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“Greater than the sum of its parts”

A group of students have designed and painted a dignity tree and mural on the walls of Otterburn care home in Birmingham.

17 students from Birmingham South and City College Birmingham have spent the past few weeks at the home creating the artwork.

During the Summer of 2022, Office Manager, Karen Hall, contacted the college to ask whether its art students would be interested in a project to brighten up several areas of the home: a training room and a corridor.

We wanted to revamp our training room and give it some TLC.” Karen said. “I didn’t know whether it was achievable when I contacted the college.

Bonita Leatham, tutor for the Level 3 Art & Design course at Bournville campus (Longbridge), jumped at the opportunity for her students to get an experience of working as a team and helping in the community.

After several weeks of getting the brief and putting a plan together, the project was incorporated into the syllabus.

The training room got a full-wall mural and a corridor by the entrance got a smaller mural. Students started by creating scaled-down versions, ensuring all of the ideas would fit properly. After a full-size mock-up was created and signed off by Karen, the two weeks of hard work started at the end of November.

The training room mural incorporates the names of three of the units: Squirrel, Fox and Otter, and the other elements are full of symbolism that will leave a legacy for many years to come.

The corridor mural is called the Dignity Tree. The tree has Exemplar Health Care’s values of fun, integrity, responsiveness, success and teamwork embedded in its roots. The leaves have words to symbolise what dignity means.

Home Manager, Naomi Jones, said the feedback on the finished artwork has been fantastic.
We love it and so do our service users. It embodies our core values at Otterburn and we can’t thank the students at South and City College enough.”

Office Manager, Karen Hall, who played an integral part in getting the project started, added: “This is more than we ever imagined. The interaction with students was lovely. They were really interested in what we do here at Otterburn. I miss them being here.

The project also had a big impact on the students.

16-year-old Grace Gallears who worked principally on the dove, sun and rings said, “It was fun working together as a team; something different to working in a classroom.

Dylan Rogers, 16 years old and one of the painters for the dignity tree said, “This was a project really out of my comfort zone, but it’s been great fun and amazing to see the plan coming to life.

The project turned out to be much greater than the sum of its parts.” Added tutor Bonita. “There is a legacy for our students plus the staff and service users at Otterburn. The mural and the symbolic references will delight users of the training room for years to come. Our students will not only have great memories of the project, but it is also a fantastic opportunity to make their CVs and university applications stand out from the crowd.

Everyone at Otterburn and the College would like to thank all of the students involved in this project for a job well done and for being such great ambassadors.
• Aaron Jones: Background
• Adam Hillman: Eagle
• Adel Anderson: Peacock and dignity tree
• Amy Stringer: Squirrel, fox, otter and swan
• Catherine Lee: Butterflies
• Chyna McKensie: Moon and butterflies
• Dhona Sutradhar: Trees and foliage
• Dylan Rogers: Origami birds and dignity tree
• Ethan Holland: Elm tree
• Grace Gallears: Dove, sun, rings and owls
• Hamiid Sabitu: Stag
• Kian O’Toole: Background
• Leon Shoyinka: Dignity tree
• Muhammad Aqil Shah: Fungi and dignity tree
• Timiya Nembhard: Roses
• Xiaofeng Huang: Forest and wildflowers
• Zulekha Imran: Fish tank
• All: Leaves for dignity tree

If your creative side has been inspired by this project, check out our Art and Design courses. We have courses from Level 2 to Level 4.