Artist-in-Residence at Genoa and Heritage leaves footprint through murals

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The latest mural installations for Genoa and Heritage middle school have been taking shape since the start of the year in the teacher workspaces next to the art classrooms. 

During Juls Rathje’s art classes, groups of students head to the area where the schools’ Artist-in-Residence Vicki Murphy has been leading the work. Through financial support from the Genoa PTA and the Ohio Arts Council, Murphy is working with Rathje to bring mosaic art to the schools and students.

“This experience brings fine art and everyday life skills into my classroom, an opportunity to work and connect with a professional artist, and pride in our school and school community because of the permanence of these murals on the walls of our school,” Rathje said.

This year marks the third time she and Murphy have collaborated on a resident artist project. Last year, she and her students worked with Murphy virtually to create a mural at Genoa and Heritage. Prior to that, they worked on murals at Hanby and Emerson elementary schools. This year, Rathje and Murphy are working on three murals at both middle schools.

Murals create an opportunity for students to together collectively and collaboratively, Rathje said. She and Murphy talked to students about mural designs and images and artwork they’d like to see included in the piece. 

“Each student created a ceramic piece to be incorporated into one of the murals so that a piece of their artwork would be forever connected on the walls of our school,” she said.

At Genoa last week, students cut glass and added bits of colorful ceramic tiles to two large-scale murals, one of which features the word, “Unity.”

“When they are finished, I tell them, ‘You are a mosaic artist,’ because that’s what happens,” said Murphy, who is more than halfway through her 40-day residency. “You become one. It’s a trade. It’s a new skill. That’s what I hope they learn.”

Through their work with Murphy, Rathje hopes students learn about the significance of the arts in the world and how it can inspire and connect people. 

The murals at Genoa and Heritage will be completed and on display by the end of October. 

“It’s just wonderful,” Murphy said. “It’s been great to get to know the students and it’s great to work with (Rathje).”