Beautify Earth Education
If you happen to grow up in the states, and like the majority of Americans received a public education, then you won’t be surprised to find out the same people who build prisons build public schools.
Under the leadership of Board Member Sergio Cuculiza, Beautify Earth is working to integrate painting and art education into K-12 curricula at public and private schools across the United States and beyond. The process of beautifying education includes group class projects that erect murals on once drab exterior walls, (turning what once felt like prison walls into gallery halls) and social strengthening practices inherent therein (cooperation, communication skills, accomplishment leading to enhanced self-efficacy).
According to the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), neuroscience research indicates arts instruction has a significant impact on cognitive, social and emotional development. In this article by educational consultant David Souda, he notes that when students interact with art as part of their core-curriculum, they work more diligently and show a greater emotional investment in their studies, while the parents also show an increased interest.
The antecedents of the educational arm of Beautify Earth really began several years back, like many things in Southern California, on the beach. Beautify brought out a series of artists of all different professions, graphic design, web design, shoe design, fashion, illustration, and animation, to demonstrate to a selection of local kids that art is not only therapeutic, but can also become quite profitable. This program ran as part of the KVBL (Kids Venice Basketball League) successfully for consecutive summers, and like the organization itself continued to spread into other pockets of interest, and new areas of development.
Stutter Middle School in Northridge was the first official location for Beautify Earth’s educational endeavors, where they worked on a series of murals in collaboration with The Child and Family Guidance Center depicting a theme of anti-bullying. “It’s a very cheap and amazing way to transform an environment,” notes Sergio Cuculiza, Beautify’s Educational Director. “You have these drab, dreary environments that students are supposed to be inspired in… If we can teach educators, parents and students that this should be the norm, it will be a much more sustainable and enduring phenomena, than if we have to carry them.”
One of the ways that Beautify has been able to inspire action in schools is to generate contests where students all submit their designs and paintings for murals, and then the most popular actually go into effect. Looking down the line, Cuculiza says, “the end game of our program is to paint entire schools.”
One of the intentions of Beautify Earth is not for the organization itself to paint every wall, but to inspire that every wall will be painted if we all work together.
The effect of this Beautify intention has reached well beyond the United States. One artist in Brazil, whom represents an organization called Spray Vida, has begun painting the favela walls in Sao Paulo, which desperately need the facelift, after seeing the work done by Beautify. Perhaps more organizations like Spray Vida will pop up around the world and leave no wall left behind.
The importance of art education in school curriculum cannot be understated. Organizations like BE are doing their part to champion the arts, and turn “prison” walls into “museum” halls made of the imagination of the very student body that walks them.
Beyond beautifying schools, Beautify murals themselves often connote an educational aspect. Historic educators, authors, athletes and musicians are often ennobled through Beautify murals, including the likes of Mark Twain, Muhammed Ali, David Bowie, Mt. Rushmore in Technicolor, John Lennon and “Abraham Lincoln on Lincoln”, Twain’s mural included this pedagogical quote, “Keep away from people that try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that but the really great make you feel that you too can be great.” If one single tenor could be struck for the Beautify mission, it may be that you too can be great.
Special thanks to Joseph Voelbel for writing this post.
Joseph Voelbel is an author living in Los Angeles. He received his BA from NYU with concentrations in English and Dramatic Writing and his Master’s degree in Communications from USC. For more info: josephvoelbel.com.