Teaching Artists hold a special place in schools as guests who bring new and exciting ways of relating with students. When a Teaching Artist returns to the same school for multiple projects, they become members of the school community, developing long-term relationships and becoming a role model for students and contributing to school identity and culture. Mural Artist Jimmy Baptiste is an inspiring example of this, as can be seen in multiple projects.
Philemon Wright High School Student Life Coordinator Mario Cuglietta describes their ArtistsInspire project as
“… a unique and amazing idea that was developed by the Black Student Association at Philemon Wright High School to celebrate Black history, empowerment and strength through art. The creation of a mural at the school by the students this year, with the support of Mural Artist Jimmy Baptiste, is the culmination of this experience. It allows the students to lead with their voices, invites inclusive participation throughout the school, and inspires student leadership in a meaningful way — while adding beauty to the walls with art that is created by the student body.”
Teacher Shanelle Ndiaye writes, “Jimmy has been such an inspiration to us all. He brought us joy and he has helped in raising self-confidence in our students. He has been the big brother that all the kids looked up to. We look forward to working with him again in many years to come. Thank you Jimmy for sharing your knowledge and taking us back to our Black roots through art and wisdom.
Students’ words speak volumes. As one student writes of their experience, “Jimmy has been nothing but a blessing to my life and the school, he has provided so well not only for the school but also for me personally.”
St. Michael’s High School’s ArtistsInspire project highlights what an engaged role model such as Jimmy can bring to students and schools. Recreation Technician Codie Richards’ describes the highlight of their project:
“At the beginning of the year, one of our students continued to sketch dragons onto desks. At first we didn’t know who this student was but in every other classroom you would usually have a few students stunned by the great artwork that was on the desk and hear continued chatter about the many dragons that lay across many of the desks. This student has worked with Jimmy in the past and had the chance to work with Jimmy again this year. Your guess is right, the student painted a dragon on the mural but the cool part was that SO MANY students who walked by the final project of the mural noticed the artwork and the artist, loving the mark that they were leaving. The artist revealed his talents and the student body was nothing but encouraging as many would just stand still and watch the artists at work create what is the mural now… The mural is a beautiful contribution to the school and we are so appreciative of the artwork that has been created.”
Codie underlines the value of Teaching Artists as role models:
“Jimmy inspired so many of our students, both experienced and non experienced artists, to express their values and the norms of SMHS through an artistic approach. Jimmy’s vibrant personality is highly contagious, encouraging both students and staff to step outside their comfort zones and to try something new. Jimmy is a member of our community who has contributed to the fabric of our school and will continue to be a role model for students.”