News - Collaborative Mural Depicts Students’ Cultural Origins

The walls of the bistro at the Sonia Gutierrez Campus sing with color, the perfect canvas for a mural. Students spent two months painting a mural that depicts their cultural pride as well as their shared life experiences.

Local artist Frida Larios worked with the School’s Arts Department to facilitate a series of workshops about muralism. These workshops culminated with the school’s first-ever mural painting, an opportunity for local artists and students to exchange and learn from one another.

“It’s co-creation, an experience that was collective. Frida learned from the students and students learned from her. It was a give and take,” said Tara Villanueva, Program Manager of Arts Integration and Culture.

Even though each student has their individual ways and styles of creating art, the sum of their talents makes up a beautiful and satisfying piece of art. It is a reflection of the diversity of the students who created it.

Through the mural, five students who hail from Mexico, Honduras, Ghana, Korea and China were able to share their cultural identity, struggles and dreams with help from artist Frida Larios from El Salvador.

“The mural really represents the diversity of cultures, thinking, backgrounds and places where the students, teachers and staff come from,” Tara said. She is glad to see this mural giving an opportunity to the students to practice their art.

An artist by profession, Musah Swallah from Ghana, said: “I am grateful for this chance to practice my passion here at the school.” He started creating murals in his home country eight years ago, but has struggled to practice his art since he came to the U.S.

The concept that the students worked on is a tree featuring imagery that represents their cultures and experiences. The tree has three heads carrying a basket, which represents sharing responsibilities. “We share responsibilities with other people. It is not that if you have a problem, you need to solve it by yourself. Even if you have everything, you might need somebody’s help,” Musah explained.

The students hope that the mural will not only spruce things up around the School, but will inspire future students. With its location at the bistro, it will also inspire many visitors who come to the campus.

“My hope is whenever people come into the bistro and when they see the painting, it is going to be a reflection into their lives,” Musah said.