Carnegie International Inspires Lower School Students to Express Themselves Through New Mural

What do Lower School students and teachers love about Ellis? A lot, according to surveys conducted by the students.
“It is fun and there are so many kids to help along the way!,” read a response from a student. "That you will be supported,” read another. "It is a place to feel happy and loved and to take risks, and we value everyone being special and unique,” one student recorded after interviewing Second Grade Teacher Katie Jordanoff. Other responses included that Ellis is a "safe and lovely” space for people to grow, and that the sense of community and students’ creativity is valued.

That creativity and community came into play in a big way recently. Inspired by their love of art and Ellis, and by their upcoming field trip to the 58th Carnegie International exhibition at the Carnegie Museum of Art, Ellis’ fourth graders took on the task of creating a mural for the Lower School lobby that represents who we are at Ellis.

"The artistic process does a great job of helping students discover and embrace parts of themselves that they might not get to during other parts of their school day,” says Sarah Ceurvorst, Lower School Visual Arts Teacher. As a teenager, Ms. Ceurvorst interned for the 55th Carnegie International, Life on Mars. She said the experience expanded her understanding of what art could look like and who artists could be. She looks forward to sharing the 58th Carnegie International with Ellis students and was delighted when she saw their interest.

In February, Lower School students in kindergarten through fourth grade will visit the Carnegie International, Is it morning for you yet?. The Carnegie International, founded in the late 1890s, is currently held every three to four years and is the longest-running exhibition of international art in North America. Middle and Upper School students attended the exhibition in the fall.

In preparation for their visit, the fourth grade class learned about one of the exhibition’s featured artists, James “Yaya” Hough. A native of Pittsburgh, Hough created a large mural that was unveiled for the exhibition entitled "A Gift to the Hill District." To create this work, Hough held workshops with local residents focused on how art can foster community, pride, and empathy. From these discussions, Hough generated the imagery for "A Gift to the Hill District."

Inspired by Hough's artistic process, fourth grade students interviewed members of the Ellis community and asked them what they love about the Lower School. They used those interviews to create the designs for their mural.

The fourth graders’ work will be on display in the lobby indefinitely as a reminder to the Ellis community of all the unique voices and perspectives found here.

“I encourage students to focus on the process in the art studio, not just the final product,” Ms. Ceurvorst says. “They really get to find out new things about themselves and their class during the process, because they’re stretching and growing and creating alongside their friends. It teaches them that we can honor our own voices while learning from others.”

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