Jason Gilmore of Guilford, Conn., an art teacher at Hartford’s McDonough Middle School, has been named the Neag School of Education’s 2020 Rogers Educational Innovation Fund award winner.
Established by Neag School Professor Emeritus Vincent Rogers and his late wife, Chris, a lifelong teacher, this award provides $5,000 annually toward an innovative classroom project proposed by a Connecticut teacher at the elementary or middle-school level. The Rogers’ gift aims to support and expand the collaborative work of Connecticut’s schoolteachers and the Neag School of Education. This is the third consecutive year in which the award will have been bestowed.
The Mural Intervention Project
In the proposal for his project, titled “The Mural Intervention Project,” Gilmore outlines his hope of giving sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-graders at McDonough — a low-income, 98% free/reduced lunch school — an opportunity to take any difficult situations or feelings that may be part of their day-to-day lives and express them in the form of community murals that will be displayed throughout the school.
This project, Gilmore wrote in his proposal, “will benefit the entire school community through beautification, as well as inspiring conversations about challenging subject matter, such as personal issues and triumphs, social issues, education, and [students’] neighborhoods. Hopefully, each mural will invite discussions on what common issues exist and will start to define our hopes, dreams, and some solutions to improve everyone’s experiences in the communities of McDonough Middle School, Hartford, Conn., and beyond.”
Freedom of Expression
Award applicants, in submitting their proposals this past fall, were asked to address such questions as ‘What is the teaching and learning problem that drives your proposed innovation?’ and ‘What benefit will the proposal work have for the students in your classroom, school, or school district?’ A committee of Neag School faculty reviewed the submissions based on these and several other questions.
“After 20 years of directing murals with various communities, I know that everyone that participates in the group creative process walks away feeling accomplished.”
— Jason Gilmore,
2020 Rogers Educational Innovation Fund awardee
The project, Gilmore says, will offer “a chance for freedom of expression while improving the climate and community of the school. The Innovation Award also will help drive the reorganization of school schedule where enrichment and clubs maybe written into our students’ routine at McDonough. In essence, this award will allow an artistic experience that benefits the whole school.”
“Jason Gilmore’s commitment to bring art to his students, and to empower their voices through their creations of murals for Hartford’s McDonough Middle School is extraordinary,” says Suzanne Wilson, Neag Endowed Professor of Teacher Education and chair of the 2020 Rogers award selection committee. “His vision of engaging students in public art in ways that allow them to express their dreams, hopes, and aspiration for themselves, their families, and their community is inspiring.”
This award funding comes a particularly meaningful at a time, Gilmore says, when resources have been scarce.
“I now see a future where our students at McDonough will have access to artistic experiences that they would not have without the grant,” he says. “Not every kid, even in schools where supplies are more plentiful, gets to be part of a community mural project. After 20 years of directing murals with various communities, I know that everyone that participates in the group creative process walks away feeling accomplished. Children especially feel more ownership over their living space than before the project.”
Gilmore will be formally recognized at the 2020 Neag School Alumni Awards Celebration, taking place on the UConn Storrs campus later this month.*
“This art teacher’s hope for developing a learning environment where art becomes part of the school community’s everyday lives is now growing day by day,” Gilmore says. “I’m so excited to see what we create together!”
* The 2020 Neag School Alumni Awards Celebration has been postponed until Fall 2020.