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Scroggs Elementary Art Teacher Returns from Fulbright Journey

Sarah Cornette, art teacher at Mary Scroggs Elementary School (MSES), won a Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching in 2018 to create a mural project in Greece. Her blog contains the background, the “who, how and why” of the journey and creation, and all are encouraged to explore it here. But first, read Cornette’s thoughts shared on her recent return to Chapel Hill-Carrboro and the halls and art studio of MSES, where she has displayed a mural created in three communities.

“Home. Excited, wistful, grateful. Somehow already it all seems like a dream--except for the very material presence of the big, beautiful mural in my school. I hadn’t seen it in full since I rolled it up on Samos Island--it was just too big to spread out anywhere. As I was hanging the mural this weekend in the familiar corridors of Scroggs Elementary, I traced my hands over the brush strokes, ideas, and visions of all my students this spring.  I was standing where they stood, in front of this one piece of canvas, remembering our time together. The mural is totemic, linking me to a tribe of creators who share the desire to connect with each other through art.

I spent the last month of my trip visiting other educators in Greece, working with artists in Athens, and reflecting on my project and the experience of the mural.  

To date, the mural has been created by three groups of children in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Thessaloniki, Greece, and Samos Island, Greece.  Each group has responded with ideas and images to the question, “What’s important in our community?” The answers to this question have been literal and symbolic, disturbing and joyful all at once.

The impact of this trip on me has been profound, is unfolding still, and perhaps always will be. The impact of the mural on its creators you can read about on the website, in the children’s own words.  All of the children (but especially the refugees) were excited and proud that other people around the world would see their work and value their ideas. Come see it for yourself if you can, check out the website if you can't make the trip.  Who knows what the impact of the mural might be as a work of art expressing children’s perspectives on community? I’m honored to have been a part of the making of it.

I left Greece with connections and friends I care about, and lots of children I worry about and hope for.  I have faith in Greece despite the social upheaval and economic turmoil I saw there. The Greeks made me feel valued, and were willing to engage in a way I found heartening and inspiring in an increasingly disconnected world.

The mural's impact only grows as people know about it, see it, and think about it, which honors the children who made it in the best way possible.”