Friday, February 11, 2011


The “Whole Systems Ecology” mural at Dietz Elementary School was designed and painted by 48 students in Ms. Kievit’s and Mr. Requadt’s third grade classes.

Teaching Artist and muralist Michael Schwartz worked with students over 12 sessions to design and paint this student work. This mural sought to illustrate the connection between art and ecology in our desert bio-region. Our theme revolved around the classroom curriculum of whole system ecology and sustainable design. Students studied observational drawing , the elements of art and artistic design elements such as balance, repetition, and symmetry in nature.

After combining our ideas we transferred the designs to four 4 x 8 panels. There were daily journal exercises and writings and looking at works of art. Painting was an exciting step of the process, and everyone wanted to continue working. For one session we tried an experiment by inviting classical musician Bret Lashley to play music as we painted on our mural. Mr. Schwartz asked him to think of works that expressed the design concept of Unity and Variety and various types of line. Among the works he selected were “Magic Flute Variations (Theme by W.A. Mozart) Opus 9 by Fernando Sor (b Feb 1778; d Paris, July, 10 1839) and “Study in A minor Opus No. 50” by Mauro Giuliani (July 27, 1781 – May 8, 1829). The live music added a wonderful element to the classroom. We worked several more sessions carefully layering our paint onto every part of the mural.

Finally we finished and had some time to reflect on our experiences. Mr. Schwartz worked with Dietz Custodian Alan Hall to install the mural in the cafeteria, where the Dietz Community will be able to enjoy the work for years to come.

A special thank you to all the staff and parents at Dietz, and to Christine and Greg and Cheryl for helping out in class!