or cultural point of view, the diverse student population can hopefully be inspired to model their lives after these ideals.
The pillars now cover a once-empty wall to greet all who enter the front entrance of Harrington. The principal, teachers and students were overjoyed by the colorful creativity and simple, comprehensive meanings. All seemed to agree that the artwork made their school more welcoming to everyone.
Tanja Butler, associate professor of art who spearheaded the project, has been involved with the Gordon in Lynn (GIL) program for six years, and loves having her students use their skills for service. “God gifted us for service to extend His kingdom for access of creative life,” explains Butler. “I hope [the Gordon students] gain a good learning experience on how needs can be met by using their skills and engaging with the community who have needs. It’s been a dream for Gordon to make good use of resources, student engagement and skills.”
Click through the thumbnails below to view the photo journal:
The pillars are located in the hallway right near the front entrance of the school, welcoming the students with colorful greetings every day. I felt honored to be a part of this artistic partnership to brighten the halls of the school and hopefully encourage the young students. I know that I was so grateful to share my skills and to hear how much the students were in awe of the artwork—even the principal and teachers were amazed!
Trustworthiness is the first characteristic and its representing color in the background of each image is blue. The images that the Gordon art students and I painted are simple images symbolizing trustworthiness, such as a loyal dog, a school bus, a parent/child bond, a bridge, and a crosswalk guard, which are more easily understood by the elementary students. It took a great deal of trust on the part of our professor and the principal to allow us to even undergo this partnership! I’m grateful for the relationships that were in place before we got there that allowed for this trust to grow.
Respect is the second characteristic among the 6 pillars. Yellow is its representing color, and the images used to represent the theme are: books along with an apple (which still often represents the respect given to the teacher from a student); two hands shaking which show two different ethnic backgrounds; a serviceman in the US military; a police badge/symbol; and the White House. I could sense the tremendous respect the principal has for her students and all that they and their parents do to give their children a good education.
Responsibility is the third characteristic. Green is its representing color. The images are: a girl reading a book/textbook; playing piano; a man wearing a suit and tie; coins falling into a piggy bank; and a fish being fed. I could tell how much responsibility that the principal and our professor delved into in using art for public service rather than keeping it isolated in the classroom where no one else would have benefited.
The fourth pillar of characteristics is fairness, and its representing color is orange. The following images are: two soccer players from different teams; kids waiting in line; a referee and a whistle; kids sharing pizza; and a balance. Fairness is very important for the students to use as a model because of how diverse they are.
Caring is the fifth characteristic, and red is its representing color. The images used for this characteristic are: hands holding the world; a flower pot pouring water on flowers; a bear’s arm wrapped around a friend’s shoulder; a nurse or doctor with a stethoscope; and two kids under one umbrella. Caring is universal; everyone needs to be nurtured. All those involved with this school have worked hard caring for each other and especially for the future of the students.
The final characteristic is citizenship, and its symbolic color is purple. The images are: a hand over one’s heart (showing pledge of allegiance), kids planting a tree; the Statue of Liberty; hands of different races voting; and of course, the American flag.
Our class was really ecstatic about this experience and were amazed at how much more meaningful it was to use our artistic gifts as a service to the community. We hope that our art pieces will deeply touch Harrington as much as they have touched us.
I was so amazed at how colorful the cafeteria looked! All the bright colors and artwork gives the school a more welcoming and comfortable atmosphere for the students. Several years ago, Gordon students traced some of the children’s figures on the columns in the cafeteria. It got the kids involved, which sounded like a fun activity for the students and made the school look more colorful. The accompanying words of encouragement are equally cheerful and hopefully influential to the students as they eat their meals alongside them every day.
These were some other paintings that Gordon students did years ago in Harrington’s Library. The paintings help categorize the library into different genres.
Now that I have new eyes after having taken Butler’s painting class, I couldn't believe how beautiful this particular painting was. If I were a student at this school, I think I would feel more encouraged to read! I see quite a connection between imagination and creativity which can inspire children to appreciate learning, reading, and the wonders of art.