A School of Superheroes!

Transforming P.S. 18 with Vanesa and Arantxa

PS 18: A School of Superheroes

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We the Power

Credits for the mural. Photo: Vanesa ÁlvarezDíaz

Taking their creative powers to new heights, teaching artists Vanesa and Arantxa transformed eighty-seven students and eleven faculty members into community superheroes at P.S. 18 this spring! The artists completed the three-story mural along the stairwells of P.S. 18 Edward Bush Elementary School. 

Titled We the Power, the artwork focuses on student visions not just for themselves, but for their community. Each stairwell represents a different aspect of the Black Lives Matter movement portrayed through the lens of community heroism. For example, restorative justice driven values like empathy, kindness, and diversity are highlighted throughout the mural. 

Vanesa and Arantxa worked with all grade levels for two months to complete the project. The artists showed up at the beginning of the school day to curate ideas and teach creative lessons to their students. In one, the teaching artists asked students to envision themselves as superheroes. The students spent time drawing that image of themselves along with their superpower. This exercise inspired the final version of the mural. 

A Transformational Community

Due to the tricky placement and size of this mural, the artists decided to print silhouettes of students and faculty onto Polytab Parachute Cloth and then paint them in. Vanesa and Arantxa took pictures of students and faculty members. From there, they created lifelike silhouettes of the student’s “superselves” and transferred them onto the walls. Additionally, using this technique allowed students to safely add their work to the painting, as many of them wouldn’t be able to reach the wall from the staircases below it. 

Student superheroes pop beside their chosen powers!

Above all, Vanesa and Arantxa emphasized their love of P.S. 18 throughout the process.“This school is so warm, the kids are super emotional and loving. During our community paint day, Principal Lee even hosted a whole barbecue for everyone,” Vanesa explained. 

Arantxa said, “It’s been really fulfilling working in this school and getting to know everyone. It’s just the beginning, so I’m not going to be sad.”

In response to Arantxa, Principal Lee added, “We have a lot more great real-estate for murals so this is just the beginning of many happy partnerships with Thrive.”

Artists pose with principal on stairwell

Principal Lee, Arantxa, and Vanesa

Selfless Superpowers

The community driven, familial atmosphere is reflected in the mural theme and the students’ chosen powers. A few examples include “I make the plants grow,” “Save people from danger,” and “Travel to the past to save people.” 

One student said, “It’s nice to know that I was a part of painting the murals and I get to see my face when I’m going up or down the stairs. It makes me happy that future students will see my face.”

During the mural ribbon cutting ceremony, teachers, students, parents, and friends all gathered to walk up and down the three-story staircase and enjoy the vibrant, pop-art style mural. Studentsposed in front of their superhero selves while parents beamed and took photos. Thank you, P.S. 18 for welcoming us into your community and for co-creating this spectacular piece with us!

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