Winmalee High brings aerosol art into the classroom

Many high school teachers would consider getting a group of  teenagers to sit in rapt attention through a double period of theory as next to impossible.

But Prudence Rowston knows it can be done.

The visual arts head teacher at Winmalee High School witnessed just such a miracle this term when the school introduced a groundbreaking aerosol art program to its curriculum.

“To hear a pin drop when you’re on a double period of theory is amazing... It was great to see that,” she said.

  The Year 10 students were taking part in a pilot program — believed to be the first of its kind in Australia — which studied all aspects of aerosol art from its history to the latest legislation surrounding illegal graffiti.

Funded by Blue Mountains City Council, the project’s organisers hope it could eventually be adopted throughout the state.

“Graffiti management is a complex issue and it deserves more than a one dimensional response,” said Jarrod Wheatley of Mountains Youth Service Team, who helped instigate the project.

“What we have here is a holistic response which draws a clear distinction between aerosol art, which is a valid form of art, and illegal graffiti which is vandalism,” he said.

Bringing home this point was Senior Constable Michelle Jancso, youth liaison officer with Blue Mountains Police, who spoke to the students about the state government’s latest anti-graffiti legislation.

“We’re committed to linking up with the schools and other community groups to get the message out there in the hope it’s going to reduce crime as well as give them that education [about the latest laws],” she said.

Artists from the Blue Mountains Street Art Collaborative also took part in the 10-week course.

Janne Birkner, a former Winmalee High School student who recently worked on the bushfire thank you mural in Springwood, said he enjoyed sharing his knowledge with the current crop of students. 

 “I think they can relate to someone who’s a bit younger,” he said.

With aerosol art and graffiti still a hot political issue it took many meetings before the course was given the green light but it has proved an unqualified success with staff and students. It is far from a ‘soft’ course either with assessable tasks and exams like any other part of the curriculum.

“There’s no reason why any teacher in any school [in the state] couldn’t pick this up and deliver it to their students,” said Ms Rowston.

Although the project’s funding was only for the pilot program, she would love to see it return to Winmalee High School in 2014.

“We’d like to do it every year — and we have the model now to do it,” she said.

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