by Nicole Ellie
This community beautification project was a partnership between artist Jessica Canale, her previous students at North Side Community School in St. Louis, and the group Better Family Life. The goal was to effectively board up and beautify several vacant homes surrounding the school, specifically those on St. Louis Avenue and North Euclid Avenue.
After having the boards dropped off to her classroom, Canale said, “I took it as an opportunity to discuss with students what they would like to see in their community. What inspires them? What bothers them? We worked together for months developing brainstorm sketches and pre-planning designs to go on each of the boards. It was a wonderful way to show students how a little ingenuity and hard work – and, of course, paint – can really make a change for the better.”
Students decided they wanted to show strong, influential, African-American people in their works surrounded by words of positivity and hope. Jessica Canale worked with students portraying musician Nelly, poet Maya Angelou, and poet/rapper Tupac Shakur. Unfortunately, the Tupac board was stolen shortly after the project was installed.
“We also wanted to have some unique works to portray positivity and hope within the community. Our art club students landed on a typography-style design, incorporating the letter spelling out ‘create’ along with drawing a young child on a ladder painting in the world. The success and general fulfillment felt by students after the boards were installed in their neighborhoods made all the time and effort well worth it.”