On Tuesday, August 20th, Marshall Middle School (MMS) unveiled the Resilient Communities Art Project – a mosaic recently installed in the MMS cafeteria. The theme of the mosaic is “Bravery Dwells in Remarkable Places,” with each student featured in the mosaic sharing what being brave looks like to them. This Resilient Communities Art Project brought together diverse groups of youth to demonstrate a sense of vibrancy occurring throughout the Calhoun County area.
Mary Gilhuly, Co-Founder and Art Director at the Song and Spirit Institute for Peace, was commissioned by Starr Commonwealth to design and create the mosaic with the help of Marshall Middle School art teacher Erica Isham and over 120 of Isham’s art students. MMS faculty and administration encouraged Gilhuly to locate the finished piece in the cafeteria as it would be seen by all the students on a daily basis and the cafeteria hosts many gatherings of the extended school family and greater community.
The public art installation symbolizes the resiliency of youth in Albion, Battle Creek, Marshall, and surrounding Calhoun County communities who have overcome barriers, embraced their differences, and chosen to come together to celebrate their oneness. The central theme of “oneness” underpins the project, stemming from the Starr Global Learning Network’s (SGLN) Glasswing racial healing program that offers a different way of looking at others, ourselves, and the world through recognition of the commonalities of humankind.
The idea behind the mosaic was to use art as a tool to engage and support youth and a common ground to celebrate students’ creativity and strengths. The aim is that this art project will spark the interest of the community and permeate throughout the region, inspiring local residents to experience the vibrancy of our community through artistic expression. Starr sees this art project as the beginning of more opportunities to beautify the region and expose youth to the arts.
This project is just one component of Starr’s larger, community-wide Resilient Communities initiative, including the Albion-Marshall Resilient Communities Project. Starr is working with area schools, organizations, stakeholders, and community members across Calhoun County to provide community seminars, trainings, activities, and discussions through SGLN’s three training arms: Reclaiming Youth International, Glasswing Racial Healing, and The National Institute for Trauma and Loss in Children (TLC).
Starr chose to partner with Song and Spirit Institute for Peace after previously working together on a mosaic art project with SGLN’s National Institute for Trauma and Loss in Children program. Based out of Berkley, Michigan, Song and Spirit works with a wide variety of schools, churches, and community groups to create mosaic art installations. Song and Spirit has worked with over 500 volunteers during the past two years. Co-founder and leader of the community art projects Mary Gilhuly has over 25 years of experience creating art pieces.
This project combined Starr’s century-long history of successful approaches toward positive youth development with the Song and Spirit Institute for Peace community arts program aimed at promoting a greater understanding among people of diverse religious, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds. Together this partnership between Starr Commonwealth and Song and Spirit gave area youth a hands-on approach to discovering their oneness while providing exposure to the arts.