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The Sky’s the Limit for Compass House, Buffalo State Collaboration

The Sky’s the Limit for Compass House, Buffalo State Collaboration

Posted: December 2, 2011

“This mural is the most awesome, gorgeous thing I’ve ever seen,” said Yvonne Jaros, director of the Compass House Resource Center. Jaros was describing a ceiling mural created by freshmen in the Art Education Department’s first-ever learning community, “Ways of Seeing, Ways of Doing.”

Shirley Hayes, associate professor and chair of art education, said that art education created the learning community to connect with first-year art-ed majors. “Our students declare their major as freshmen,” she explained, “but many of them don’t take art ed courses until their third year.”

The learning community’s courses are Drawing I, taught by Philip Ogle, professor and chair of fine arts; Foundations of Inquiry, taught by Candace Masters, assistant professor of art education; and College Writing I, taught by Irene Sipos, lecturer with the College Writing Program. All three instructors teach UNC 101, a course that helps students integrate and synthesize material from all their courses.

Sarah Velez, associate director of Student Life, is the student-life liaison to the Ways of Seeing, Ways of Doing learning community. “All learning communities have a student-life liaison,” she said. “We help the students connect to the services and resources that they need.”

The faculty wanted to incorporate a service-learning project into the learning community—and Ogle had an idea. “After we worked on the outdoor mural at McKinley High School last summer,” he said, “a number of people contacted me about doing a mural. Compass House was one of them.” During planning sessions for Ways of Seeing, Ogle remembered that one of Compass House’s ideas had been to paint a ceiling in their resource center, which serves young people who are homeless or who are at risk of becoming homeless.

“The grid on the ceiling made it possible for first-year drawing students to organize a project,” said Ogle. “We could remove the panels and work on them here, and then put them in place.”

After soliciting suggestions from clients at Compass House, the Buffalo State students came up with a theme: hope. “The clients’ stories touched our students,” said Hayes. “The idea was to represent the sky on the ceiling, so that people could look up to get a sense of hope and possibility.” Including the signs of the zodiac in the mural is a way to place each observer in the mural. “When you see your sign up there,” Hayes said, “you can find yourself in a hopeful, joyful place.”

“I couldn’t believe the quality of work that these college freshmen did,” said Jaros. “And they’re the peers of our clients—it’s not something adults did for us.”

The official unveiling takes place at a reception held Friday, December 2, from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Compass House Resource Center.

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