The Making of a Mural at Peekskill High School's Summit Academy
Lance Johnson is a respected and accomplished multimedia artist whose paintings, influenced by jazz, hip-hop, and Romare Bearden, have been exhibited at many galleries in New York City and around the country. He recently spent a week on his hands and knees in the cafeteria of Peekskill High School’s Summit Academy, working with students to create a mural on canvas that reflects their dreams and aspirations.
Johnson’s visit was made possible by the Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art (HVCCA) and their artist-in-residence program, which arranged for Johnson to work with Summit Academy students. With the support of HVCCA Director of Education Sarah Bachelier, the project began with student voices. English teacher Bridget Connor helped the students craft phrases and quotes reflecting their feelings about school, family, and community. Next, the mural began to take shape on the floor of the Summit cafeteria, which also doubles as the Academy’s art space. Summit art teacher Taylor Coleman assisted Johnson and documented the creative process with photographs. Each day, a new layer of paint and words was applied using a wide variety of techniques and tools, from spray paint and stencils to acrylics and brushes. The final product is multi-layered and multidimensional and includes contributions from every student.
“Everyone put a piece of their soul on this piece,” Johnson said. “It represents the diversity of the community so well.”
Summit Academy is an alternative high school program in its third year; it is located in the Uriah Hill School and educates about 65 students annually.
“We are so grateful to the HVCCA for making this wonderful project possible,” said PHS Assistant Principal Dr. Margie Daniels, who administers Summit Academy. “It engaged our students at a very meaningful level.”
Peekskill High School principal Rodney Arthur praised everyone involved with the project for bringing out the students’ talents of expression and creativity.
The mural will be exhibited at HVCCA in the near future at a reception featuring student work and will then be permanently mounted in the hall at Summit Academy.