‘They’re doing something that has lasting value:’ Waukesha students work with local artist to create community mural

WAUKESHA -- A local program is helping schools incorporate art into their curriculums. It's a partnership that's leaving a lasting impression on the surrounding community.

Kids crowded into a stairwell at Carroll University and waited to see a mural each one had a hand at creating. It was a moment months in the making.

Elementary school students from Waukesha wait inside the campus center at Carroll University to see a mural they helped create be unveiled.

The process began earlier this year inside classrooms at four Waukesha schools -- Banting Elementary School, Summit View Elementary School, Whittier Elementary School and La Casa de Esperanza.

Second and third graders participated in the art project.

Lynda Kohler is the President/CEO of SHARP Literacy.

The assignment came from each school's partnership with SHARP Literacy. SHARP Literacy is a non-profit educational organization serving more than 8,500 students in Milwaukee and Waukesha.

"We give students experiences that they normally wouldn't have," explained Lynda Kohler, President & CEO of SHARP Literacy.

Kohler says one of SHARP's missions is to enhance education through the visual arts. One of the ways this is done is through community murals.

"We have probably over twenty-some murals in the city of Milwaukee," Kohler said.

It's possible you have seen the murals. They are at places like the War Memorial, Miller Park and General Mitchell International Airport.

Community mural created by students through the SHARP Literacy partnership at the War Memorial.

Each mural crafted by a different group of local students.

Sally Duback is a Wisconsin artist that helps create community murals with SHARP Literacy.

All of the projects led by one local artist -- Sally Duback.

Duback says she's known since she was young that art was her passion.

"I've always been obsessed with art ever since I was a child," Duback said.

She believes the community murals offer children a new opportunity to explore.

"If they have art or this kind of work in their history it will give them something to draw from. It gives them a bag of tools," Duback said.

For the piece at Carroll University, Duback and SHARP Literacy asked students to help by creating drawings from their experiences in Waukesha.

"When you think about Waukesha - where you live - what do you think about? What do you see?" Kohler recalled the kids being asked.

Students at Banting Elementary School glaze tiles for the SHARP Literacy community mural.

The principal of Banting Elementary School -- Mary Garcia-Velez -- says learning about the Waukesha community is part of the third-grade curriculum and ties directly into what they're learning in the classroom.

"As they learn about the history of Waukesha, they're creating different buildings in their mosaic about the history of Waukesha," Garcia-Velez said.

With those ideas in hand, a bigger picture began to take shape. Duback created an entire landscape featuring different buildings and items from the students. She then sketched it on to large pieces of wood and the kids helped form the rest.

Duback joined the students in the classroom every week to create tiles, glaze tiles and then place them alongside beads, broken CDs, seashells and more.

"This is a very spontaneous process," Duback said.

Sally Duback guides students from Banting Elementary School through the process of placing tiles, beads and more on the mural.

Each small piece part of the larger image of Waukesha landmarks designed by Duback.

"Each school has only seen a third of it and they've seen it lying horizontal on the table," Duback said.

Back at Carroll University, the reveal of the completed mural was the moment they'd all been waiting for.

Inside the campus center, the final piece was unveiled to the delight of its creators.

It's called, "Discover Waukesha."

"Discover Waukesha" hangs inside the campus center at Carroll University.

Just as the mural hangs as a permanent fixture at Carrol, the lessons learned through this project won't soon fade.

"They're going to look up at that and really be proud of what they've done," Kohler said.

"It's not just us teaching them in the classroom only through books, but it's teaching them through the actions and what they're creating," Garcia-Velez said.

"They're doing something that has lasting value," Duback said.

SHARP Literacy offers several different programs serving K4 through 5th grade. The program just recently expanded into Waukesha and Kohler hopes to expand even further in the near future.