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Bayside Williamstown Students Paint the Town

At the beginning of 2016, The Song Room commenced a visual arts program for disengaged students at Bayside College in Williamstown. Funded by Newsboys Foundation, this one-year, student-led program is designed with the core purpose of using the arts to enhance student engagement with learning.

Facilitated by Song Room Teaching Artist Natalie Coleman and stencil artist Losop, the Bayside College students are using street and stencil art to highlight the challenges faced by Melbourne’s homeless population.

At the beginning of the program, The Song Room worked with the school to define the program objectives. The most crucial outcomes the teachers were hoping to achieve involved building students’ confidence, teamwork and leadership skills to support their learning.

The school and students agreed that street art would be an appropriate vehicle for engagement. Natalie engaged acclaimed stencil artist Losop to run a weekly stencil workshop with the students. Over the first semester, they studied the history of street art and its political and expressive power, the creative and practical elements of visual arts, as well as inspiration, techniques and effects of creating art in a non-traditional space.

As the program progressed, the students expressed a keen interest in social issues – showing particular compassion towards the growing problem of homelessness. This theme carried through to the development of their own stencils.

In August, the students went on an excursion to Melbourne’s CBD, where they toured some of the city’s most revered Council-approved street art sites. They took a stencil they created and under the careful supervision of Natalie, Losop and their teachers, they stenciled their works on the walls of the city’s famous street art galleries.

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The students also visited Youth Projects, a non-profit organisation that assists at-risk individuals. The students’ passion for Youth Projects’ cause inspired them to dedicate the last part of the program to creating stenciled hoodies to donate to the homeless people that Youth Projects supports.

The outcomes of the project so far have been overwhelmingly positive, with teachers and Principals noting substantial improvements to the students’ social-emotional wellbeing, confidence, teamwork and willingness to learn. The students remain committed advocates of the important and complex social issues surrounding of the plight of homeless people in Melbourne.

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“The project has had many challenges; difficult behaviour is the biggest problem. These boys are all great kids, but all have a history of becoming disengaged with their learning and displaying disruptive behavior.

–  Natalie Coleman, Teaching Artist

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