Mural is a picture of diversity
Stroll up the long incline known as Hudson’s Bay High School’s airport hallway and your gaze is pulled toward to a symphony in color. The large mural, created by students in the school’s former Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlán club, is bold: artistically and thematically. Painted in a pointillistic style that uses dots of color that converge into a cohesive image, the mural is both a labor of love and a love letter to the diversity of the student population.
A dozen students worked for more than two months—concepting, painting, layering—in spring 2016 under the tutelage of Rodolfo Serna, a professional artist who has worked with other Vancouver schools, including Fruit Valley Community Learning Center and Fort Vancouver High School. After building an inventory of students’ ideas, Serna sketched the mural and taught them how to apply paint. “He showed us how to use the brush and add texture to the mural,” said Alondra Arredondo, now a senior at Bay.
Determination ran high. “Most of us worked on it every time that we had a chance,” said Brissa Olivarez Garcia, now a college student. So that the mural could dry undisturbed, the group worked sometimes as long as an hour and half after school ended on Fridays.
For some students who didn’t already enjoy making art, the mural was their first real visual artistic experience. Despite differing artistic backgrounds though, one thing was clear: “Everyone wanted to somehow include everyone—do something for the school,”said Karen Cortes-Ortiz, now a freshman at Portland State University.
Added Serna, “The students wanted the rest of the students to know that they were part of a community. That they were, in all their diversity, welcome here in this school.”
“They identified imagery associated with the different cultures,” said Amy Pickens, a career guidance specialist and adviser to the project, along with Family-Community Engagement Coordinator Diana Avalos-Leos. Dancers, architecture, nature and rural and urban landscapes—all are featured in the mural, melding like the individual dots to create a larger meaning.
Music notes serve as the unifying imagery. Explained Gabriela Razo Leon, who graduated last spring and now attends college, “Music is an important part of every culture. It brings a lot of people together, no matter the genre.”
“The mural really captured how many different backgrounds we have at the school,” added Jennifer Lopez, a college student.
The artists also found personal resonance. “The mural made me appreciate my culture more,” said Abril Tachiquin, also now a college student.
“I feel proud, making this,” said Bay senior Vanessa Avdeyeva. “When I leave, all those elementary and middle school kids are going to come to high school and see this.”
Already the mural is attracting a lot of attention. Using it as a background for selfies has become a trend, if not a tradition.
That’s fine by the artists. But they hope that others will take away more than just a picture. The group, according to Cortes-Ortiz, hopes that they’ll “see the diversity, become culturally aware.”
With the message and medium to attract attention and create awareness, positive student work like this guarantees it.