Art builds faith and family at Hunters Hill

In the lead up to Holy Week at Villa Maria Catholic Primary School Hunters Hill, families began arriving at school early for a very special extra-curricular activity.

Instead of dropping their children at the gate ahead of band or before school care, parents were invited in to be a part of creating brand new banners featuring bright depictions of the Stations of the Cross.

The painting table initiative, which culminated in a Stations of the Cross walk just before students finished school for Term 1, offered families the chance to do something creative together while reflecting on what faith could add to their everyday life during Lent.

“Parents were saying their children were jumping out of bed on the Wednesday morning to come, because they knew they had to get here early,” said the school’s Family Educator Marea De Angelis.

“At some points it was hard to push in and do a segment of painting, because there was so many people there.”

The painting table was the second large-scale community art project the school has attempted over the past two years. Rather than focusing on creative ability, both initiatives have focused on faith and bringing families together.

Painting together

Like many busy families, children at Villa Maria said it can be difficult for their parents to find time to relax and be creative with them.

The painting table program, which required a parent to attend alongside their child, provided a great reason for families to come together with a shared purpose.

Jessica O’Grady, Year 5, was joined at the sessions she attended by her dad and her brother.

“My dad had to make room for it, and I’m really happy that he did,” she said. “It was a really joyful experience.”

Year 4 student Zara Saade attended every session over an eight-week block, and enjoyed reflecting on Christ’s journey at Easter as she painted the cross in many of the 14 pictures.

It was a really joyful experience

– Jessica O’Grady

“We know the Easter Bunny’s coming but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing else,” she said. “Jesus had to go through many hardships.”

Ms De Angelis said every aspect of the program was designed to help families engage more deeply with Jesus’ journey.

“We started every session with a prayer and a reflection. The parents also took home a prayer card to remind them of what they’ve done that morning, so they could have the deeper discussion about the journey and story of Jesus.”

“Then we had a very child-centred Stations of the Cross before the holidays, and each class did it one after the other. We had a drum beating as students moved in silence from one banner to the next.”

Creating a community

Uniting families by encouraging creative time together has become a theme at Villa Maria. Outside their front office, a bright cross mosaic represents every family that was part of the community when they celebrated 150 years of Catholic education on their site in 2018.

Each household received a bag of coloured tiles to create a small, square mosaic inspired by their family, and staff created the centerpiece of the cross, an image of the school’s logo, while on a retreat.

Tiles were then drawn together to create an artwork that represented the whole school community and demonstrated for children that history is a thing they are making in their daily lives at school.

The result was spectacular

– Marea De Angelis

“The result was spectacular,” Mrs De Angelis said. “It’s living history, and even if you drive past the school you see it.”

Twins Zoe and Alexis Papakyriakou, both in Year 2, were eager to point out their family’s tile, which featured both of them holding a love heart up between them.

“Our tile means love because everyone in our family represents love,” said Alexis.

The two sisters are about hope,” added Zoe. “Love is very important in religion, and there’s love all around our school so that’s why we chose to do it.”

Students describe their tiles

Jonah Tunstall, Year 5

“My tile is a T with a love heart around it. The ‘T’ represents Tunstall, our family, and the heart represents love. The ‘T’ we put in blue because most of our family likes blue.”

Annabel Ireland, Year 5

“My tile’s a star. We have five people in our family and it represents the five points of the star coming together as one.”

Jack McCarthy, Year 5

“On my tile there’s a palm tree, because we like to live and be bright. We like holidays, we like the beach.”

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