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Mainstreet mural left sideMainstreet mural right side

Mainstreet Mural

Choose a street in your community with a variety of building types—main streets work great! Go out on "location" and have each student do a line "elevation" drawing of the façade of one building on the street. Include as much detail as possible (get inspiration by looking at some great architectural drawings). As students draw each building part, ask them to think about the function it plays.

Now make the mural:

The basic idea of this mural-making method is more like a collage than a traditional mural where members of a class take turns crowding around on large painting.

Back in the classroom after the mainstreet drawings are done, have students cut out their buildings so that no background remains.

In the meantime, prepare the background paper. Lay a large sheet of butcher paper (several colors are available) on the floor. Assign a committee as the "town planners." They will arrange all the cut-out art work on the mural and decide if anything else is needed to complete the mural. They should be encourage to overlap buildings or allow them to go off the page to lend some realism to the mural. If necessary, they can ask classmates to draw additional items like bridges, streetlights, extra buildings, and other features. Some students may cut simple "foliage" out of green construction paper to help the town planners fill in the gaps between buildings.

Once the town has been laid out, the rest of the class should be allowed to approve the mural or offer suggestions. After the design has been approved, the town planners can glue the pieces to the background paper to complete the mural.

Hillside mural


Some suggestions:

Your mural background does not have to stay rectangular in shape--try cutting the background into the shape of a hill or adding a river with paint or colored chalk.

Use large sheets of cardboard instead of paper for the background and build your city in layers. Then, display your three dimensional mrual by standing the layers up behind each other on a table.


Paper Bag buildings

Paper bag building line up

Cut arm holes (4.5 inches in diameter) 1.5 inches from the top edge of the bag sides. Cut a head circle (6-inch diameter) from the flat bottom of the bag; add slits at the sides of the circle so the bag will pass over the head. If the bag is not going to be worn, do not cut holds; stuff with crumbled newspapers so you building will stand up for display.

Simplify details; use tempera paint or colored tape to block in big shapes; let paint dry. Add details with markers or crayons. Three-dimensional details can be added using construction paper, string, foil, or other found materials. Finished bags can be worn, displayed standing up as 3-D "mural", or re-folded for storage.

Three girls with paper bag buildingsGirl reads about her building


See also, Pop-Up Engineering

Adapted from:

Pittsburgh Heritage Supplement, Susan Donley, Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, 1987

Pittsburgh Heritage Curriculum, Sue Neff, Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, 1997.

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