Young immigrants leave a floral mural in their school's concrete stairs

Preparatory class pupils of Hatanpää School’s Koivistontie building used paint to add colour to a flight of concrete stairs in their school. The effort was implemented as a part of an international project called Creative Placemaking, aimed at activating and involving young people in planning of their environment and acknowledging their cultural heritage.
Mia Carita Hahl and Elina Laukkala, teachers of the preparatory class of Hatanpää School’s Koivistontie building, stand in the concrete staircase, which has been painted in floral colours.
Preparatory class teachers Mia-Carita Hahl and Elina Laukkala considered the students' art project a good experience.

Pupils from grades 7 – 9 of the preparatory class for basic education were involved in the project. Half of these 21 young people are from Ukraine and the rest are from Afghanistan, Iraq, the Philippines, North Macedonia, and Russia.

The initiative to paint the mural came from the Association of Cultural Heritage Education of Finland. According to Ira Vihreälehto, specialist at the association, the Creative Placemaking project also involved cities of Karlovac in Croatia and Nicosia in Cyprus. In Croatia, the young people are working to make the urban landscape more pleasant in by fixing damage caused by earthquakes. In Cyprus, children are producing art and are thinking of ways to get more shade into their blazing hot schoolyard.

In Tampere, Vihreälehto specifically wanted to involve Ukrainian young people in the effort.

“I hoped that the refugee children could both participate in the project and influence it as well as leave some kind of memory of themselves in the environment”, Vihreälehto explained.

The preparatory class of the Koivistontie building of the Hatanpää School approved the proposal for cooperation thinking that it might bring a sense of life to the concrete school yard.

Dream maps filled with colour

First, Vihreälehto visited the class to lead various of workshops linked with art and history. For example, the pupils were asked to identify areas in the schoolyard that they liked, and others that they did not like. The concrete steps in the yard caught the attention of many, and the spot was selected as the location of the work.

Then the pupils produced dream maps with plenty of flowers and colours, as well as a few pizzas. In one workshop Vihreälehto noticed that the foods and holiday traditions of their own countries were very important for the young people. In addition, Finnish sweets were left uneaten because they did not understand the practice of combining chocolate with other flavours.

Finally, artist Mollu Heino joined the project, helping with the composition of the mural. The young people designed their own flowers which were then placed on the wall.

Preparatory class teachers Elina Laukkala and Mia-Carita Hahl followed the work of the pupils with interest.

“In most cases, pupils spend only a year in the preparatory class. When pupils leave school, they might feel disconnected from the activities of the school. Now they left their own mark on the school community”, Hahl says.

The pupils arrived in Finland less than a year ago, so it took some time to internalise the project. Ultimately, everyone was eager to participate, and they continued painting even if it rained.

Laukkala agreed that taking part in the project was a wonderful experience.

“Other school pupils have also made positive comments passing by. The mural makes the school's concrete yard more beautiful”, she says.

Vihreälehto also says that some of the pupils had had doubts about their own painting skills. Nevertheless, there were comments about how the work of art proved to be more impressive than anyone had expected. They would have liked to have painted more.

The project partners from Croatia and Cyprus will visit Tampere the week after Midsummer, at which time Ira Vihreälehto will take them to visit the mural painted by the pupils.

Text: Tiia-Maria Angeli
Photos: Laura Happo
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