Art Students Take on Permanent Mural Paintings

More by Juliette Dixon - 11/12


Some students complain about the barren, stark walls that we sport at Darien High School, but if you have looked recently you might find more on the walls then before. Art teacher Ms. Katie Stewart is the teacher behind these mysterious paintings. Ms. Stewart enlightened me to the fact that there is a mural painting class that students can sign up for. Only students who have taken all prerequisite art courses can enroll in this class. This is a jam-packed one semester course.

Mural painting is a very real life experience that the students would have to face when going out on their own trying to display their images. Throughout the course, students come up with their own ideas to paint. They sketch, plan, set up meetings, scout out an area for their mural, and even have to find space to store their materials.
Ms. Stewart explained how much of a professional experience this class gives the students. Each student is required to set up a meeting with the art department, assistant principal, and principal before they put up their mural. They have to create a mini version of their mural and show it and get that approved before they can go any further in the process.

Students in the class not only have to set up appointments with various faculty members, but they also have to choose an area in the school where they want their mural to go.  Another thing that go along with this process is deciding on measurements, picking swatches, and finding time to work on these masterpieces!

So whose murals are going up now, you ask? In the A wing junior Katie Lashendock’s work makes its grand debut. The murals are all the teachers are talking about after the faculty meeting where Lashendock had to present her ideas about her mural. For the mural each student has to come up with a concept and I was fortunate enough to hear what Lashendock’s is. She shared that this summer when she went to Nantucket with her family she took a walk on the beach with her mother at night and was invited into a restaurant. When she entered she looked around in sheer awe. The walls were covered with recovered ship wood from the destroyed Moby Dick boat. Lashendock’s face lit up with excitement as she describes the restaurant. She said as she was sitting there she knew that this was going to be her mural inspiration. Lashendock also said that it went well with Darien’s Blue Wave Pride!

 “The walls at DHS are so bland it’s amazing to have something to look at and make you happy during a stressful day,” Lashendock said.
She chose to put her mural in between the English and History department because Moby Dick was a piece of literature and history. She hopes to get her mural done before Christmas break, but as the workload of junior increases the process will slow down when her frees need to be spend doing homework instead of her mural.

During the interview with Lashendock teachers walk by congratulating her on her fantastic presentation that she made. Fellow students also walk by commenting on her mural. Lashendock says that she is embarrassed by all of the compliments and she loves the fact that everybody is so excited for her. Lashendock said that it is a very nerve racking process because it is very permanent, but all of her peers are really supportive saying what a good job she is doing and some joke around with her telling her “don’t screw it up!” Although it is nerve racking Lashendock said that she loves that it will be here for years to come. She said that it is amazing to think that years from now when she is gone students will always be able to see it and remember her for her work.

When talking to Ms. Stewart and asking about the class, she told me that there were only two students enrolled this semester! Senior Joe Haddad and junior Katie Lashendock are the only two willing to devote their time and take this demanding course.
Although Haddad said that it is a big undertaking all you need is some art experience, confidence, a concept and a vision. Haddad is three quarters of the way done with his mural and hopes to be done by January. He says that part of his favorite part of creating a mural is hearing what people say about it in the hallway. Apparently some students will even debate about what the mural is about. To clear up any disputes Haddad said that his mural is an underwater trench with a squid in the foreground. Haddad described his mural as geometric and abstract cubist. He knew he wanted to paint something underwater themed so it was a no-brainer when he decided to put it in the C building to have to do with marine bio.

“This space has a great flow of students because kids have to pass through for lunch, gym and science classes,” Haddad said.
Some of the biggest challenges for Haddad was working vertically versus on a canvas or art board. Another challenge was working on the cement because it requires several coats of paint before it will show up. Overall Haddad said that he is pleased that he is taking the course and he loves all of the feedback he is getting from friends, faculty, and random students.

Ms. Stewart said some students don’t want to take this course because they have emotional issues leaving their work behind. After all of that time and effort that they put into these murals, the students can’t even take their work with them, which I could understand, being a big deterrent. Another reason for the small amount of students enrolled could be due to the fact that by the time most students take that many art courses they want to take honors or an AP art course instead of the mural class.
Another mural in the school is one we see every day when we walk to the cafeteria. Yes, that was once a DHS students’ mural project back when art teacher Mr. Robert Sorenson taught the class. Others consist of “The Apple” and the Marilyn Monroe paintings. These were on canvases which differs from what the class does now which is straight onto the cement wall. 

This course has been around since the old school was here. Ms. Stewart said that when she went to DHS she took the mural class and she was able to paint her mural on the wall!

“It is a shame that so many were lost when we tore down the old school because so many great works were lost” Stewart said.
Keep an eye out for the new murals going up and watch as each day Lashendock and Haddad make progress on their works of art. Lashendock recommends for everybody to try and take the mural course because it is such an amazing experience.  Also take some time to check out all of the art hanging around the walls-they all come from your classmates!

Darien Art Department Blog:

Ms. Stuart's