PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A new after-school program is teaching Hope High School students that they don’t need to be the next Picasso to express themselves through art.
The program is the brainchild of John Rivera, the school’s community specialist. Rivera said the program not only gives students an outlet, it also beautifies the building’s interior.
Rivera said the latest project paired five students with five community mentors to create five unique murals.
Their canvases are the walls in the school’s hallways.
“Our students have great talent, great energy, and I think we should start showcasing that on these walls and take pride in our school building,” Rivera said.
Rivera, who grew up in Providence’s Washington Park neighborhood, told 12 News he knows all too well the importance of keeping students engaged.
“My mother, she always tried to keep me in after-school programs to keep me out of trouble,” he said. “I gravitated toward art. It was a way to express myself.”
Archie Rhodes, a local graffiti artist who’s participating in the project, said while he’s helping the students make their ideas a reality, he’s also making sure that they’re taking the lead.
“This is an opportunity to get my name out there, but also to give back to the kids and help guide them and teach them the knowledge I’ve developed over 20 years,” Rhodes said.
Hope High School junior Erumosele Bridgeforth decided to focus his mural on music.
“Music can help somebody through tough times,” Bridgeforth said. “It helps people through certain situations. It’s kind of like therapy for other people. It helps me mentally and physically … Music always helps somebody, no matter who you are.”
Rivera said the beauty of this project is that each mural is different, and it gives students a voice without them having to speak at all.
“I’m hoping to maybe have a reunion one day to come back and look at some of the art,” Rivera added. “We can see where our minds were at the time and what we were going through.”
Sophia Lemaire, a junior, hopes their murals will be enjoyed by students for years to come.
“I’m very proud of all of us,” Lemaire said. “Imagine coming back one day and seeing what you once created when you were so much younger and being able to compare it to what it would be like working on in the future.”