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World-Renowned Muralist Teaches Students Much More Than Art

When Heidi Huck invited world-renowned muralist Hector Duarte to visit her Spanish for Native Speakers class, she had an important objective in mind that stretched beyond an art lesson.

“My goal was to help them be proud of their names, who they are and what they do,” said Huck, a longtime Spanish teacher at Rolling Meadows High School.

Duarte has created more than 50 public art works throughout the Chicago metro area over the past 30 years. His art is exhibited at the National Museum of Mexican Art, the School of the Art Institute and the Chicago Historical Society, among other institutions. His work is also on display throughout the United States and in Mexico. 

His bold outdoor murals, which can be seen in downtown Chicago and neighborhoods such as Pilsen, are designed to beautify these areas while also delivering messages of inspiration to the public.

In Huck’s Spanish class, Duarte said he aimed to help students realize how valued and important they are. By showing the students how to make unique designs using their names, Duarte emphasized the importance of being proud of themselves.

The students learned to make shapes used in murals and were taught a lesson in shading.

“A lot of my students have so much going on outside of school,” said Huck, noting one of her goals has been to find outlets for her students to deal with stress, such as the ongoing stress of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The unique experience was made possible by an Arts Unlimited 214 grant for $800. Arts Unlimited 214 provides opportunities in the arts for all students within High School District 214 through both school and District events. Art supplies, including a sketchbook, pastels and colored pencils, were distributed to each of the students prior to Duarte’s lesson.

“We just jumped in the first day with him,” Huck said. “He shared his work with us from across the United States and Mexico.”

Duarte told the class that several of his pieces include butterflies, which he says symbolizes immigrants who often do not return home.

In addition to his lessons about art, Hector shared some life advice with the students. He explained to the kids that when they speak two languages, they are worth two lives and part of two cultures. 

“He helped the students realize how important and valued they are,” Huck said.