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Dogwood ES students collaborate with Richmond artist, Reston groups on “social justice” murals

Virtual learning may have kept kids physically apart earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic, but at Dogwood Elementary School (12300 Glade Drive), it also provided an opportunity for students to come together through art.

Inspired by its motto of PEACE (Peace, Equity, Access, Connection, Excellence) for all, the Reston school of 600-plus students collaborated with Richmond-based artist Hamilton Glass on a colorful wall mural that was designed and pieced together over the course of a year.

The result now graces the building’s hallways and will soon expand to an exterior wall, making its social justice-oriented message visible to the outside world.

“The Dogwood ES mural project is a great addition to public art in our community,” Public Art Reston Board Chair Maggie Parker said in an emailed statement. “…It not only brings a positive message to the school, but is there for all to enjoy and find inspiration.”

The community mural project began in 2020, when Dogwood resource teacher Rachel Albert learned about the “All in Together” initiative that Glass and fellow artist Matt Lively launched to give people an artistic outlet amid the isolation of the pandemic.

All in Together provides coloring sheets that participants fill in before bringing them together to form a full artwork. While Glass’s original mural design was specific to Richmond, the project can be replicated anywhere, letting people “be creative together, making something while being far apart,” he explained to Public Art Reston in a recent interview.

When contacted by Albert, All in Together agreed to partner with Dogwood Elementary School on a custom mural that Glass worked with students to design.

“Students each received a small section of the design by snail mail at home and after it was colored in, it was pieced together into a cohesive image,” said Andy Sigle, a Fairfax County Public Schools family and community liaison for Dogwood Elementary.

The mural was completed last fall as in-person classes resumed and students could unite their individual squares.

Sigle says students “so connected with the project” that Dogwood commissioned Glass to do an outdoor version of the mural “so the entire Reston community could enjoy the artwork.” The design will be adapted to fit a wall on the western side of the school, right next to the kiss-and-ride lane.

Glass will visit Dogwood Elementary to paint the mural during the week of May 23, including at the school’s first-ever International Night on May 25.

For the outdoor mural, Dogwood reached out to Public Art Reston and Reston Community Center for their assistance. RCC provided funding for Glass’s commission fee and related expenses, while Public Art Reston helped organize talks with Glass at the school and the Cathy Hudgins Community Center at Southgate on Tuesday (May 3).

“We were delighted to work with Dogwood Elementary School, Public Art Reston and the Cathy Hudgins Community Center at Southgate to assure that the artwork that began with students and Mr. Glass would expand to a location visible for all to enjoy,” RCC Executive Director Leila Gordon said in a statement. “These are our favorite ingredients for successful community building: young people, artists, imagination and partners who embrace the opportunity to bring them all together.”

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