Special Olympics Mural

During the fall of 1998, Xavier Cortada worked with trainable intellectually disabled students in Ms. Janet Ludwig’s classroom at Kensington Park Elementary School. The students created a 16 foot long mural for the Special Olympics Opening Ceremonies on October 23, 1998 at the Bayfront Amphitheater in Miami’s Claude and Mildred Pepper Bayfront Park.

Exceptional Impressions

“The Making of the Special Olympic Mural, 1998”

by Janet Ludwig
Kensington Park Elementary School, Miami, Fl.

When I was told that my class of 4th and 5th grade Trainable Mentally Handicapped students was to create the mural for the Opening Ceremonies of Special Olympics of Dade County, I was thrilled. Not only would this work represent Special Olympians in Miami, the completed work would tour the state of Florida as an expression of the true spirit which characterizes the games. What a wonderful opportunity for the children to work with the acclaimed artist, Xavier Cortada, who would teach them artistic techniques and self-expression! What I didn’t know was that the “student” who would possibly learn the most about inner expressions would be their teacher.

I watched in wonder (and a lot of pride) as the students approached canvas, brush and paint with great concentration and success. I applauded as they worked individually and as a group to create a marvelous collage of faces, hearts, hands and hope. The finished mural glows with an intensity of purpose which reflects the pure spirits of the talented artists who created it.

For the first time in many years, I was able to step back for a moment and watch as well as participate in my students’ personal growth. The children increased their fine motor skills, social skills and self-esteem as a result of working together. Wonderful things happened on that canvas when the young artists were given the confidence to express themselves. Small hands that had never successfully held a paintbrush were now experimenting with various painting techniques-and they were great!

Xavier Cortada has called this work ” The Gift”. The name reflects the attitudes of the parents of my students. When asked how they felt about having a child with special needs, every parent replied “I consider my child to be a gift from God” This attitude of acceptance has allowed these children to function in family, school, and community as vital participants. I believe that the limitations society imposes on any of us, for any reason, is a negative illusion. Through the ” The Gift”, these children bring their own gift of love to the world. Through the teaching process, I bring the children the gift of unlimited possibilities.

For more information on this Special Olympics Mural contact:

Gena Lovelase, Miami “Mega-City” Special Olympics
2335 NW 107th Avenue, #57, Miami, FL 33172-2165
Phone: 305-406-9467 / Fax: 305-406-3733