Taking the classroom to the streets

Service-learning project helps transform a local storefront

October 26, 2010

By Jill Yanish '13

CSB and SJU students work on mural at Aunt Annie's Quilts & Silks

A service-learning project has transformed a barren, run-down looking storefront into a vibrant, colorful masterpiece thanks to a group of CSB and SJU students. The students are part of Rachel Melis's Sophomore Topics Art class and recently undertook painting the quilt shop in Avon, Minn. as part of the CSB/SJU service-learning program.

Rachel, an assistant professor of art for CSB and SJU, had the idea to include the service-learning program into her class when she stumbled upon the idea that a mural for Aunt Annie's Quilts & Silks would be a perfect project for her class of art majors. She had connections to the shop because she is a frequent visitor and knows the storeowner, Lucy Senstad.

"I wanted [the students] to understand how their skills could be applied to service, and to especially understand that artists need community support," Rachel said.

Students worked in groups to create a design for a mural that would cover the storefront. Lucy had talked with the students about the history of the quilt shop to provide them with an understanding of the store. She described how worldly fabrics are a key aspect to the store. Music also plays a significant role as well because the store hosts concerts.

Junior Nick Streine's design was chosen by Lucy and her husband Don, but aspects of other groups' designs were included into the final design as well.

"It was pretty exciting. I've never really won anything like that before," Nick said.

Painting on the shop began Oct.4 and was completed Oct. 21. Students devoted approximately 20 hours to wash, prime, and paint the store, not including the time spent drafting designs. The students weaved music and worldly fabrics together by incorporating an abstract piano, guitar, bright colors, and Mayan style patterns into the mural.

"I feel that [the students] did incredible work," Rachel said. "They exceeded my expectations in terms of enthusiasm for actually going to the site. I thought it was going to be hard to get them together outside of class, but they were more than willing to go other times and take initiative."

And the students from Sophomore Topics take pride in what their painting will bring to the store.

"This mural will help bring attention to the shop," sophomore Deanna Jansky said. "It will bring color to people's lives."

The project served a dual purpose, benefiting both the students and the quilt shop. Rachel believes that the project will not only help the store in terms of business, but also the Avon Area Arts organization that Lucy supports, and add color to the town. The students gained a sense of community, teamwork, and experience by designing for and with other people.

The Aunt Annie's Quilts & Silks project fulfilled the mission of the service-learning program by providing students with the opportunity to actively engage in the community by implementing the knowledge they have gained in the classroom. More than 540 CSB/SJU students are participating in the service-learning program this semester.

Deanna is a believer that the service-learning program has enhanced her education.

"It just kind of makes you feel that the things you are learning make a difference," Deanna said.