Over 20 student-crafted murals adorn the halls of WGHS, boasting bright colors, impactful quotes and meaningful illustrations. But, as time goes by, murals tend to blend in with the routine of daily high school life.
Notable works include the large graffiti-inspired “RRISE” leading to the cafeteria, an enormous depiction of Henri Matisse’s “Icarus” in a stairwell and the painting overarching the entrance to the Robert’s Gym hallway.
According to art teacher Andrew Throm, the oldest mural spans the English hallway. The colorful mural includes characters and references from past or present curriculum books, such as Alice in Wonderland, The Scarlet Letter, Beloved, and more. It was created somewhere in between 1970-1973, by former art teacher Marilynne Bradley and students.
“Generally, they [murals] are timely of what is going on in history at the time, and what is going on with student interests in the school,” Throm said.
Accordingly, seniors Lily Becker and Zoe Schultz and junior Grace Hardison are working on a new mural. The motto being painted is “Treat People With Kindness,” based on a phrase that artist Harry Styles uses on his merchandise and on tour. Also depicted in the painting is the gay pride flag.
“We feel that our school needs more positivity and even simple reminders that everyone is going through their own battles,” Hardison said.
While murals are an artistic way to communicate the beliefs of students, certain murals have sparked controversy in the past.
A 1993 article from the ECHO titled “Mural incites controversy” details the unrest of certain teachers when a Keith Haring-style mural was painted on the third floor. The mural included six different religions inside the dancing bodies. Certain members of social studies department presented a petition to Bradley about the artwork. The issue was eventually resolved. Today, tension surrounding the mural is non-existent.
Throm explains that although the Haring-style painting caused dispute when it was created, now it is part of the building that isn’t questioned.
“At different times, different artworks have more or less power, to stir people’s imaginations, or their ideas about their beliefs,” Throm said.
Although WGHS has always been accepting and encouraging of murals, certain factors have narrowed the preservation and creation of this artwork. Realistically, the Art Department aims to complete at least one mural per year, but a shortage of supplies and lack of funding have limited the creative process.
Since beginning at WGHS twenty one plus years ago, Throm has witnessed a substantial price increase in art supplies. Acrylic, the paint used for murals, has raised to almost $9.50 a bottle, almost three times the price originally. But recently, the community has stepped in to help, contributing to the support and appreciation of murals. Many people have donated house paint, and even local hardware stores have stepped up by donating paint and primer.
School murals are valued by students, faculty, and the community alike.
Junior Peyton St. James said, “Murals add a pop of joy around the halls, it makes our school have personality.”
With support and involvement, the Art Department hopes to carry on the tradition for years to come.
“We want to someday have every wall and hallway covered. In the stairwells, or places where they will be seen,” Throm said.
This will be Emily Stisser’s first year on ECHO staff, but she made several contributions while taking journalism class her freshman year.
This is feature editor Lindsey Bennett’s first year on ECHO staff, but she made several contributions while taking journalism class her sophomore year. She has attended JournalismSTL’s Spring Conference and MIPA’s J-Day.
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