Empowering Jacksonville’s Youth With the Power of Art

By: Alexia Carrasco and Joe Manuola

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We are told growing up to dream big, but often that dream seems impossible, especially for students at title one schools in Duval County. Challenges in student’s personal lives can influence how they view the world, and they take that perspective with them to school.  With that mind set most students often get involved with violence and crimes and don’t have the motivation to strive higher.

Sometimes it just takes one dreamer to make a change and Nicole Holderbaum believes she can make that different in these students lives.  

In 2015 Holderbaum competed in the One Spark festival in the hope to paint mural in 15 schools in Jacksonville. At the event she had a wall where kids would come up and paint. Unfortunately, she didn’t win, but it inspired her to do something bigger and bring a sense of pride to local school. She received a grant from the city of Jacksonville called the “Spark grant.”

With that grant, she created the kid’s mural festival that had giant color book style wall for kids to paint, but she soon realized that these festivals wouldn’t be reaching the kids that needed it the most. With the money she made from these festivals she went two title one middle and elementary schools and worked hands-on with students to create murals that would inspire them everyday.

Since then, the Kid’s Mural Project was born. The project is an outreach for students at these schools to show them their full potential and encourage them to try new things like art.

When Holderbaum goes to these schools she sits down and talks to the students to see what they might be going through or what inspires them and then they come up with a concept. The concept often leads to a vocabulary word that will serve as inspiration, not only for current student but also future students.

“We start with a concept and I teach them about concept, and I try to include vocabulary words and into the process as well and other underprivileged students can hear that half the amount of words that they shouldn’t hear in their early years and you know literacy is an important part of development as well so I try to teach them new words,” said Holderbaum.

The Kids Mural Project has reached over 3,000 students in 26 different schools and plans on doing more in the future. Installing these concept and words into these kids’ minds shows them that their dreams are possible and are within reach despite the challenges that they may face. Often times, it takes just one person to tell a kid that they can do something or show them that they can,  for them to believe in themselves. Holderbaum hopes to empower more of the youth in the community through the Kid’s Mural Project.

If you’re interested in helping visit kidsmuralproject.com.