Future Forward Tile Mural

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Penn State tile mural installation at Corl St. Elementary

by Shannon Goff, associate professor of Art, Pennsylvania State University

Editor’s Note: Shannon Goff and students completed a mural for Corl St. Elementary using CerPrint and 12 x 24 tiles bought at a home supply store. Shannon earned her BFA from University of Michigan and an MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art.

Back to school will look a little different this year at Corl St. Elementary. I’m happy to share that after four wild years of proposals, planning, pandemic, patience, and perseverance, Future Forward, a collaborative tile mural project is now installed.

The lockdown grounded the project in a new way. It begged the question, what is whispering in your ear about the future of the world? And so, we began a distanced conversation about world building and what kind of world we want to live in post COVID-19. Future Forward served as a vehicle tethering together the schoolchildren no matter what form of learning they were pursuing– in-person, remote, or virtual.

Through a series of curated storybooks and drawing prompts, we collected 400+ drawings over the course of the year. These drawings were cut and collaged, scanned, digitized and cataloged. My team and I then began building the world in black and white with the inventory of drawings before inlaying custom color by hand.

Part of my 2018 sabbatical proposal was to return to landmarks in my life, but also leave new marks on the land to return to again and again. I had notions of what this might look like but never quite imagined the collaborative effort that yielded the glimmering jewel that now graces a once dull and under-recognized hallway space.

As a mother and an artist, I felt propelled to engage the children through art while making memories with my own kids. How could I elevate the children’s artwork and freeze this moment in time? My answer became a ceramic decal printer and an unmatched team of talented students which fortunately coupled well with my inherent desire for community building. There is something so powerful about the timeless yet fleeting nature of a children’s drawing and concretizing it through the ceramic firing process.

Future Forward exists as a living history, a time capsule of sorts noting COVID-19 and other cultural happenings we’ve collectively endured. I’m most impressed by and must acknowledge our children’s’ ability to be perceptive citizens of the world.

Gratitude & Event Details

Deep gratitude to Dr. Mark and the Corl St, PTO for supporting this effort.

Special thanks to Kristine Schwab as well as Miss Latorre and Shannon Stallings for their energy, commitment, and support. I couldn’t have done this without all of you.

I was fortunate to work with a gifted team of women artists and former PSU SoVA students including Audrey An, Yeonhye Park, Anna B Graef. Team GSD, nothing but love. Donny Houtz from @dripwoodwrx assisted with wall prep, a serious game changer for us. Andrew Castaneda-Quintero photographed the final installation. Thank you, gentlemen, for your expertise.

The community I’ve felt through this project has been something to behold. I am forever grateful to you all.

Adventures in World Building has always been at the core of this project. When I look back at the proposal, I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished. Despite all the road bumps, we’ve stayed true to our charge.

“We believe Future Forward will provide students with a connection to community and place during an unprecedented time of social distancing. It will also give permanence to student artwork; harness student creativity in response to the current global context; and give voice to student narratives of hope, questioning, and wonder.”

That all said, I look forward to sharing the mural with you all in person.

If you are in town, please join us at Corl St Elementary on Saturday, September 17 from 1-3:00 pm.