August Martin High School used to be referred to as one of the “worst schools in New York City.”
Now it’s vibrant, covered in student curated artwork. Now, August Martin High School is the the mecca of graffiti in NYC -- and resonates with the spirit of 5 Pointz.
The creation of this newly vibrant school was a monumental gift from the more than deserving aerosol art community to a more than deserving school and amazing students," Marie Flageul, co-curator of 5 Pointz said.
Syreeta Gates, August Martin’s Dream Director, had a goal: to infuse culture back into the August Martin High School, and to help faculty, staff, and students fulfill a dream.
Gates assembled a team of 30 students, called the "Dream Team," who prepared a survey asking their fellow students how August Martin could improve attendance and morale.
They surveyed over 500 students and faculty at August Martin High School, and found that everyone’s main concern was that the school looked like a mental institution with its stark white walls.
With visual environment, a seemingly insignificant aspect of education, proving to have such a profoundly negative impact on the health of the school, Operation Skittles proved vital in quickly transforming August Martin into a school the students could all be proud of.
Gates said the project was so named because skittles are colorful, like August Martin’s new graffiti-covered walls, and while Gates admits to eating Skittles all the time, she says that the project’s student leaders came up with both the name, and the questions on the survey.
The Dream Team also wrote a proposal, fundraised, pitched the project, accepted feedback from faculty members, and finally, after much preparation, pitched the idea to August Martin’s principal Gillian Smith. Smith’s affirmation proved monumental to the project.
“For Ms. Smith to say yes was a huge deal,” Gates said. “The students did all the work, wrote the two-page proposal and practiced their pitch five or six times. It showed them that when they put in the work, any young person’s dream can come true.”
Once Operation Skittles was greenlit, students partnered with 5 Pointz curators Meres and Marie in which they secured 148 artists to come and paint. The artists mainly came in from the five boroughs of NYC, although a few came from Texas, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, California, and even France, Japan, and Holland. These artists reunited at August Martin High School to be a part of the project.
“It was totally a collaboration between the artists and the students,” Gates said.
Gates also said the more than 200 students involved in Operation Skittles helped the artists decide where to paint the artwork and learned how to use spray cans, specifically the difference between fat caps and skinny caps.
Flageul said 5 Pointz is hoping to set up a workshop in the fall where the students will actually be able to paint themselves, but that the actual adorning of the wall was done by the artists alone.
Flageul said the dream team prepped the school, put protective paper on the floor, buffed some walls, provided ladders when needed, brought artists water, and treated them with lunch and breakfast with the funds they raised. Basically, they thought of everything.
The artists signed the students' names next to their artwork, which Gates said helped promote agency and ownership in their school.
“The goal was to transform 100% of the hallways at August Martin High School,” Gates said. “Students are already prouder to go to school, and attendance has already improved.”
Flageul said the universal quote of this project that was repeated again and again by every artist was, "If my high school looked like this, I would have been a better student!"
August Martin High School will be open to the public on June 11th from 5 p.m to 7 p.m.
The community is invited to tour August Martin High School -- the actualized version of the dream August Martin’s students and 5 Pointz artists accomplished.
[Feature Image Courtesy: Animal]