In the Spring of 2021, I taught my first internship program at Furr High School in Houston. I instructed a select group of high-school students to create a large mural from start to finish and returned the following two summers to repeat the same process with new students and new canvases (more on that here).
(Hallway at Crescent Care Community Center designated for our Healing mural)
After three successful sessions, I was eager to recreate the experience with students from New Orleans and supply their curious and talented minds with the skills needed to grow as artists. Thanks to grant funding courtesy of the New Orleans Tourism and Cultural Fund, I was able to host Annie Moran Studio’s first summer internship program this year. This mural-focused visual arts internship fostered creativity, artistic expression, and development through collaboration among aspiring visual artists from the New Orleans area. Eight interns were chosen out of forty applicants based on their outstanding portfolios, interest in the arts, need for artistic development, and desire to grow within the field.
(Top: Preliminary sketch of Healing mural, Bottom: Digital mockup of Healing mural)
Prior to the internship’s kick-off at the beginning of June, I researched potential internship locations for months, seeking the perfect public interior space to act as a canvas for myself and my interns. Thanks to the help of the Arts Council of New Orleans' Lindsay Glatz, I was introduced to local gallery owner Arthur Roger, who curates art pro bono at Crescent Care Community Health Center. Both he and COO Reginald Vicks supported my idea, and soon enough, Crescent Care became our summer studio.
(Interns working on Healing mural)
For six consecutive weeks, the interns and I worked on three murals. The main mural that adorns the hallway on the second floor is an homage to New Orleans culture and healing.
The mural shows how people heal outside of clinical healthcare settings – both in ways that are common to all humans (food, music, dance, spirituality, caretaking, cultivation, and artistic expression) as well as ways that are unique to the New Orleans and St. Roch community. It was important to me to represent the vibrancy and uniqueness of the people and culture surrounding Crescent Care.
(Interns working on various murals)
The gothic-inspired shapes are reminiscent of the St. Roch cemetery and chapel. Atop the columns, instead of religious statues, we have dancing figures in second-line dress wielding plumed fans. The mural’s left side features a door and porch steps typical of a New Orleans-style shotgun house. The scattered floating objects are inspired by the votive offerings that can be found hanging on the walls of the shrine at the St. Roch cemetery chapel. Our interns each helped choose the objects that we used to represent healing practices in literal and figurative ways to create a design that intends to inspire joy and healing in its viewers.
Two additional, smaller landscape murals inspired by southern scenery found their place in rooms on the upper floor that are used for private patient interviews. In keeping with a recurring theme for my work, one room features a swampy marsh scene, while the other depicts a breezy sunset nestled between an open field and cotton-candy skies. Both landscapes evoke peace and gratitude for simple, peaceful moments so often found in nature.
Interns with Guest Speakers
(Top: Production Designer Hannah Beachler, Bottom: Interior Designer Penny Francis of Eclectic Home)
To broaden the young artists’ outlook on artistic careers, several mentors stopped by throughout the program to share their professional experience and show them what a working artist’s life can look like.
The interns showed up every day with a willingness to learn, try, adapt and succeed. They assisted with three design concepts all while learning how to plan and paint a mural through traditional methods and materials. While the process was not without challenges, the results were decidedly rewarding. Leaving lasting works of art that beautify the space, uplift the community of staff and patients, and will continue to touch the lives of viewers for years to come was deeply meaningful to both the students and myself.
(Top: Open Field mural / Bottom: Swamp Scene mural)
To honor the interns’ dedication and accomplishments, we celebrated the completion of the program with an unveiling reception. I presented them with a parting gift, a set of my favorite watercolor paints, to encourage them to keep creating, as well as a certificate decorated in my Lotus Leaf pattern. I chose this pattern because it reminded me of the interns’ resilience. The lotus grows out of the mud but emerges above the water. Rains may fall heavily and waters may rise, but the lotus always remains on the surface.
(Healing mural details)
Creating a program that allowed me to work with and for my community was incredibly special to me, as was the opportunity to share my passion for this art form with the next generation. Even though it may be hard to say goodbye to the beautiful summer we spent together, I look forward to watching these young artists excel on their individual journeys and all that the future has to offer.