Muneer Bahauddeen has a routine when it comes to art education.
“You package something and then you put it on the road,” said Bahauddeen, a community artist who has worked on projects throughout the Milwaukee Public Schools. Bahauddeen is now doing an Arts @ Large residency at Anna F. Doerfler School, where he is working on a six-piece mural with elementary and middle school students.
The mural, created with clay and ceramic tile, will be displayed in the library at Doerfler, 3014 W. Scott St. The final six-piece installation will represent the values of the school, using symbols from Mayan, Ghanaian and Hmong cultures. The first two pieces were unveiled a few weeks ago. Two more pieces are in the school’s art classroom, where students will continue to work on them, and the last two pieces are still in Bahauddeen’s studio.
MPS created Arts @ Large in 2001 with a grant from the U.S. Department of Education. In 2005 Arts @ Large became a nonprofit with the goal of providing integrated arts learning experiences for MPS students through programs such as artist residencies.
The mural project began over the summer, with students, family and local community members contributing. Bahaudeen said he’s still unsure how to divvy up the clay and supplies now that more students will be participating during the school year.
Bahauddeen’s residency will be completed at the end of October. He has done at least one project a year for Arts @ Large for 13 years. “It has been a life saver for me,” he said. “They came in and filled the gap during budget cuts so artists and teachers are working.”
By November, Bahauddeen will add the final touches to the mural. “Everything goes back to my studio and I do the refining, making it fit tighter, putting on the glaze, gluing them to the panel, then dropping them back at the school.”
Bahauddeen said that he utilizes a diverse range of cultural symbols to reflect the students he works with. “We’re dealing with a school with a very rich cultural community,” Bahauddeen said. “I hope they [the students] can identify something in the other cultures’ symbols that they experience in their own lives.
Bahauddeen’s residency is only one part of Doerfler’s art education program. The school is working to integrate diverse art education into the curriculum.
“We need to expand what it means to show what you know. In the real world there isn’t one way,” said Doerfler principal Jessica Quindel. “The arts are critical in the times of budget cuts,” she added.
“The work we do is always connected to academics,” said Brianna Dorney, director of communications and development at Arts @ Large.
“We aim to deepen the learning experience,” Dorney said. “We were created to align with the school’s academic goals.” Once Doerfler connected with Bahauddeen, Arts @ Large provided the rest of the resources. It also provides field trips, research excursions and art and media supplies as needed.
After his stint at Doerfler, Bahauddeen will work on a project in Indonesia.
He wants to leave a lasting impact behind. “Line, color, shape and texture are what we’re emphasizing in the exercises because the students can continue to use them,” said Bahauddeen, adding, “I hope the students get the experience just working with art and learning basic art principles.”