Keisha Hill, Gleaner Writer
The mission of the Mural Music and Arts Project (MMAP) is to educate, empower and inspire youth through the arts. MMAP targets the communities of East Palo Alto and eastern Menlo Park, in San Mateo County, California, as well as San Francisco. However, they have also extended an invitation to students of the Seaforth High School in St Thomas through the collaborative efforts of Canco Limited, manufacturers and exporters of the Linstead Market Jamaica brand.
MMAP began in 2001 as the East Palo Alto Mural Art Project, employing local teens to design and create a mural for every school in the local school district. Since then, MMAP's teen artists have researched, planned, and installed a public arts legacy. These murals reflect themes of community, cooperation, equity, justice, environment, and local history.
Active and enthusiastic support inspired MMAP to expand and diversify programming in 2005 to include arts education, hip hop music production, and dance.
At Seaforth High School, the students competed in an art competition under the theme, 'What is it that youth need to flourish and grow?', with each student creating a watercolour painting using a simple floral theme that represented what they felt was necessary for them to be able to flourish and grow in school, at home, and in their future.
According to Sonya Clarke-Herrera, executive director of MMAP, young people use art as a mechanism to cope. "If they do not have a way of coping with emotional problems or their socio-economic situations, they will become disruptive and resort to less-than-favourable activities. We encourage young people to write a poem or participate in art to not only vent their feelings, but also to find a productive avenue in which to spend their time," Clarke-Herrera said.
The competition included students from first to sixth form and all the art supplies were donated by Canco Limited, including water colour paper, paint and paint brushes.
"We want the youth to know that we value them; and for them to appreciate their surroundings. Young people learning together makes it possible to build a better community," Clarke-Herrera said.
The winners included Cuwayne Brown who placed first; Aldayne Fyffe, placing second; and Ramon Weise who was third. The first-, second-, and third-place winners received US$100, US$75, and US$50, respectively, for their submissions. The judges were so impressed with the quality of work from the students that they added a fourth-place category with cash prizes of $25 each.
The cash was also given to the school's art department to get supplies for the students. "Art is tangible and helps to educate and inspire them to realise how good they can be. They also see that they can come together for a common good," Clarke-Herrera said.
The MMAP is funded through a diversity of sources, including foundations and corporate businesses that make a grant or donation that is aligned to the work conducted by the organisation.
For further information on the Mural Music & Arts Project visit http://www.muralmusicarts.org/index.php