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Arts & Culture

A Unique Mural for Children With Unique Communication Needs

Art, Hearing and Speech Sciences Departments Collaborate on LeFrak Hall Project

By Rachael Grahame ’17

students create mural

The new mural painted by art students for the Language-Learning Early Advantage Program centers on the themes of "LEAP for the Stars” and “LEAP is where children learn."

Photo by Tom Bacho

Fifteen undergraduates in the Department of Art installed a permanent mural collage in front of LeFrak Hall’s Language-Learning Early Advantage Program (LEAP) classroom last week to celebrate the children served there.

The installation, directed by Assistant Professor Brandon Donahue-Shipp, was made with mural fabric called polytab, which allows students to work ahead in the studio and minimize the installation time. The fabric gets primed with gesso, then painted with acrylic, cut, applied to the wall with gel medium, and sealed with a clear polyurethane for protection.

The mural also has two distinct parts. The first follows a “LEAP for the Stars” theme with cartoon animals, like those found in the LEAP classroom, floating in space with a wide variety of assistive devices, including hearing aids and cochlear implants. The second follows a “LEAP is where children learn” theme, and consists of a diverse group of children jumping for joy around a frog, an amphibious nod to the name of the Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences (HESP) program.

"The mural depicts many of the elements around which LEAP is centered, including literacy, communication and diversity,” said José Ortiz, LEAP director and HESP clinical assistant professor. “Professor Donahue-Shipp and his students drew on concepts fundamental to LEAP to provide a faithful visual representation of our program, and have provided a wonderful contribution to our department through this mural.”

The mural-making process was inspired by the University of Maryland’s Arts for All initiative, an effort to bolster a campuswide culture of creativity and innovation, such as through partnerships between arts-, science- and technology-focused units on campus and in the community.

“With the emergence of the Arts for All initiative and the new creative placemaking minor, my advanced painting studio class encourages the students to expand their idea of collaboration while also working to become more visible on campus,” Donahue-Shipp said.

In addition to showcasing preschoolers with speech and language needs participating in the LEAP program, the mural also provides greater insight into the different programs that use the LEAP classroom space, such as the Maryland Cochlear Implant Center of Excellence Summer Camp.

“The kids and families are getting more recognition and awareness of communication disorders [through this new mural],” said Nicole Diaz-Mackey ’24, a hearing and speech sciences major and student clinician in LEAP. “It’s nice to get the chance to share what we do with students in other departments.”

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