The Joshua M. Freeman Foundation, a fundraising nonprofit arts organization based in Selbyville, Delaware, selected Milford Central Academy (MCA) as the next Sussex County middle school to participate in its mural project, as a way to bolster confidence and inspiration within the student body. Starting on March 29, students at the school participated in a week-long exercise that produced large personalized murals to hang throughout the school. All 1,100 students at Milford Central Academy, which is the seventh school in Sussex County to take part in this project, painted along with members of the faculty.
“As one of the few arts organizations in the area, we wanted to find a way to impact and inspire Sussex County students in an immediate way, while providing visual stimulation for future students in the years to come,” said Joshua M. Freeman Foundation Executive Director Patti Grimes. “Studies have shown that students with an active participation in the arts have higher GPAs and standardized test scores, lower drop-out rates, and even improve attitudes about community service.”
MCA Principal Nancy Carnevale states that the project was an exciting challenge for students from across all levels, regardless of their prior experience in the world of art. “Some of them claimed they could not “do” art and others were afraid they may make mistakes. However, once they tried they quickly realized they could do it and it would look great,” said Carnevale. “With the tremendous support of the Freeman Foundation volunteers, all of us have become artists. I must admit, as the school principal, it was one of my fondest memories to see all the students excited to contribute, working together to create such an inspirational piece of art.”
Leading the way with paint brushes, local artist John Donato lent his artistic and leadership skills throughout the process as he assisted the students develop ideas for their artwork and later paint them onto the mural pieces. The overall theme for the mural at Milford Central Academy consists of personalized book spines that are painted by each student. Once complete, the school hosted a public reveal of their students’ artistic creations on Monday, March 7.
Although many students see art as an activity done by one individual at one time, the mural helped students understand the much larger experiences that art creates. “Since everyone only creates one book spine…it has little impact by itself. However, when hundreds of these individual book spines are combined the impact is tremendous,” said Carnevale. “The bookshelf murals will be hung throughout our school above the lockers in the hallways. The staff and students feel like they have left a positive mark on the school, and that’s pretty amazing.”
The Joshua M. Freeman Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, was established in 2007 to honor Josh Freeman, the former Chair of the Carl M. Freeman Foundation, after his untimely death in December of 2006. The current focus of the Foundation is The Freeman Stage at Bayside, an outdoor performing arts venue located near Fenwick Island, DE.