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Alfred Deakin mural
The importance of mentors

Not long after starting first year at Deakin University, 19-year-old Jack Herd had an idea – he wanted to paint a mural on campus. But how to make it a reality? The Geelong Waterfront Campus student decided to ask the highest authority he knew of at Deakin: Vice-Chancellor Jane den Hollander. ‘To my surprise the idea was well received and she sent a reply with key contacts for me to get it going,’ says Jack. After considering his options, Jack decided to paint a portrait of Alfred Deakin, former Australian Prime Minister and namesake of the University, in bold red, white, black and blue on a large timber door.

As an autistic student with little university experience, and no experience painting large outdoor portraits, Jack had thought ‘it would be impossible – I thought I would never even get the chance to go to uni, let alone do this.’ But through a combination of tenacity, hard work and guidance from his mentor and former art teacher, Glen Smith, he was able to exceed his own expectations.

Early seeds of inspiration

Jack first become interested in street art and stencils in his Year 12 studio art class at Western Heights College. He started out making stencil mock-ups in Photoshop by accident one day, mucking around with different settings. Eventually he worked with his teacher on making a physical, hand-painted piece. ‘My art teacher, Glen Smith, is an actual practising street artist in Geelong. It made me think I could do the same thing.’

A creative partnership

After the mural idea was accepted by Deakin, Jack naturally turned to Glen for help. ‘I knew Jack from teaching him at high school and I knew I could support him,’ says Glen, who is an artist with a background in education, public art and community projects. ‘He acted very professionally and was enthusiastic the whole time. I think Jack did a really good job. My main challenge was to step back and allow Jack to do his fair share and support him to build new skills.’

The creative duo found that preparation, logistics and stakeholder communication was time consuming, but once they started painting the process went smoothly. Jack explains that ‘I thought it might get postponed or stopped, because I’m only in first year, or because of weather, or another event. But it was painted in just over a day – I was really surprised by how well it turned out! That’s a short amount of time for this type of project, but we did it quickly.’

'My art teacher, Glen Smith, is an actual practising street artist in Geelong. It made me think I could do the same thing.'

Jack Herd,
Deakin University student

The essential role of role models

Jack’s experience shows how important role models are, not just when you’re in high school, but throughout your whole life. ‘Glen is definitely a role model for me. It does make it easier to have someone to look up to when you come out of school. After Year 12 you sort of feel lost, and you don’t know what to do because you’re used to going to school every day, and then you’re pushed out into the world,’ Jack explains.

‘I was lucky I stayed in contact with Glen and to have someone like that in my life.’

So where to from here? Jack explains that he is trying to become an artist, so this is an incredible start to his career. ‘This is the first thing I’ve ever done – now I am just waiting for the publicity wagon to come along and introduce me to the wider world,’ Jack jokes. ‘But I’m not too sure about what I want to do in the future really, I’m a bit uneasy about it. I’m thinking about maybe becoming a teacher.’

You can check out the mural of Alfred Deakin that Jack Herd and Glen Smith painted at Deakin Geelong’s Waterfront Campus. Find out more about Jack’s artwork on his Facebook page.

Jack’s mural design is now featured on Deakin’s bespoke ‘Street’ range of t-shirts and jumpers, co-produced by Cotton On and Deakin University. And better yet, all profits from their sale will go to The Unite Project. To find out more, go to shop.deakin.edu.au.

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