COD Art Students Helping School on Chicago’s North Side
By Brian Kleemann
What started as a conversation between students in College of DuPage Professor Jennifer Hereth’s art classes has turned into a project that is benefitting Maternity Blessed Virgin Mary elementary school in Chicago.
The school, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this June, will receive a gift of 40 portraits created in Hereth’s beginning and advanced painting classes this spring. Working from photographs, students are depicting Maternity BVM schoolchildren both past and present in a series of colorful creations that represent a century of tradition.
On April 30, Hereth’s classes traveled to the school to hang the portraits in the hallways. In addition, her students worked with 200 current Maternity BVM children to create a second art project that consists of handprints running up and down the school’s four-story stairwells. The artwork and handprints will be part of a formal event to celebrate the school’s anniversary on June 2.
“Last fall, we discussed creating a mural on the school’s walls, but the walls were not suitable for a project of that magnitude,” Hereth said. “We then asked the principal if we could paint portraits that represent 100 years of the children who attended the school, and he liked the idea. So we worked to find the right mix of students. We also selected two current eighth graders to be painted.”
Ken Marz of Glen Ellyn, one of Hereth’s students, attended Maternity BVM along with his wife nearly 60 years ago. When Maternity BVM church celebrated its 100th anniversary last year, the couple toured the church and school but was surprised that it no longer had a library. So the two organized a book drive and collected between 3,000 and 4,000 volumes. Their daughter, an architect, is working with Maternity BVM children to design a proper school library.
In discussing this project in Hereth’s class, Marz discovered other classmates who had attended the school.
“We wanted to develop a sense of community between the past and the present,” Marz said. “It’s a way for us to give back to a community that meant so much to us.”
For Hereth, this comes on the heels of several other successful projects involving her students, such as donating paintings and prints to New Orleans families affected by Hurricane Katrina and creating teenage archetype cards used by therapists and educators who work with teenagers.
“These projects just grow from ideas that we have, and it’s wonderful to see how involved the students are in each one,” she said. “For this one, the irony is that it started from a random conversation taking place in one of my classes. But we are thrilled with the outcome.”
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Portrait Art Project
COD art class produced and donated 36 portraits to Maternity BVM elementary school in Chicago, IL. The art class then donated time to work with Maternity BVM School kids to create art on walls.