28 Feb, 2014
10 : 00
On a bright, early morning in June, after months of careful preparation, a mural project team finally put paint on an outdoor, structural wall at Gubei Campus, creating a highly-anticipated, vibrant piece of campus art.
YCIS’s Artist-in-Residence (AIR), Mr Mark Montgomery, worked with Secondary students to create a mural that would encompass all of their ideas in one project, decorating a wall outside of Gubei Campus’s “A” building. During the week of hands-on painting, a group of rotating students from Years 7 through 9 worked alongside Montgomery, focused very diligently on painting this new mural, and creating the beautiful new scenery.
Once the finishing touches were applied, Montgomery was eager to discuss the project, and how he helps open students’ eyes to the world of art around them.
Describe the process of preparing this mural and how you involved the students:
Montgomery: The plan was to take as many of the students’ ideas as possible and combine them with some of the ideas and goals I have in my role as AIR, in such a way as to create a fun and exciting mural that would inspire all who passed by. The mural needed to be more than just something interesting to look at. It also needed to convey a message about the ideals of YCIS Shanghai.
What are the main ideas behind the mural?
Montgomery: The theme of the mural centers on student life, and how students’ experience at YCIS helps shape them into who they are. There are many things that influence us on our education journey, and those in turn help form our identity, so I wanted to highlight some of those aspects in this mural.
Walk us through the actual process of generating the idea and painting it on a wall:
Montgomery: For the mural design, I decided to use silhouettes of four students – two girls and two boys – and within each figure, we painted as many of the ideas from the students as possible. Each of these figures represents characteristics that YCIS fosters through its educational programme. Everything from protecting the environment, to various subject areas of the wide-ranging core curriculum, was used in the design of the mural.
Where do you find your artistic inspiration?
Montgomery: For this particular mural, I found inspiration directly from the students. I can say that, usually, inspiration comes from my everyday life experiences. Each day I get up, I see something new, either through observation or through ideas that I have been mulling over in my head. I also read up on the world around me, and about other artists who inspire. I then process all of the information into my artwork.
How do you help students to find their artistic inspiration?
Montgomery: I think some people look at art as something that is impossible to do, or that the process or the time given to complete a piece of artwork might intimidate them, and it is for that reason that I am driven to inspire the students and others. I guide students to open their creative minds to all of the possibilities they may be able to explore through art. It is not about how good you are at the moment; it is really about opening your mind, creatively, in order to find new answers to challenges. Anyone can do this, if they just start believing in themselves and thinking creatively.
My role here as the Artist-in-Residence is not just to create art for the school, but to show students how to apply what they have learnt in their academic classes to their artwork. I know I am successful when I observe students who realise that, by doing this in their own artwork, they can also do this in any subject or for any situation in their own life.
What is some advice you’d like to share with students?
Montgomery: I am a most unlikely artist, due to the fact that I am blind in one eye. I believe with art, as with anything in life, you must have a passion for it. I have never let my “supposed handicap” keep me from pursuing my dream of being an artist. My favorite piece of advice to give others is “find out what you love to do and do it every day.” I have always strived to do just that; I know I am not perfect, but I believe that if I keep trying, I will keep moving forward every day with very positive results.
What are your thoughts on the overall experience with the mural?
Montgomery: I am grateful for all of the hard work our students gave to finish this mural, as it would not have been possible without them. The next time you are at our Gubei Campus, please stop by and have a look at the design, as it might just inspire you towards your own greatness.