Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name



Curriculum and Instruction

First Advisor

Holly Feen-Calligan

Second Advisor

James Brown


The purpose of this research was to study adolescent participation in the development of a neighborhood mural as an art-based community project. I examined perceptions of the adolescents regarding the awareness of their community and neighborhoods. Additionally, I explored adolescents' perceptions of their own development in terms of building their self-confidence. To accomplish this, I facilitated the creation and design of a mural that depicts their perceptions of their neighborhoods, using art as a modality for expression. Fourteen seventh grade students attending a parochial school in a low socioeconomic area of a large metropolitan city participated in the study. They worked collaboratively in designing and painting a mural that depicted their perceptions of their neighborhood. The students also completed a short demographic survey and a self-confidence survey at the beginning of the study and again after completing the mural. The students worked on the mural for 90 minutes, three days a week for six weeks. At the end of the six weeks, the mural was completed and all of the students were satisfied with their work. The five students who had attended all of the sessions were asked to participate in semi-structured interviews to obtain information regarding their participation in the study. They also wrote journal entries to reflect on their participations throughout the program. I also maintained field notes to provide additional explanation on the interactions among and within the students. The results of the study produced a mural that reflected the metropolitan area (People Mover, Ambassador Bridge, Renaissance Center, Comerica Park, and the Detroit Zoo). While the study was intended to be limited to the students' neighborhoods, the students wanted to go beyond the neighborhood. The comparison of the pretest and posttest self-confidence surveys provided support that participating in this collaborative project improved self-confidence. The students also became more interested in their community and wanted to be more involved. Communities should use the results of this study to provide opportunities for adolescents to become active participants in community-wide projects.