When Piper High School art teacher Derrick Dixon recently took his students to see the “Welcome To Sunrise” mural organized by artist Alex Vahan, Dixon challenged the students to not only focus on the drawings, but to develop their conceptual/critical thinking skills.
The teens will submit work to Vahan with the hopes he will like their work and use it to continue the mural on the wall which extends much beyond the artwork.
The colorful mural is one of ten created around the county sponsored by Broward 100 Visual Eyes, part of a yearlong celebration commemorating Broward County’s Centennial. The painting is a collaborative work of 12 South Florida artists depicting the past, present and future of the city on a formerly blank wall that hides a water treatment plant across from the local Sunrise high school.
Vahan spoke to the students before the mural was created and some of the students went to see it while the vibrant work was in progress.
There are few public art works of the scale and calibre in Sunrise.
“I think it is amazing,” said Piper High School student Melinda St. Louis, 17. “I like the image of the bird and the Seminole Indian. My favorite panel is the female with the purple hair and the Florida panther. I hope I can draw like that.”
At the mural, Dixon studied the panels with the students.
“We discussed and brainstormed different terms that describe the community of Sunrise,” said Dixon. “I gave them 60 seconds to come up with three descriptive words for the City of Sunrise. From those descriptions we discussed ways to convey the terms using elements of art. Many of the students wrote down words like ‘diversity, family, parks, shopping.”
Dixon pointed out how Vahan may have been using the element of color as a way to convey the diversity of the community in several parts of the mural.
“For example the bird surrounded by several abstract shapes in a full spectrum of colors, or the circular multicolored symbol, or the overlapping multicolored repetitive orange images,” said Dixon. “We discussed non-traditional symbolism and how it may have been used to make a larger expression in the piece.”
Some of the students pointed out how some of the objects seemed to narrate a story. They questioned that maybe the artist was showing an interaction between the different panels and subject matter chosen to be featured. Dixon related the mural to a recent project that the students had just completed where they had to design several different birds on one sheet of paper using different colors and themes.
The student artwork will go up in a school gallery next month.
“Now that the mural is up there seems to be more excitement,” said Vahan. “I hope to have them contribute artwork that is representative of Sunrise or Piper High in some way. A Bengal (school mascot) would be a good start.”