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Project Description: 

- Artist:  Carolyn Elaine

- Participants: Students at Mose Vines Preparatory High School

- Sponsorship: Polk Brothers Foundation

Special thanks to: Youth Guidance

                                Mrs. Patricia Woodson – Principal

                                Ms. Lindsay Grockis – Art Teacher

                                Mr. Larry Potts – Youth Guidance

                                Mrs. Nina Smoot-Cain – Contributing Artist

                                Ms. Sonata Kazimeraitiene – Contributing Artist

                                Mr. Rasinskas Stanislovas - Installer

- 400 sq ft- Broken Tile Mosaic and Clay Relief Interior Installation


“I want it to be about their hopes and dreams”, was the request of Mrs. Patricia Woodson, the Principal of Mose Vines Preparatory High School. She, herself, held on to her dream of having her students work with a professional artist to create a mural in the school for three years. At the onset of the discussions with the art students about their goals and aspirations, it was obvious that their hopes and dreams were no different than those of students in schools throughout the city and suburbs of Chicago. Despite the conditions of their school, which they complained about and the violence in their community, which they feared; they want a good education, an opportunity to go to college and a promising future and career.


Through a design exercise led by their art teacher Lindsay Grockis, the students created collages, using magazine and news paper clippings to depict their personal hopes and dreams for their future. Inspired by the common threads that ran through many of them, the repetitive images and the group discussions, it was clear that this was about more than simply their hope and dreams. Just as prayer without action is useless; hopes and dreams without preparation is barren as well.


The culmination of Mrs. Woodson’s vision is a 400sq ft mural that spans the entire cafeteria wall. Its imagery depicts three black and white images representing Knowledge, Thought and Purposeful Action: characteristics that are imperative for this generation to navigate their future. Only after our youth have equipped themselves with knowledge and thought fully and deeply about how to overcome the challenges they face, can they stand prepared to take purposeful action in the pursuit of their hopes and dreams.


The mural is centered by a male figure (Purposeful Action) with his arms outreached in a call for action. On his shirt is the adinkra symbol AKOBEN, which is a battle cry. It symbolizes readiness; willingness to take action. While are youth are battling one another on the streets; there is a battle being fought around the world for the future of the global economy. Without an education American students (especially African American students) don’t stand a chance. This image stands as a call to this generation to stop the violence against one another and raise their expectations of themselves.


Draped across the arm of this center image is an ancestral quilt that connects to the image on the left (Knowledge) and the image on the right (Thought). The entire artwork is infused with colorful patterns and adinkra symbols that hold significant meaning such as;  AYA “fern”, which symbolizes endurance and resourcefulness - The fern is a hardy plant that can grow in difficult places; just as many of the students in this community have endured many adversities and outlasted much difficulty.


PEMPAMSIE, which symbolizes readiness, steadfastness, and hardiness - The design of this symbol resembles the links of a chain, and implies strength through unity as well as the importance of being prepared.

NKONSONKONSON "chain link", symbolizes unity and human relations. A reminder to contribute to the community, that in unity lies strength.


ANI BERE A ENSO GYA, symbolizes self-control and self-discipline.



GYAWU ATIKO, symbolizes bravery, fearlessness, and valor.


AKOBEN, symbolizes readiness, willingness to take action.


This project was a collaboration of artist studio fabrication (black & white imagery and text) with student work (ancestral quilt).The school’s cafeteria was selected as the site for the mural because it provides an opportunity to have each student’s attention for at least twenty to thirty minutes a day. What better place (than an environment intended to provide nourishment) to have visual imagery and text to serve as food for thought? Before even starting the design process, the intention was to have text in the finished artwork. The appropriate words did not manifest until after the design was complete. Through a fortuitous encounter the poem entitled “Equipment” by Edgar A. Guest appeared as if by Devine intervention. It had five stanzas, one for each section of the mural. “Coincidentally” the first, third and forth stanzas correlate directly with the meaning of the black & white images in those particular sections.  



Figure it out for yourself, my lad,You've all that the greatest of men have had,

Two arms, two hands, two legs, two eyes

And a brain to use if you would be wise.

With this equipment they all began, So start for the top and say, "I can."

Look them over, the wise and great

They take their food from a common plate,

And similar knives and forks they use,With similar laces they tie their shoes.

The world considers them brave and smart, But you've all they had when they made their start.

You can triumph and come to skill,You can be great if you only will.

You're well equipped for what fight you choose,You have legs and arms and a brain to use,

And the man who has risen great deeds to doBegan his life with no more than you.

You are the handicap you must face,

You are the one who must choose your place,

You must say where you want to go,

How much you will study the truth to know.

God has equipped you for life, but HeLets you decide what you want to be.

Courage must come from the soul within,

The man must furnish the will to win.

So figure it out for yourself, my lad.

You were born with all that the great have had,With your equipment they all began,

Get hold of yourself and say: "I can."

Unfortunately as these students worked for an entire school year on their project,

the number of CPS students killed in the city of Chicago through acts of violence reached double digits and the Board of Education announced that their school would be phased out by the end of the school year.

Both events were equally disturbing and unsettling to the students but instilled new meaning into artwork they labored for many hours to create.

Despite the fact that their alma mater will no longer exist, the students of Mose Vines Preparatory Academy have woven virtues and values into a visual legacy that will inspire the Hopes and Dreams of the next generation of students who will occupy their school building.





Equipped for the Cause (2008)

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