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Harding Middle School Makes Graffiti into Art

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DES MOINES, Iowa – There’s a large mark of graffiti along a wall in the courtyard at Harding Middle School, but it’s not vandalism – it’s educational.

“As we’re looking into the next generation, and the job market, we don’t really know what kind of jobs we’re preparing our students for. Our job market, our fields, are constantly evolving,” said Cassie Kendzora, the Arts Integration Specialist for Harding Middle School. “So we really have to teach our students a love of learning, and creative process, and being able to solve problems that never existed before.”

And art is the way these students develop a love of learning and creative process. Harding Middle School is in its second year as a Turnaround Arts school – a program that seeks to integrate art into nearly every school subject imaginable. For this particular project, students are visualizing the lessons learned about their civil liberties in a civics course through graffiti art. Teaming up with two local artists, who go by the names As Phate and LETER, students are painting a graffiti art mural in the school’s courtyard, symbolizing the role of education in American citizens’ civil liberties.

“They’ve learned about the ‘Tinker v. Des Moines’ Supreme Court case, that set the precedent for students having First Amendment rights in schools,” Kendzora said. “And they’re implementing the lessons from that, and from other ideas they’ve come up with from the civics lesson, into this mural.”

While the rain Thursday morning put a temporary halt on the painting, the students and artists aren’t worried about seeing the job through – they’ll be doing a little work on the mural each day through the end of next week.