Autism + Dreams = A Beautiful Mosaic

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Andersen students piece together dreams with art

MINNEAPOLIS — A group of students hovers over pieces of Italian tile, searching for the right color and size to fit into a puzzle that will one day grace the outside of Andersen United Community School in Minneapolis.

Muralist Greta McLain oversees the activity, encouraging students when needed.

“I’m part of a project called Project Semilla that’s located in the Phillips Neighborhood,” said McLain.  She’s partnered with Saint Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church to secure a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board to create a mosaic on the outside of the school.

McLain’s students are all part of the school’s Autism Spectrum Disorder program — and the connection between these kids and the mosaic is producing exactly the results teachers were hoping to see.

“It’s amazing to see their success,” said McLain.  “They’re, oh, ‘I’m really good at detail, and I’m really good at puzzling pieces, I’m really good’ at these things that are… direct skills for making murals, but no one would really recognize outside of this context.”

The mosaic began taking shape last year, when McLain asked students to imagine what traits make up a strong community.  Students then created mosaics depicting each trait as a “seed” that is represented within the mural, literally growing out of it. 

Students this year are basing their “seeds” on what they like best about school.  McLain will install their work over the summer.


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