Heyder in Wolkrams- hausen
On the main road in Wolkramshausen, a mural has shaped the view of students and pedestrians since 1986. Directly behind the town sign is the school building on whose front Jost Heyder (*1954) painted a scene from Miguel de Cervantes’ world-famous novel “Don Quijote”. Why the artist of the so-called “New Leipzig School” might have chosen the Don Quijote motif and what the Leipzig School is in the first place were just two of the questions with which 9th graders of the “Hainleite” regular school started their search for traces of “Heyder in Wolkramshausen” during the week of 5-9 September 2022.
On the first day of the project week, the students visited the Memorial and Education Centre Andreasstraße in Erfurt and explored the differences between Socialist Realism and non-conformist art in the GDR. The second day was followed by the encounter with the artwork on the school facade. Of course, they all knew the mural at their school before. However, many students were not aware that the painting was created during the GDR era. The students wrote a detailed description of the mural and documented its state of preservation. They took all the questions that arose while looking at the picture into their research. The original files from the school archives met with great interest. In addition to the most important key data about the commissioned work, the students were also able to work out that Heyder did not put the mural on the “Hainleite” regular school, but on the Helmut Just Polytechnic Secondary School.
The end of the project week was marked by facade painting and the artistic examination of the mural. The artist Annett Schauß worked with the class on the story of Don Quijote. Each of the students chose a scene from the story that particularly appealed to her/him and sketched it first with drawing ink and then with charcoal. In a final step, they applied their sketches to previously primed boards, which made painting on facade plaster comprehensible.
It was precisely through the contemporary, creative and individual engagement with the motif that the students were able to discover aspects beyond the historical research on the artwork. What moment in history is Jost Heyder actually depicting and which of the numerous motifs in history is he referring to? Does the painting depict the friendship between Sancho Panza and Don Quijote or has he taken up the famous battle against the windmill? In the final discussion, the students reflected on the possible differences between the treatment of these aspects in the GDR era and in the present.