Natalie Hyder is on a mission to reintroduce her students and their families to their own community. As the art teacher at Sealey elementary school, she knows public art is a powerful tool that can be used to accomplish this goal. Tallahassee has more than 200 outdoor murals, sculptures, windows, memorials, and monuments that are accessible to anyone, at any time. Each piece is unique and may range from iconic, to historic, to quirky. “Public art is a reflection of our community’s culture and our students’ evolving public history,” Hyder said.
In an effort to engage her students with the treasures in their own backyard, Hyder developed and introduced them to public art lessons and classroom projects. As a culminating activity, she invited Sealey students, parents, grandparents, teachers, and administrators to participate in a public art walk.
Designed by the Council on Culture & Arts, the area’s arts agency, the walking route highlights artworks in the All Saints district. Building on the success of last year’s Sealey excursion featuring COCA’s downtown public art walk, this new tour provides a look at nearly three dozen outdoor public artworks.
“I love that we introduced them to Railroad Square because that’s an area that families might not know about,” Hyder said. “I hear parents and families say, ‘I didn’t even know this was here.’ It is amazing how many times we can pass by something and never really look at it.”
The Rorison family echoed those sentiments. Christopher and Meron and their children Nathan, Natalie and Madeline represented five of the more than 100 art walk participants. Christopher shared: “Unless you have certain things to do, you don’t go to certain places, so this lets us see some things that we just didn’t know about. I didn’t know about the Art Alley and I thought it was really cool to be able to see different sides of the city.”
Christopher’s son Nathan is a fourthgrader at Sealey and he was especially enthusiastic about the art walk. Pondering the importance of our community’s public art, he mused, “Without public art, what would the city be? It would just be a normal place, but with art, it stands out.”
Art Alley was a highlight of the tour for numerous reasons. What was once a dark, narrow pathway between Saint Francis and Gaines Streets, has been completely renovated. It now serves as a public display space for artists of all ages and skill levels, thanks to the tenacity and vision of FSU art professor Paul Rutkovsky. Committed to encouraging emerging artists, Rutkovsky was happy to collaborate with Sealey.
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