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At Lincoln-Bassett, A Fresh And Colorful Start

by Jordi Gassó | Aug 15, 2014 7:50 am

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Posted to: Arts & Culture, Visual Arts, Schools, Newhallville

Jordi Gassó Photo Streaks of green, violet and vermillion adorned a wall in Room 118. The variegated mural, of seven human figures raising their arms toward the sky, seems to pulsate with kinetic energy — a tie-dye starburst of color.

This wall painting has a purpose: to energize the young students heading back to Lincoln-Bassett School in two weeks.

The artwork, one of three new murals at the school, is part of a broader effort to turn around one of the city’s struggling schools. It was made possible through the school’s new three-year partnership with the Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology (ConnCAT), a youth arts enrichment non-profit brought in to help the school get back on the right track.

“It seems fitting that the school gets a new look along with its new status,” Mayor Toni Harp said during a Thursday morning gathering at Lincoln-Bassett, which serves 355 kids in grades pre-K to 6.

ConnCAT brought in New Haven-based art and architecture firm Svigals + Partners to design the murals. Barry Svigals, the firm’s founder and managing partner, outlined and sketched out the images. A small gridded template of the designs was stuck to the walls next to each mural.

In addition to the artwork in Room 118, vivid coils and curlicues on the sides of the two second-floor hallways lead to abstract murals on the end walls, dominated by swirling blobs of pastel and loud zigzags.

“Before it used to feel like such a bureaucratic space,” Superintendent Garth Harries said as he roamed the halls.

On Thursday city officials borrowed a brush and added their own finishing touches to the design on Room 118, which will house the school’s ConnCAT hub this upcoming academic year. Visual art students from the downtown Co-op Arts & Humanities High School have been painting the murals since last Monday.

“I designed it, but they interpreted it,” Svigals told the Independent.

Bright sunlight and clear skies outside notwithstanding, for six hours a day five young women have mixed their paints and applied their brush strokes in order to bring the Lincoln-Bassett walls to life.

This is the first time the girls have tackled a project of such magnitude. Amanda Robinson (pictured, third from the left), who is 17, said she hopes her work can add some vibrancy to the routines of Lincoln-Bassett students.

“I think they will get really excited,” she said. “They’ll be more than happy to see something other than white walls.”

Plates full of paint were strewn on a table nearby. The mural is supposed to represent unity, togetherness, peace, the young artists said. As they smeared red splashes on the thighs of the figures on the wall, they debated their next steps — which corner needed more work, which spot needed more depth.

Svigals + Partners will continue with the facilities’ rehabilitation this year, adding another mural in the auditorium and working on the school’s lighting. These aesthetic improvements are just the beginning in a series of purposeful changes, said Lincoln-Bassett Principal Janet Brown-Clayton.

Money from a state “Commissioner’s Network” grant have gone toward staffing additions and technology upgrades, she said. The murals, with their revamped look, are meant to reflect the school’s expected turnaround this year.

Before students can draw inspiration from these new designs, the art needs to be finished. Robinson began to wash her brushes, readying them for another day of colorful work.

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