Student-Made Murals Line Arcadia High’s Halls
By Arcadia Unified School District Digital Communications Intern Reiko Inoue
Arcadia High Art Honors student senior Stavroula Zygouri works on her mural.
The halls of Arcadia High School (AHS) are getting their annual makeover! Six new murals are being painted across the campus. While thousands of students and staff members walk by these artworks every day, not many may know about why they are there or the artists behind the pieces.
The murals are painted every fall by students in the AHS’ Art Honors classes. The tradition of murals being painted at AHS traces back all the way to the ‘80s. Earlier murals were based on the subject matters being taught in the classrooms near them, such as images of “Einstein in the math area or the Eiffel tower where the French classrooms were,” said AHS art teacher Carol Bradley. But now, students have free rein over what they paint.
Before the murals are completed for all the school to enjoy, designs must go through a selection process. Art Honors students who wish to create a mural submit mock-ups of their painting. Next, the art department judges the pieces and chooses the winning designs. “The faculty really enjoys doing that. We discuss it and have [the mock-ups] all spread out,” said Bradley. “Once they’ve been chosen [. . .] you can see the joy in [the students’] faces when they’re announced.” This year, six out of about 25 entries were chosen.
The selected students then get to work. They sand the surfaces of the existing murals and paint over them with gesso (a white paint mixture) to create a fresh, white canvas. Afterward, the students sketch and paint their pieces. The size of these projects proves somewhat problematic to the young artists who have to enlarge their designs significantly, but Bradley noted that the students “solve it quite well [since] they’re [the projects] actually very adaptable to a large size.”
In addition, students don’t have to complete this project solo. They can enlist the help of a few classmates and work as a team so their murals are completed faster. “It’s really great because [students] get to see their work blown up and they have a very visible audience, so the whole school gets to enjoy them. It’s a wonderful opportunity.”
The Art Honors students taking on the murals are just as eager to complete them. Senior Stavroula Zygouri is currently working on her piece depicting a bird, representing hope, calling seven demons, each representing a sin, to the light to redeem themselves. “I’m very excited about this obviously, it’s [got] personal characters I really enjoy drawing [. . .] and I really like the message [of the piece],” she said.
Just a few halls over, fellow art student senior Jessica Mu is painting quite a different piece. She said, “I tried to combine two things that I really love, . . . orcas and BTS [a Korean pop group], into one painting.” Her image is meant to tell the story of a captive orca and a wild orca meeting, enabling the captive orca to return to its roots. “Whether they see it as just something pretty or find some sense of calmness through it, I hope that it somehow brings some type of comfort [to viewers], even if they don’t necessarily understand the message or the references that I have in it,” she explained.
A mural about orcas is being completed by Art Honors student senior Jessica Mu.
No two murals are the same, and students bring a fresh set of ideas each year. Bradley said that the murals “seem to evolve. I think this year’s students are interested in entertainment, and you can see it in the environments that they’ve created. It really reflects what they’re interested in. So it’s really wonderful for us to see, and I’m sure it will continue since they enjoy it so much, year after year.”