When the students of Harrington Elementary School in Lynn walk through their school’s front doors, they see six words—trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship. And now, because of Professor Tanja Butler’s Painting I class, they also see images depicting the words that serve as daily goals for the first- through fifth-graders.
As part of a partnership with Gordon in Lynn, Gordon students have been working with Harrington Elementary School for the past six years. The Six Pillars of Character art project is the third Butler’s classes have done for Harrington; the library displays Painting I students’ artwork from 2006, where each painting reflects the genres of books, and the cafeteria has bright murals painted on the walls. Gordon music students have also performed at the elementary school, and each spring Harrington students visit the Gordon campus as part of its En Camino (which means “on the path”) program.
“This is a dream come true,” said Debrah Ruggiero, Harrington Elementary School’s principal. Ruggiero spoke at the official unveiling of the Pillar paintings on Tuesday, December 14, 2010, which included Butler’s students (who traveled to Lynn for their final “exam”), Harrington teachers, Gordon in Lynn staff and school board members.
“We focus on these traits every day in everything we do,” said Ruggiero, “so it’s great to have them artistically displayed now, greeting the students each morning.”
Each of the six character traits is accompanied by six small paintings that reflect the trait—36 original paintings in all—which include everything from depictions of hands and flags to bridges and faces in colors that reinforce the messages.
“My hope is that these paintings would encourage kids to pursue the character traits they represent,” said Anna Yearwood, a sophomore art and history major from Fairhope, Alabama.
While the project was a way for Gordon students to serve with their gifts, it was also an opportunity for the class to collaborate as each of the 13 students in the class painted something that was part of the final project. Design students from the communication arts major also were part of the project’s critique.
“We’re so grateful that the Harrington School has said ‘Our walls are open—use your gifts to invest in the next generation,’” said Butler.