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Susan Shanley, LCSW
163 Woodlawn Ave,
Saratoga Springs, NY 12866  
(518) 581-9250





Magical Murals

Using symbols, patterns, and designs from cultures around the world, students collaboratively design and paint an art mural. Through the experience, they build trust and a sense of community with each other. Choosing inspiration from cultures around the world, students create a mural rich with personal symbols and metaphors.

Led by muralist Susan Shanley, this mural project focuses on helping youth increase their appreciation of the value of multiculturalism by exploring both human diversity and bio-diversity.

All areas of the curriculum are addressed. The residency includes the following components:

  • Meeting with teachers: Susan meets with teachers to identify curriculum needs, and to plan scheduling, themes, and mural size. Collaboratively, they plan the mural’s overall design and address students’ special needs. Murals focus on celebrating the natural world, the arts, and world cultures, including the culture and traditions of Northeast Native peoples.

  • OneWorld Classrooms: Planning can include on-line collaboration with Paul and Lilia Hurteau of OneWorld Classrooms. Through art and the Internet, the Hurteaus’ nonprofit links NY and MA classrooms with classrooms in China, Namibia, the Galapagos, Amazon, and the Arctic. Paul and Lilia travel to these cultures and send artwork and photos from their overseas students to students engaged in the mural projects.

  • Powerpoint presentation: Several weeks before the mural project, Susan presents a Powerpoint presentation of images from murals painted by students of all ages, along with images of inspirational artwork relevant to the mural theme. After the Powerpoint presentation, students are invited to brainstorm images relating to the mural theme.

  • Collaboration and inspiration: Inspired by books, artwork, and additional images that represent the theme of the mural, students collaborate on the mural’s overall design. Choosing their own personal symbols and metaphors, they collaboratively paint the mural.

  • Art principles and elements: Students learn about art principles (balance, contrast, emphasis, movement, pattern, rhythm, and unity) and art elements (line, color, shape, value, form, texture, and space). While painting, they apply specific art techniques, including sponging. They learn to create contrast with cool and warm colors, light and dark colors, and complementary colors.

  • Students learn: While creating a mural that celebrates the natural world, students learn much about the habits and characteristics of the animals and plants depicted. While painting a mural that celebrates a specific culture, students learn much about that culture.

  • Music and poetry: While painting, students listen to world music related to the mural themes. They may compose short pieces of poetry to be included within images or around borders of the mural. Several languages are generally represented in the “world” murals.

  • Evaluations and Powerpoint: Evaluations are presented to teachers, staff, volunteers, and students to complete. Students and school staff are invited to create a PowerPoint presentation on the project for the mural celebration.

  • Celebration: School staff, volunteers, and students and their families are invited to a school celebration honoring the young artists. Students speak about their experiences and celebrate their creativity with a PowerPoint presentation on the project.

For more information about a school visit: Contact Susan at (518) 581-9250 or


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