Students Transform Public Space Into Beautiful Art

Students from Brick Memorial High School Mural Program painted mini mobile murals at the Freehold Raceway Mall. (Photo courtesy Jude Harzer)

  BRICK – A group of art students from Brick Memorial High School spent their spring break at the Freehold Raceway Mall, but not to shop!

  The students showed off their skills by painting six mini mobile murals inside the mall that celebrated the Earth and sustainability

  The school offers a unique Mural Program, a first of its kind within Ocean County schools and possibly the state.

  Jude Harzer, Art Educator, Mural and Art Club Advisor at Brick Memorial High School explained how she wanted to bring a more specialized program to the art curriculum.

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Murals painted by students represented nature, earth and sustainability. (Photo courtesy Jude Harzer)

  “The concept of the mural program evolved about five to six years ago in the Art Club. Through its success I wrote a curriculum that was approved about three years ago. It really took off during the pandemic because the students were looking for something to do, and I’ve had students spend hours painting walls,” Harzer said. “I teach in the Visual Arts Department and I suggested introducing murals as a different class that’s real-world experience to offer to students other than just being isolated, like just taking Art 1. A lot of times the students want to do more but it’s limited. I also started noticing it’s the largest art initiative in the world, mural art, public art and street art.”

  Harzer said the program is specialized for students who are really invested in murals. However, the Mural and Art Club is open to students of any skill level. The program is a credited, learned skill which has dedicated classes. In addition, the program is starting to become district wide, with Brick Township High School now offering the program.

  “I slowly introduced it to the Art Club, instead of just doing traditional art. Our objective was to beautify the school. I used the Art Club to initiate high level murals so we could prove it was wanted and the more they created murals the more the district saw for it because kids were signing up wanting to paint walls,” Harzer said.

  “Also, my objective was if it can be seen by more people on a grander scale and take it out of the classroom, I feel like it should be shared and I think people just don’t know, they’re unaware. Once we started producing large scale works of art and people could see it publicly. Students have been responsible for creating dozens of murals in our school and throughout the district. We get contacted all the time for murals now,” Harzer added.

  In April, students of the Mural Program were invited to create and paint six mini mobile murals inspired by nature and Earth Day at the Freehold Raceway Mall. Harzer said her students were asked to be to first to contribute to the mobile mural projects.

 “The Asbury Park Wooden Walls Mural Project had reputable artists paint murals and transformed the area. I would take my students there to view the murals. They started seeing our program and through their recommendation they suggested Brick Memorial’s program and students to be the first to contribute to the mobile mural projects at the mall. One of the artists from the Wooden Walls Project had previously collaborated with the mall, so it was a great opportunity for my students,” Harzer said. “They started discussing the need for art, but getting artists post pandemic, getting artists into the public space. They specifically wanted it to be student work. Especially during the pandemic, the arts became essential.”

The entire student team: (standing) Chase DeVeau, Isabella Gauthier, Sophia Lin, Casey Ritacco, (kneeling) Siobhan Collis, Nicholas Miller, Cheyenne Severin, Hannah Krinsk. (Photo courtesy Jude Harzer)

  The project at the Freehold Raceway Mall involved the students working onsite for about three full days to paint the mural. After the theme was chosen, students started the designs themselves in class and then fully painted the murals in public.

  “Students got to see it wasn’t just about making work on site and having the experience of people talking to them and watching them, but the level of work they perform at is very professional” Harzer said. “They really got a lot of positive feedback and saw that it’s a viable option. They connect people, they generate the community. People were coming over and talking to them. It was a good opportunity for them because they don’t get that so much and I feel like in schools you’re very isolated; the public really doesn’t get to see all the time what schools are teaching or what these students are capable of… I am so proud of them.”

Photo courtesy Jude Harzer

  Many of the students who participated in the mini mobile murals are graduating seniors who will be attending college in the fall. One was a returning Brick Memorial alum who also contributed her talent. Harzer said the murals will remain on display at the Freehold Raceway Mall for several months and is free for all visitors to view.

  “Brick schools have been so supportive. We’re trying to implement a program where students collaborate with other schools and go into the community and do public art because I feel there’s a need. There’s a lack of awareness of arts as a means of drawing the community together and transforming a community,” Harzer said.