This post was written by our summer intern Megan, a current MLIS student at Dominican University.

On July 20th,1978, Studs visited Mclaren Elementary School in Chicago, a school from which he himself graduated in 1925. Studs speaks with students who painted elaborate murals in the school stairways, only to be informed on the last day of the school year that Mclaren was going to be torn down. In this interview, the children describe their murals and share their feelings about the fact that their school, along with their hard work, is going to be demolished.

School Children

School children, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Studs stands in the halls of Mclaren with the students who created the murals and discuss how they began. The students wanted to brighten their school, and because they were studying oceanography at the time, decided to paint an underwater-themed mural on the first floor stairway. Approximately forty children took time out of their classes and worked on the mural. Studs views the work and describes how imaginative it is: there is a hammerhead shark imagined as a carpenter and holding a toolkit, a mermaid, and a “dinosaur school bus”–a school bus with the head of a dinosaur. This mural was a cooperative effort, with multiple children working to create the larger figures.

Studs then follows the children to the second floor of Mclaren school, where they show him another mural they created. This one is a fantastical land-based theme, including a baseball game featuring animal players. There is a blue zebra wearing roller skates, birds playing tennis, an ostrich, various spectators, and a hippopotamus who the children describe as the best baseball player of them all.

After viewing these creative works, Studs discusses the fact that the children felt “had”–the adults knew the school was going to be demolished, and hid this fact from the children. After all the time and effort the students put into creating these murals, their work was about to be destroyed. The frustration and sadness the children feel is evident in their voices as they discuss the fate of their works.

Finally, Studs speaks with parents and residents of the neighborhood who describe their dismay over the fact that Mclaren school is going to be demolished. The board who voted to tear the school down also voted to photograph the murals and move the photographs to the new school. Despite this effort to preserve the children’s work, the children were still devastated to lose their original murals. Overall, Studs highlights the children’s experience creating the murals together, and how valuable these projects can be for children. What they created is valuable, and it is indeed a shame that the works were destroyed. However, Studs also discusses the fact that the children will become stronger by going through the experience of losing their school and their hard work. This interview taps into the larger issues of having respect for children’s work, as well as artwork in general.

 

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