Mural completed inside Zagbëgon

While students at Zagbëgon enjoyed their spring break, mural painter Alan Compo transformed the school’s main hallway, filling it with depictions of current and former leaders, traditional sugar bushing, clans, and more. Hear from Elizabeth Rinehart, Zagbëgon site manager, and Alan below.

By Elizabeth Rinehart

Environment plays a huge role in a child’s education. It is sometimes referred to as the “third teacher,” after parents and teachers. The elements of the artwork that were chosen is intended to create an environment that reflects our Bodéwadmi culture. This is to promote familiarity with these elements as well as encourage a feeling of comfort. The past leaders of our tribe are displayed as a memorial to our ancestors and all the work they have done to get us this far. They have planted proverbial seeds. In the center of the zisbakwatokan (sugar camp) scene you see two hands holding soil with a zagbëgon (sprout), which represents how the seeds planted generations ago have grown into where we are today. The zisbakwatokan itself represents the work that it takes to progress through the educational experience. When you work diligently you receive a sweet reward that no one can take away.

By Alan Compo

Boozhoo, Niin Alan Compo ndizhinikaaz. I am a Anishinaabe artist born and raised in Grand Rapids, Mich. It has been an absolute honor to work with the staff in the Education Department to create this original mural at Zagbëgon.

Growing up in Michigan I have always been surrounded by our beautiful, functioning art within our communities. I have always been very intrigued into the amount of thought, medicine, and work that goes into such pieces of basketry, quillwork, beading, and painting, art that teaches and inspires.

The piece focuses on the Maple Sugar Moon.  As these little ones and all of us go through life, we will see the hard work many things take. Just like in the harvest of the maple from the maple trees. I remember hearing a story about how Anishinaabek could drink the syrup straight from the trees long ago. Nanaboozhoo saw this and how it was too easy, so he changed the trees so we had to work to get the trees’ sweet reward. Just as in life, we learn the hard work we put in often leads us to these sweet rewards.

The 13 phases of the moon can also be seen and taught through this work, along with the Seven Grandfather Teachings represented by several inspiring members of the Pokagon Band. Six of the Potawatomi clans are represented in bright colors: turtle, bear, thunder, sturgeon, wolf, and eagle. Finally, the entryway represents the Keepers of the Fire. I also always have been fascinated with the strawberry, heart berry. Its bright red colors always remind me of fire. It is one of the first fruits you can see in a garden, and like these young children, that fire will burn within to grow, work and be inspired.

I am truly honored to have had this chance to be able to create this piece, and
I know it will help get people thinking.