Mayor Richard C. Howard

The Changing Face of Malden Mural Project

Maiden (pop.54,000), an urban community located six miles Northwest of Boston, has witnessed significant demographic changes in its youth population over the past decade. With increasing numbers of immigrants, Maiden Public Schools students have identified more than 50 native languages spoken in their homes. Among the school population, 31% of students meet federal "low- income" guidelines. Statistics from local sources indicate that Malden's children are at risk, showing increasing rates of academic problems, violent crimes, substance use, depression, and sexual activity. Community leaders, parents, and school personnel concerned by these indicators have joined forces to develop an innovative and artistic approach to address these at-risk behaviors - The Changing Face of Maiden Mural Project.

The goal of The Changing Face project is to elevate the educational and creative levels of Malden's youth by integrating creative arts throughout their academic life. The Changing Face supports Maiden Mayor Richard C. Howard's beautification vision for the community. The Changing Face includes four components that incorporate the following themes:

  • celebration of the multi-cultural experience;
  • observance of sprit and pride among students;
  • appreciation for influential historical figures;
  • respect for property and institutions; and
  • interpretation of changes in schools, environment, and family.

The four components of The Changing Face mural project: Celebration of 350 Years and More. The Universe is Open to All. Spirit and Pride in Maiden and Noteworthy Figures of the 20th Century are described below. Each component seeks to celebrate diversity, unity and creative strength within the educational walls of Maiden, and encourages students to develop their academic, social, and personal skills. Celebration of 350 Years and More targets third-grade students. The City of Maiden, currently celebrating its 350th birthday, recently undertook a state-funded construction project to build five new K-8 schools. Upon completion of Celebration, a mural will be created in the foyer of each school, baring the unique designs of participating children.

For this component, children painted an 8 X 8" ceramic tile with their personal interpretation of the changing architecture, school experiences, environment, and family values they experienced in their lives.

Fine Arts staff worked with the architect to install the tiles within the new buildings.

Celebration has served as an excellent vehicle for positive school and community relations. More importantly, it has provided children with an increased sense of pride and ownership of the new schools as institutions they contributed to. The Second Component, The Universe is Open to All celebrates the unity and diversity of culture within the school. Universe incorporated a unique collaboration with the Maiden District Court in which court-involved youth were referred to the Fine Arts Department. Students were then selected to participate in an arts apprenticeship program based on their financial and social need.

Selected students worked for 10-weeks to conceptualize and create several murals at Maiden High School and Field house. The Universe mural incorporates images from 102 countries represented within the student population. Apprentices researched these countries to learn more about ethnic symbols and flags. The mural's central images of hands and student portraits represent the unifying human touch woven through the many cultures. Building on the Success of Universe. Spirit and Pride in Maiden utilized the student apprentice model to develop additional murals throughout the community depicting athletics and activities experienced by students.

Apprentices interviewed their peers to learn about activities of importance, and incorporated representative images into the murals. The murals integrate athletics and academics to symbolize the energy and strength among students. The final component in The Changing Face project, Noteworthy Figures of the 20th Century is housed in the Maiden High School Library. Apprentice artists researched influential contributors to philosophy, literature, science, and humanities. Portraits within the mural include Maya Angelou, Amy Tan, Anne Frank, and Martin Luther King, among others. Rosalie Sidoti of the Maiden Public Schools Fine Arts Department launched The Changing Face Mural Project in 1997. Ms. Sidoti received her Bachelors in Fine Arts and a Masters in Administration. She attended Massachusetts College of Art graduate program in conjunction with the Ruskin School of Fine Arts at Oxford University, England, and currently serves as consultant to many city and area colleges and businesses. Ms. Sidoti has served as a positive role model to youth throughout her 30-year career with the Maiden Schools and has received numerous awards for her exceptional mentoring and commitment to youth in the arts.

As a member of the Maiden Public Schools faculty, Ms. Sidoti is available to students on consistent basis. She has referred students to necessary school and community-based support programs. She has also developed positive relationships with community members and parents who are encouraged to participate whenever possible. Students who participated in The Changing Face project received praise from Mayor Howard and other community leaders including the Maiden School Committee. The project received significant local media attention, exposing the Greater Maiden community to the students' work. School open houses and events that highlighted the artwork reached thousands of Maiden community members.

Through The Changing Face project, the community has witnessed dramatic changes in the lives of students who took part in the program. Students learned to value their school buildings and gained a deeper respect and ownership for property and institutions. Through their paid apprenticeships, students improved their work ethic and were better able to hold down jobs in their community. Ms. Sidoti was especially moved by those students who chose to pursue advanced education in the arts as a result of their participation in The Changing Face project.

Mayor Howard supported the allocation of City funds for the mural project. More than $14,000 from the Maiden Redevelopment Authority, Community Development Block Grants, Maiden School Department, Maiden Building Committee, and Cultural Council supported a portion of the program costs. The project received numerous in-kind personnel hours and donations of supplies from local businesses. In addition to financial support, Mayor Howard has provided vision to the project from the design of the new K-8 schools to the beautification of the older Maiden educational facilities.


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The United States Conference of Mayors

J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
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