Students to paint mural on Student Activities Center, replacing James Franco mural

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    A new student-designed mural is being painted on the wall of the Student Activities Center. A rough sketch has been drawn and students have started painting a scene from a Spirit Week rally. Art teacher Kate McKenzie says she believes that this mural will help the community grow and heal from the recent string of suicides. “There was this call for this kind of mural to be painted,” McKenzie said. “People all over campus were asking for art.” Photo: Julia Qiao.

    Students in the Advanced Drawing and Painting class are painting a mural on the wall of the Student Activities Center at Palo Alto High School after a James Franco mural was removed early this year.

    According to art teacher Kate McKenzie, who is overseeing the student-designed project, the overarching theme of the new mural will be “We are Paly.”

    The mural will feature 10 different panels, nine of which will have their own theme. Each panel is designed to convey a different aspect of Paly, including “We are creative,” “We have spirit,” “We struggle” and “We learn.”

    Artists working on the mural hope that it will allow students to reflect on their own lives at Paly.

    “We [the students] wanted to create a mural that embodies the entire spirit of Paly,” says junior Grace Zhao, who designed the Spirit Week scene in the bottom left corner. “The mural does not just depict the happy aspects of Paly, but everything about it. We wanted to have an accurate depiction of the student life at Paly.”

    McKenzie echoes these sentiments, stating that this mural’s primary purpose is to bring something different to the community.

    “We have had a really tough last couple of years, emotionally, and people from outside have wanted to come on campus to do art,” McKenzie said. “It felt like it was a really good time now to have students do art. It is like there is this call throughout the campus for art that was healing and uplifting and reflective of our lives.”

    According to McKenzie, the current plan is to have at least half the mural completed by the end of this school year.

    Zhao says that the artists are in no rush to complete the mural, as the painting is still a learning process. Painters will work in groups that rotate on different days, thereby allowing participants to work on the mural and still cover class material.

    McKenzie hopes that this mural will spark a conversation about art on campus.

    “The reason why we are doing this is because the James Franco mural made people talk about art on campus,” McKenzie said. “One of the things that the art department is trying to do is to get more artistic experiences, whether it’s art or music out on campus.”

    Administrators also want this mural to exhibit the works of Paly’s art community.

    “I think that the mural will display the talented artists that go to school here,” Assistant Principal of Operations Jerry Berkson said. “We really just want to show off our talented artists.”

    Artists are excited to be working on the mural, as they believe they are adding their piece to the Paly legacy.

    “I think that being able to paint the mural is really cool because it is a student-designed and created mural,” Zhao said. “I feel like it is something that was worth doing, and worth committing time to, as I am helping my school.”

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