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Language meets art in ‘The Global Classroom

By MELANIE KELLIHER

Spanish professor Milagros Morales-Santiago’s “The Global Classroom” project transforms College Center 113 on NCC’s Main campus into a public canvas.

Recognizing how murals beautify cities and create community, she wondered whether it was possible to paint the same kind of effect on the walls of the language classroom.

“The goal was to have students and faculty join together and paint,” Morales-Santiago says. “I wanted the mural to both visually express the languages offered at NCC and also expose students to the countries where people speak these languages.”

“The Global Classroom” fuses color, cartography and language into five plywood panels standing five feet tall. A periwinkle shade of electric blue glows in the background while the geographical map mosaics saturate in bold colors.

“Even if the students daydream in class, there is still an opportunity for their eyes to absorb art and geography,” Morales-Santiago says.

One panel introduces “The Global Classroom” by printing the title over a sphere of the Earth outlined with city landmarks from around the world. The remaining panels divide into the four non-English languages NCC offers: French, Arabic, Chinese and Spanish.

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“The classroom should reflect the countries and languages we teach,” she says.

Morales-Santiago has always loved languages but art is a new realm of love for her.  

“I got into art because I was retired and it was a way to learn something new,” she explains. “Picasso is one of my favorites because he was a rebel. I love Seurat because he made people see and Amy Sherald is a contemporary favorite of mine because she brings awareness to people of color.”

After opening her project to the community, she gained volunteers from students to the assistant dean of Humanities & Social Sciences, Robert Smith. Working together, they created the mural over a five-month period from April to July in 2017.

Second-year Fine Arts major George Pineda talks about his time on the project, saying, “I enjoyed the fellowship among the other painters. While we were working, all I could see were tiny flaws. After we put the smaller pieces where they belonged on the larger classroom walls, I finally saw the bigger picture. Together the panels create a really nice tone.”

Communications major Jackie Cano spends time in the classroom with the Hispanic Club.

“The mural makes the room lively and incorporates themes of diversity,” she observes. “We all come from different parts of the world with different cultures, and in classroom 113, you feel a part of that.”