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Art education students unveil a mural celebrating diversity at Mackay Centre

Concordians collaborate on an inclusive project following an internship at the local school
May 14, 2024

From left to right: Anna Ignacio, Sara Escobar, and Katarina Martins in front of the mural at the Mackay Centre.

There’s a vibrant new mural at the Mackay Centre, a school for students with hearing, physical or communication disabilities. And it’s thanks to a longstanding partnership between the centre and Concordia's Department of Art Education.

The idea for the mural project originated with art education students Katarina Martins and Sara Escobar, who completed internships at Mackay. Inspired by their experiences, they both expressed a desire to give back to the school community. The project titled The Shape of Me, was facilitated by graduate student Anna Ignacio, under the guidance of Aileen Castro, Specialization in Art Education program coordinator.

It received support from the Quebec Ministry of Education.

"The design of the mural was inspired by the theme of diversity and how Mackay Centre School fosters this in their everyday practices." Escobar notes.

An inclusive and collaborative effort

The three students worked on a proposal presentation for the school administration who responded enthusiastically. They then asked students at the school to come up with drawings to incorporate into the design.

“More than a hundred drawings, from students and teachers, were incorporated into the mural,” Escobar says.

A group of people stand around signing a card in the street. Aileen Castro: 'The Mackay Centre mural is a gift to young hearts.'

The resulting work spans an impressive 22 metres and was unveiled at the Mackay Centre's Diversity Party on April 26. The creation process ran for the four days leading up to this official launch. Martins, Escobar, Ignacio, as well as students, teachers and staff at Mackay Centre all came together to contribute.

Painted across the side wall of a hallway ramp, the work features a variety of characters leading up to larger forms and a tower, symbolizing the diversity and richness of experiences at the centre.

"What makes the mural so interesting is the variety of characters," Martins says. "We wanted to create an experience where everyone could walk along each day and point out characters that they identify most with. By keeping them abstract and all very different, we made sure students could identify themselves."

A process filled with heartwarming moments

“The students thought the mural was being created by paint fairies whenever they were away,” said the teachers from Mackay Centre. Despite painting mostly in the evenings, away from the students' views and reactions, the trio was delighted to learn that the children eagerly awaited updates on the mural's progress each day. It was not only visually successful, it also became a source of joy and wonder for the students.

A young woman in a motorized wheelchair places stickers on a tray The Mackay Centre hosted a Diversity Party and the group made stickers based on the mural characters.

"For the Diversity Party that Mackay hosted on the last day of the week we made stickers based on the mural characters and handed them out. It was such a pleasure seeing them stuck to the students’ wheelchair wheels, backpacks, books and clothes," Ignacio highlights.

Martins, Escobar, Ignacio, and Castro view the mural as more than just a decorative piece; it stands as a tangible symbol of the enduring partnership and friendship between Mackay Centre School and Concordia. For them, its bright colours and inclusive design are a powerful representation of the shared values of diversity, inclusion and collaboration. As Castro aptly puts it, the mural is also a "gift to young hearts.” 

Explore your creativity in Concordia’s Department of Art Education.

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