Murals paint picture of student creativity, ideals

Students eat lunch in front of the mural created by students with visiting artist Stephanie Rond. (Photo by Olivia Lybarger)

Seniors Gwen Canfield, Conter Cornwell and Lina Ordoñez-Aguiar sit around a table in the high school library discussing the next steps in creating the latest art installation to be displayed in the high school.

The artists compare sketches and consider the format of the new mural: a lively background painted directly on the wall of the hallway with three canvases on top to provide an elevated component to the piece. The mural will also incorporate mathematical formulas and sequences. Canfield, Cornwell and Ordoñez-Aguiar’s mural is projected to be the newest addition to the many art installations featured throughout the school.

Art teacher Helma Groot said that while many of the art installations around the school have been created by individual groups of students, a few of the larger murals are the work of class collaborations.

One mural, located near the Dargusch Black Box Theater, was made in collaboration with visiting artist Stephanie Rond.

Art classes worked with Rond to create different stencils and used spray paint to bring the floor-to-ceiling piece to life, Groot explained.

“The students had to come up with their own traffic signs, and every student designed one, so it’s very meaningful to each individual person,” Groot said.

Another collaborative mural is tucked away in the hallway behind the high school auditorium. The mural, which transitions from a daytime scene to a nighttime one, features a vibrant blue background with colorful, abstract designs.

Groot explained that the administration requested the mural to cover up scuffs on the wall.

She added that she had one of her AP Studio Art classes come up with different ideas for the piece.

“I had students make designs and then everyone voted on the different ideas,” Groot said. “After that, we all worked together to create it.”

The winner of the vote was former Bexley student Evelyn Lewis, who graduated in 2019.

Lewis said their goal for the mural was for it to brighten up the dark hallway it is located in.

“I knew from the start I wanted there to be bright colors and lots of movement, so I started with big round shapes in the foreground,” Lewis said.

They also said that the way their piece would interact with the space was important to them.

“Both the mural and hallway are transitional spaces, and I wanted to reflect that transition with a day to night background,” they said.

Student murals covering flaws throughout the building is not a new trend, art teacher Mabi Ponce de Leon said. The lion mural located in the hallway running between the cafeteria and the high school is another example of this.

After the school underwent some drastic renovations in 2003, the building was left with a couple odd-looking alterations, Ponce de Leon said. One place in particular stood out to her and the students.

“There was a place that looked like a door that had been filled with cinder blocks but was surrounded by a bunch of red bricks,” Ponce de Leon said. “I was chatting with students in my classroom and we were thinking of how funny it would be to paint bricks over that spot.”

She said this idea inspired a group of her students to create a mural that would not only cover an unsightly flaw, but also encourage school spirit.

“Then students thought: what if a lion was breaking through the bricks?” Ponce de Leon explained.

She said the end result was a fierce lion that appears to jump through the painted brick wall.

Students are still working collaboratively to create murals that enhance the educational atmosphere of the high school.

Canfield, Cornwell and Ordoñez-Aguiar’s mural is planned to cover a stretch of the math section on the third floor hallway, Groot explained.

Groot said the students expressed their desire to create a mural in November.

Soon after, Groot said she was approached by math teachers Melissa McCreary and Laura Resnik, who requested artwork in their hallway that would help inspire an interest in math.

McCreary said that they wanted to find a way to incorporate students’ artistic talents with math.

“I think it will be a way for us to connect math to other disciplines in a non-conventional way,” McCreary said.

McCreary also explained that she hopes that the mural brings some joy to the third floor hallway and serves as a conversation starter.

“Not only does it brighten up the hallway and make it a better environment, I think it will also help kids be more excited about math, which is part of the goal of the piece,” Cornwell said.

Similar to how previous murals have been created, McCreary and Resnik wanted this piece to be collaborative as well.

Ordoñez-Aguiar added that this new mural differs slightly from past works as the teachers requested that future senior classes be able to contribute to it.

“They wanted something where student voices could be heard through the mural,” Ordoñez-Aguiar explained.

Ponce de Leon said that showcasing artwork throughout the high school is important to the school’s overall personality.

“There are pieces that are hanging from a long time ago from people who graduated years ago,” Ponce de Leon said. “Really, it’s kind of a history of the building.”

Lewis added that displaying art is important not only throughout the school, but in all public spaces as well.

“The impact that a single artwork can have on someone may last forever, or at the very least it may inspire that person to create something of their own,” Lewis said. “Art adds personality and liveliness to the space it inhabits—there’s never such a thing as too much art.”