As part of their Black History Month studies, Byron-Bergen fourth- and fifth-grade students created art projects with, and inspired by, acclaimed Rochester public artist Shawn Dunwoody. While Dunwoody has visited the school in past years, this year his presentation took place on an online meeting platform to maintain health and safety guidelines.
In his presentation to the fourth-grade classes, Dunwoody discussed murals and public art. In his own work, he has used murals to inspire in a variety of community spaces, from donut shops to waterfall viewing platforms. “The murals I’ve done in communities, I’ve wanted to get people excited about their community,” said Dunwoody. “I want to make people feel good about themselves and the environment they are in.”
Dunwoody then created a collaborative mural design with the students, discussing the artistic process as well as font design and placement. The completed design featured the words “U R Wonderful” in bright colors. Students then designed their own murals, using Dunwoody’s work as inspiration. Their finished projects included messages of support for environmental and social causes, as well as simple words of kindness such as “You got this,” “Love yourself,” and “You are awesome.”
In a similar presentation to fifth-grade students, Dunwoody discussed his original comic characters, the Legion of Legends which includes local historical figures Susan B. Anthony, Frederick Douglass, and George Eastman. His characters fight villains like Trinity, a character encompassing racism, mis-education, and poverty. Life-sized cutouts of the super heroes stood behind him as he described his creative process.
After creating a collaborative character with the fifth-grade classes, students created their own super heroes to with special powers to fight for social justice. Among the heroes were those with the powers to fight for freedom and create peace. Their collaborative hero was “Super Miss Stephen” with the power of writing and the ability to make drawings come to life.
Dunwoody’s presentations were part of a Black History Day of Learning organized by fourth-grade teachers Jenna Carney, Colleen Hardenbrook, Alyson Tardy, and fifth-grade teachers Taylor Haupt, Ken Rogoyski, (Super Miss) Kelly Stephen, Diane Taylor, Erin Varley, and Special Education Teacher Lisa Haller.
“Shawn uses art to uplift urban communities and discuss social justice,” said Fourth-Grade Teacher Alyson Tardy. “I’m extremely excited grateful that he takes the time to share his talents with our students.”