Kimball Jenkins art interns use paint to send message of inclusion

  • Eileen O'Grady—Monitor staff

  • Artist Richard Haynes (right) works on the mural with Clemence Masambeta of Manchester at Kimball Jenkins on Thursday. Eileen O’Grady photos / Monitor staff

  • Artist Richard Haynes (right) works on the mural with Clemence Masambeta of Manchester at Kimball Jenkins School of Art on Aug. 11, 2022. Eileen O'Grady—Monitor staff

  • Student interns Ava Conlon (above) and Sadie Chapman, both of Concord, paint a mural at Kimball Jenkins School of Art on Aug. 11, 2022. Eileen O'Grady—Monitor staff

  • Student intern Clemence Masambeta of Manchester paints a mural at Kimball Jenkins School of Art on Aug. 11, 2022. Eileen O'Grady—Monitor staff

  • Student interns Ava Conlon (left) and Sadie Chapman, both of Concord, paint a mural at Kimball Jenkins School of Art on Thursday.

  • Student interns Ava Conlon (right) of Concord and Judith Nsimire of Manchester paint a mural at Kimball Jenkins School of Art on Aug. 11, 2022. Eileen O'Grady—Monitor staff

  • Student interns Sylvia Dustin of Hopkinton (below) and Judith Nsimire of Manchester paint a mural at the Kimball Jenkins School of Art on Aug. 11, 2022. Eileen O'Grady—Monitor staff

  • Student intern Ava Conlon of Concord paints a mural at Kimball Jenkins School of Art on Aug. 11, 2022. Eileen O'Grady—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 8/16/2022 4:14:06 PM

Fourteen-year-old Nazlie Taban has always been “obsessed” with abstract art and loves the way a simple image can convey a much larger story.

When Taban, a rising ninth grader at Central High School in Manchester, heard about a summer internship opportunity at Kimball Jenkins School of Art where she could share her own story through an abstract mural project, she jumped at the opportunity.

“I felt like I was about to be a part of an opportunity bigger than myself,” Taban said.

Taban, whose parents came to the U.S. from South Sudan, says she has learned to celebrate her Sudanese and Congolese heritage alongside her American identity, but it took time. Growing up in a mostly white state, Taban said it was hard for her to embrace her differences when all she wanted was to fit in.

“It took some time to grow and understand that I am beautiful, where I came from was beautiful, and my culture is beautiful,” Taban said. “I love being a part of this internship with people of different backgrounds being who they are as individuals, and it allows me to feel more comfortable in being who I am.”

This summer, 15 interns from Concord, Franklin and Manchester have spent six weeks studying and painting a mural at Kimball Jenkins School of Art, which they describe as a “creative placemaking installation” that conveys the ideals of equity and inclusion. The mural, which adorns the wall below the I-393 exit ramp, will be unveiled at an opening event Thursday evening.

Taban’s abstract design of two South Sudanese immigrant women’s faces is featured in the mural.

“A lot of people forget that you will always have a connection to who you were, and your motherland,” Taban said. “Those two women are definitely a representation of that connection.”

Most of the Kimball Jenkins interns are participating through a partnership with My Turn, a Manchester-based nonprofit that works to connect students from economically and socially disadvantaged communities to internships and training opportunities. Throughout their six weeks at Kimball Jenkins, the interns learned about creating art, but also about the business side of what it takes to work in the arts. The students have learned how to craft a resume, how to write a press release, make a budget, graphic design, marketing and interview skills.

“The goal is for them to really understand the entirety of what goes into a community development project, and how those skills can translate into future jobs, future careers they might want to have,” said Kimball Jenkins executive director Julianne Gadoury.

The school brought in guest speakers to talk to the students about different jobs in the arts, to inspire the students’ own career paths.

“We’re giving them access to this network, to the soft skills and the hard skills that are necessary to create the hustle that is the creative economy and begin to participate in community-building and actually working towards things that they enjoy and love,” said program director Yasamin Safarzadeh.

For the mural project, the students have been studying with Portsmouth-based artist Richard Haynes, whose own vibrantly colorful art depicts themes of community, racial unity and moments from American history like his series “Whispering Quilts” about an enslaved family navigating the Underground Railroad. The students began by having conversations about diversity, equity and inclusion. They discussed racism throughout American history, their own relationship to racism today and how their generation can create a more equitable society. Student created their own designs for a mural based on those conversations.

“Hopefully in this kind of conversation, we get these young folks to literally walk away from this program understanding how we are to be allies to each other, whether it’s the LGBTQ population, whether it’s women, whether it’s people of color,” Haynes said. “How do we make it fair for everyone?”

Intern Ava Conlon, a rising sophomore at Concord High School, said she first became interested in the internship opportunity because she has always loved art and meeting new people. One section of the finished mural, depicting a multicultural crowd of figures, is Conlon’s design, inspired by some vintage photos she found.

“I looked them up online, all different cultures’ family photos, and pieced them together almost like one big family photo,” Conlon said. “ ‘We’re all family,’ that’s the idea behind it.”

The final mural on the wall is a composite of student designs, against a backdrop of New Hampshire’s mountains. The central part of the mural features a crowd of diverse people with a wide array of skin tones and clothing. On either end, the faces of two African immigrant women are featured in profile facing toward the center. Near the top is the face of a young Black man with braided hair, bringing some Afrofuturist elements to the piece.

The colors of the mural, inspired by Haynes’ style, are vivid and varied.

“Color was so important,” Haynes said. “It’s the celebration of who we are as a nation of people, and it brings joy.”

The summer 2022 interns’ mural unveiling event, “The Colors of Change: who we are and how we connect with each other,” will be held Thursday, Aug. 18, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Kimball Jenkins School of Art on North Main Street, featuring live music and light refreshments. The event is open to everyone.


Eileen O

Eileen O'Grady is a Report for America corps member covering education for the Concord Monitor since spring 2020. O’Grady is the former managing editor of Scope magazine at Northeastern University in Boston, where she reported on social justice issues, community activism, local politics and the COVID-19 pandemic. She is a native Vermonter and worked as a reporter covering local politics for the Shelburne News and the Citizen. Her work has also appeared in The Boston Globe, U.S. News & World Report, The Bay State Banner, and VTDigger. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northeastern University and a bachelor’s degree in politics and French from Mount Holyoke College, where she served as news editor for the Mount Holyoke News from 2017-2018.



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