Local Artist/Kanoon Alum Depicts Mexican Heritage, Education Themes

(September 24, 2007) Representatives of Chicago Public Schools, Kanoon Magnet School, Illinois State University and its Chicago Teacher Education Pipeline™ were on hand today to dedicate a 16-foot-by-40-foot outdoor mural celebrating Mexican heritage and the importance of education. The mural, which faces Kedzie Avenue, contains symbols of the indigenous Mexican people and the importance of post-secondary education.

“Our students and their families bring a rich cultural history to this school and this community,” said Juanita Saucedo, Kanoon principal.”We love having such a significant work of art at our school that celebrates all that they bring, and all that they are working toward.”

The artist, Jose Juan Lopez, said it was important to depict the symbols of the native indigenous people of Mexico, including the pantli (the first flag raised in Mexico), rays of the sun, and corn. With CTEP personnel, Lopez conducted seminars last spring at Kanoon with the art classes and used their suggestions to design the mural, which suggests a reconnection with Mother Nature. Thirteen children are linked together supporting a young woman who holds college textbooks; behind them is the pantli, which shows an eagle holding atl-tlachinolli in its mouth, a red and blue symbol representing the duality of water and fire. Rising above them all is a tree with one leaf.

“That was a suggestion from one of the students,” Lopez said. “The one leaf represents the one chance we have to take care of our environment. The atl-tlchinolli is a symbol of unity.”

Robert Lee, director of the Chicago Teacher Education Pipeline, said he hopes the mural inspires a lifelong commitment to education and that to him the one leaf also represents the power of each individual.

“We want the children of Little Village to look to education for their success, and to be part of a community of educators,” Lee said.

The CTEP has established programs to encourage students from the Little Village community to consider teaching as a career path. It supports: high school students through its TEACH clubs which provides high school students an opportunity to develop lesson plans and introduce them to an elementary school class during summer school; CPS graduating seniors, many of whom are first generation college students, a guided transition to ISU as freshman with the Chrysalis Bridge program; and ISU student teachers with professional development in Chicago Public Schools.

“Chicago—and Little Village in particular—is rich with potential teachers—individuals who have the intellect, education and sense of community needed to become great teachers,” said Lee. “We’re pleased to be here today to dedicate this mural, but more enthusiastic to be in this community every day, supporting our student teachers and the Chicago Public Schools.”

The mural was commissioned by Illinois State University for the school and Little Village community. Lopez is a 1992 alumnus of Kanoon Elementary who contributed as an eighth-grader to murals inside the school.

The Chicago Public Schools is the nation’s third-largest school system. It includes more than 600 schools and about 409,000 students.

News release provided by Office of Communication, Chicago Public Schools.

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