Building a Better World Through Art & Community

Jennifer Silver

This year has challenged all of the norms that we take for granted as a community. One of those, being the ability to gather together in groups to celebrate our school community. These events have become tradition, creating unity, and building school pride. When faced with the knowledge that we could not hold our fall events, Soup+Cider and Open Studios we were forced to either scrap them or rethink them. We chose to innovate.

As we were considering the challenges facing us at Sparhawk, we received an email from our friends at the Amesbury Cultural Council (ACC) stating that they too were redesigning the annual Open Studios Event to be mostly online. After some thoughtful conversations within Sparhawk and the greater Amesbury Community, we devised a new event plan that incorporates community, social justice and the arts. With the support of the ACC, we created Amesbury’s first Community Mosaic Mural Project to be launched in coordination with the Amesbury Open Studios Event. This project combines three components that are very important to us; community, social justice and the arts. It is also remote-friendly and follows necessary health protocols.

This new event is multi-season as opposed to the single evening or weekend events that we have hosted in the past. These days, flexibility is key to success, so we created an elongated timeline, taking into account all of the unknowns that the next few months will surely hold. We are launching our project during the fall of 2020, beginning with a mural design contest for Sparhawk students with the theme Building a Better World. The winning design will then become the blueprint for the second step: mosaic tile creation. 

At this stage, we invite the entire community to participate in creating tiles that will be integrated into the final mural composition. The winter months are filled with additional tile creation, glazing and layout planning. In the end, we will have constructed a large-scale mosaic mural, created by dozens, if not hundreds, of community members that will be installed in the Spring of 2021. This piece will be located on the exterior wall of Sparhawk Upper School which is visible and accessible via the local public walking trail. The process of constructing the mural, from beginning to end, is in itself a practice of building a better world through art and community. In the face of challenges and odds we chose unity and innovation and, in the process, created a new tradition for our school and greater community.