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African Family Mural Program 2013

The Bronx Children’s Museum and guest artist Tesfaye Tessema held the First African Community Family Arts Mural project, inviting families with children from K-3rd grade to work and play together for five weekends beginning March 9th through April 13 to create a large mural about something of their choosing that celebrated their identity and their culture. The mural was unveiled at the Highbridge Community Fair, May 18, and the New York Botanical Garden early June, 2013. “This is the first of many such workshop series to help the Museum learn about its community and the many new immigrant families who live here,” said Carla Precht, Executive Director.

The program included drawing, painting, printmaking, and map reading. There were over 50 people who attended the workshops. The program was run by Bronx Children’s Museum artists Carmen Julia Hernandez and Natalie C. Wood with guest artist Tesfaye Tessema at the Bronx Museum of the Arts which donated the space. Funding was provided by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. Moyjae Aaron, a teacher at BronxWorks, recruited families from BronxWorks, Whedco and the Mid-Bronx Headstart. She worked closely with the families for five weeks. Most of the families had never participated in an organized arts program before. They loved the dramatic play as well as the work on the mural. The mural included drawings of the flags of the home countries of some of the families. The organizers displayed a map of Africa and a map of the United States. Teens from Kappa International High School assisted with the program each weekend.

Tesfaye Tessema, Guest Artist Mr. Tessema is a master artist, muralist and a master printmaker and also works with etching, lithography and mixed media in creating his art work. Having grown up in Ethiopia, he entered the National Arts School where he was accepted and commenced formal studies in art there before coming to the United States to pursue graduate studies at Howard University from which he received a Master’s of Fine Arts degree. He has emphasized his appreciation for public art throughout his career. Seeing art as his service to individuals and a contribution to the public in general he says, “I think people have the right to claim my art.” He uses the sights and sounds of his two communities, Ethiopian and African-American, to make art that positively reinforces their harmony. “I would like the world to know that all of us are artists,” he says. “There are no special people made to be artists. What comes out on the canvas is what we’ve all taken in from our environment, expressed through our own personal interpretation.”

This program was supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Councilmember Foster.

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