My involvement with the Obermann Center began in 2009 as a graduate student in Art Education at the University of Iowa. After many years of teaching Art to At-risk high school students at Tate High School, I moved in the direction of creating service-learning opportunities in the community using community murals as a vehicle for art that was engaging and relevant. Various community agencies and non-profits offered their walls, and my students and I offered our time and talents to plan and execute large-scale murals that were both responsive to place and representative of the mural’s particular constituency.
In 2009, my work with communities and students took me to a high school in Uganda where I worked with students and teachers to design and execute a mural covering their school building that engendered pride in their cultural identity. Following my participation in the Obermann Graduate Institute, I returned to compete the project the following summer of 2010.
I continue to teach at Tate full-time, and my dedication to what it is that I do and the population of students I teach has only grown deeper over time. The opportunity that Obermann provided to reflect on my practices and share with others was a valuable experience for refining and reflecting upon my personal and professional convictions.
The skateboard project I worked on with my students demonstrates how my practice has evolved. Using the appeal of an ever-changing American teen popular culture, I wrote a grant to promote literacy with our library-media specialist; the goal was to promote literacy through purchasing blank skateboards and young adult bestsellers, combining them in a creative project. Students select a book for purchase to read and must also adapt the book cover into a skateboard graphic. The skateboards are displayed with the book in the media center, students reflect on the book in writing, and the students take home the skateboards at the end of the term
The two skateboards photographed here, “Wonder” by Lavonda Mingo, grade 11, and “The Testing” by Kiara Forrest, grade 11, began with a graphite transfer method that is accessible for any level of artistic ability. An image of the book cover is printed, enlarged, and arranged within the elongated shape of a primed skateboard and—beginning with simple outlines of the spatial arrangement—paint is applied within those lines until the image of the book cover is complete.