University of Maryland students, in collaboration with local nonprofit Art Works Now, are set to install a mural in Hyattsville that celebrates community and re-connecting with nature.

Students in this university’s creative placemaking minor workshopped and completed the mural’s design in Ben Edwards’ advanced painting course. The mural is the class’ second project following “Chalk The Walk” on Oct. 7.

Art Works Now works to provide people of all ages opportunities to learn art and expand community collaboration.

Edwards said Hyattsville’s history, values and people — along with the nonprofit’s previous work — inspired the new mural. The mural is expected to be installed by Dec. 11.

“The students began with the community research assignment to learn more about Hyattsville generally and what issues are facing the community,” Edwards said. “Based on [research], the students came up with brainstorming their own individual ideas.”

Manique Buckmon, senior director of programs with Art Works Now and an alum of this university, wanted a creative partnership with this university and neighboring communities, and became interested in art professor Brandon Donahue’s work.

Buckmon reached out to Donahue, who teaches advanced painting, about working with him and his class. Buckmon and the team at Art Works Now attended classes —  now taught by Edwards while Donahue is on leave — to talk to students about their design progress and research, as well as invite them to work with Art Works Now.

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“The students are engaged in the artmaking, and they want to figure out, how can we make this a valuable piece that we add to our space? It is through the vision of that staff at Art Works, the faculty with the UMD population, and the students,” Buckmon said. 

Nature was a recurring theme in the design process. Edwards explained a central element in the mural is the rainbow tree: a native species in the Philippines that a student learned about in a documentary. Students then workshopped with incorporating a greenhouse into the piece to honor the original function of the Art Works Now building.

Students continued to incorporate nature into the project by adding native flowers and gardens they were interested in onto the design.

Buckmon said that the piece is set to be on the right side of a storage container that faces Route 1 as this location is often used to host the nonprofits’ events, classes and camps. It’s this community space that inspired the interactive component of the mural Buckmon desired, and allows locals to contribute to the art space.

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The bottom section of the piece, where the roots of the rainbow tree converge, will be completed with chalkboard paint. Community members of all ages are invited to chalk in the space, honoring a growing tradition of chalking in the patio.

“In the summertime or when the weather’s nice, the site is basically an asphalt courtyard, and there’s chalk everywhere. [Art Works Now] had to put up signs saying ‘please don’t chalk the walls,” Edwards said. “So this painting invites them to go ahead and just chalk.”

Senior architecture major and creative placemaking minor Zachary Flowers said he loved working to find ways art could improve problems in the community. Flowers said he takes immense pride in knowing elements of his design will be on display in the mural.

Once the mural is installed, Buckmon is interested in continuing to work with this university on future projects.

“We are cognizant of having the drive to continue to build with each other through the arts,” she said.