Thursday, July 17, 2014

Students and Houston Artist give the Altharetta Yeargin Art Museum a Vibrant Makeover

On the north side of Westchester Academy for International Studies (WAIS) a once hidden treasure sits behind a series of brick walls — the Altharetta Yeargin Art Museum (AYAM), believed to be one of the only fine arts museums in the nation affiliated with a public school district.

Up until July 9 the Museum was known only to art enthusiasts, SBISD fine arts programs and individuals who took the time to have a look inside the seemingly ordinary building. But thanks to renowned Houston artist Daniel Anguilu, the AYAM staff and around 15 Spring Branch ISD students, the building now has a new mural at the entrance worthy of the rich history and art collection on display inside.

Project participants met for the first time on June 7 to discuss Anguilu’s background in art and the role that it has played in his life. He took the students throughout the museum and had them look at different design elements from the artifacts such as the colors, shapes, and patterns used to create them.

Students sketched designs for their sections of — walls, floors, poles, and ceilings — the building, then began painting on June 9 with a layering technique Anguilu introduced.

Anguilu is known for his street-style art and constant involvement with the Houston art community. He has worked on a number of projects including the Texan-French Alliance for the Arts and the Paris art collective “Open The Door,” which AYAM also participated in.

The goal of the mural project is to bring the contents of the museum outside so that when you drive up you know what to expect inside. Yet in the process of creating an artistic curb appeal, a diverse community of passionate students were brought together to learn and work alongside an incredible artist.

Students from every high school — artists, photographers and journalists — gave their summer mornings to shine light on a historically and educationally invaluable part of the district that is often forgotten.

“It was so exciting seeing so many kids get involved and excited about participating. The diversity of the students was a great reflection of the cultures that are represented in the museum and the diversity in our District”, AYAM Co-Curator LeAnn Newton said.

While most of the participating students are artists, two journalists and photographers have also played a big role in the project. They took photos, conducted interviews and documented the event to bring attention from local communities and media to the project and museum.

Scott Kennedy, a junior at Stratford high school— and incoming Editor-in-Chief of Stratford High’s newspaper,“ The Oracle” — really enjoyed his experience with the team.

“The project really opened my eyes to the impact art can have. I have never been a huge artist or fan of art, but this project helped me to see some of its practical importance, and it was just an incredible project to watch”, Kennedy said.

Some of Kennedy’s work on the mural will be published in the Aug. 1 issues of “Absolutely! Memorial” and “The Memorial Buzz.”

The AYAM museum is named after SBISD’s first fine art teacher, Altharetta Yeargin, who donated a collection of more than 600 artifacts that her and her husband collected during their global travels almost 30 years ago.

After additional art was donated by community members, the Art Center collection outgrew its original home at Memorial Middle School and was moved to WAIS with support from the SBISD Board of Trustees, the Smithsonian Institution and a $600,000 donation from the Houston Coca-Cola Bottling Company.

The AYAM’s collection is currently valued at $2 million.

The mural is still getting its’ finishing touches from Anguilu and the students; they hope to have it completed by the end of July. Later in the year the AYAM staff plan to hold a celebration for Anguilu and participating students in addition to a public open house.

Participating Students:

Taylor Brittain- Stratford High 
Sara Farrikhi-Westchester Academy for International Studies
Dalia Hamdi-Westchester Academey for International Studies
Grant Haralson-Stratford High
Marcos Hernandez- Academy of Choice
Scott Kennedy- Stratford High
Savanna Kuhn- Stratford High
Juan Landin-Northbrook High
Jennifer Lee- Memorial High 
Natalie Ling- Memorial High 
Ruiland Lui-Memorial High 
Becky Phan-Westchester Academy for International Studies
Jackie Tarics-Westchest Academy for International Studies
Carolyn Zhang- Stratford High 

For information regarding visiting hours, private tours, school field trips, adult workshops and much more, please visit:

SBISD video of the AYAM mural project:

This story was written by Communications Dept. Intern, Kali Venable.


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