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Creating a Brighter Space for Learning at Northdale Superintendent Academy

Updated: Nov 18, 2022

Dozens of volunteers spent two days working at the Northdale Superintendent Academy to transform the drab space into a bright atmosphere ready for academic success.

“It definitely needed a lot of work,” Morgan Udoh, Mural Arts Senior Program Coordinator, said about the school. “It just looked like a prison.”

Utilizing funding from the Office of Alternative Education in the East Baton Rouge Parish School System, the team set out to transform several sections of the school. Artist Ellen Ogden was the lead artist on the project.

“We presented them with a concept of designing the poles in a way that would designate the high school side from the middle school side,” Udoh explained. “With volunteers, we were able to paint all 70 plus poles and the pavilion seating at the front entrance of their outdoor corridors and the actual brick façade of the front entrance to the office.

“Ellen created the designs on all our concrete seats,” she continued. “We also painted planters that we will eventually fill with plants from the Baton Roots team. The plants will come from the BREC Howell Park Community Farm.”

The work sessions were held on Saturday, November 15, and Saturday, October 8. On the first day, roughly 40 volunteers helped with the real dirty work.

“There was a lot of painting and priming to do,” Udoh noted. “Lots of cleanups prior. It was just dusty and dirty.”

The local chapter of Masons came to pitch in.

“They were our primary volunteers,” Udoh said. “They were awesome and without their help, we would not have been able to provide as much design work as we were able to. We were only able to do so because of the number of volunteers that laid down the primary paint.”

One big piece of design included the school’s mascot.

“Their mascot is the Mustang, so we kept that theme and worked with their colors, which are black, gold, and white. We added a metallic gold as well just to give it a little pop.”

Although much was accomplished, there’s still another phase to this project. It’s set to be completed during the annual MLK Festival of Service.

“It’s going to be more healing arts-focused,” Udoh explained. “We’re going to be creating a healing art labyrinth using recycled tires. They have a lot of land at the school, so we will use that space and the recycled tires to help students who have a lot of trauma.

“We want to have a space where the kids will be able to just walk through freely and have some grounding words on signs, words of encouragement just to help them. It will be another coping strategy for their mental health issues.”

This will be the second time The Walls Project has created a labyrinth using old tires. The first was executed during the 2019 MLK Festival of Service. It was designed by artist Taliesin Gilkes-Bower and is located at 4198 Winbourn Avenue.

“This will be a similar concept, but instead of being located on asphalt, it will be on grass. And it’s going to have prompt words and questions.”

Special thanks to Alma Thomas and Jordan Howard of Louisiana Health Equity, and Larry James of the Louisiana Department of Alternative Education.

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