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Can A Mural Change A School?

Twinfield School MuralDuring the weekend of April 11-13, more than a dozen Twinfield staff, parents and students helped to sort, record, and mount the more than 450 “Peace Tiles” that would compose a new mural in the school’s cafeteria. The Peace Tiles – individual collages on 8-inch square wood panel – each responded to the question, “What is my place?” This question, asked in a series of discussion forums, was intended to deepen thinking about three aspects of place: the people, institutions, and geographies that shape our experience of place.

Students then used the mental imagery, words, and ideas that they developed in response to the question and their discussions to create their tile. When combined with others into a mural, they produced a single image representing the Central Vermont landscape where they live – a theme selected by the 2008 graduating class.

While the mural represents one of a few large works in the school, there is some concern that students will find the mural a ready target for vandalism. I am not so certain, for two reasons. First is that each student has a piece in the mural: everyone contributed to it, and as a result I would expect that it feels more “owned” by the entire student body. The second reason is that the mural should have some longevity: every student, from pre-K up to the graduating class, contributed to the mural – which means it could be up to 12 years before that bit of school history graduates. In my mind, that’s a pretty lengthy bit of time for a story to circulate. Both aspects of the mural I hope will garner students’ delight and respect for many years to come.

In any event, so while a mural itself may not be able to ‘change’ a school, perhaps the process and product can nudge the needle just a bit. It was a pleasure to work with everyone at the school, and I certainly learned many good lessons for how to take the Peace Tiles mural project “to scale.”

Several guides are available online to assist anyone develop their own Peace Tiles initiative, including a “What Is My Place” discussion pack; a Peace Tiles “Pattern Book“; and a “Workshop Design Guide“.

Lars Hasselblad Torres
In 2004 and 2005, Lars ran a scoping study to determine whether a “National Dialogue Bureau” was a feasible idea. The Dialogue Bureau, if developed, would supply journalists with a “one stop” destination for the collection of views held by ordinary Americans who engage in dialogue about current affairs.

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