Campus Murals Project Transforms the School

Take a closer look at the development of the beautiful murals that have appeared around school. Staffulty member Sophie Bright interviewed Emily Chandler, former Chair of the Art Department; Gabriel S. '22 and Steven C. '23 about the inception and progress of the Campus Murals Project.
Here is the interview. Stay tuned for more next school year!

How did the project start? 

Ms. Chandler: “The project started three years ago in 2019 as the brainchild of Matthew Stillwell, ‘21. He originally came up with the idea to have a long-term exploratory (g-block) class working on murals and asked if I would be the faculty advisor.”

The class was initially intended to continue over multiple trimesters. “We hit a snag because of going remote for COVID-19, but the class was back in full swing for 2021-2022.”

How many students have worked on the mural project?

Gabriel: “The project began (in 2019) with approximately eight people and 2-3 working on each mural.” By the end of this school year, “there were 18 people working on the murals…more than double since the start.”

How much of this project has been student-driven? 

Gabriel: “For our murals, we are usually asked by a department and are then given a specific wall: for example, the robotics, music, and math murals are all within their departments. We then plan and go through rounds of editing and designing with the department and with the students working on the mural.”

Steven: “Through these rounds of discussions, we first come up with desired elements that we want to show, what message we want to convey, and then think through how to show that through a mural.”

How have you seen the project evolve and change over time with the addition of new students and new ideas?

Gabriel: “In the beginning, we didn’t have a lot of structure, we just went out and painted and then painted some more. With the addition of new students to the class and to the project, there had to be a lot more structure and work needed to be delegated properly.”

Steven: “Most of the motivation was to improve the space, and the ability to do that has shifted and grown since we now have more people thinking about it. For example, the Viking ship (in the hallway near Humanities) started as a simple idea to improve our space, and through rounds of edits, it began to take shape as a window into the school.”

How has this project made an impact on Vistamar students and the community as a whole? 

Steven: “For me, it is more about the accomplishment (of creating these murals) and it's a powerful moment to have people see your artwork.”

Gabriel: Families visiting Vistamar “ask about them during open houses and tours and tend to be excited about the idea. It’s really important to show that artistic kids are able to do tangible art pieces and see the reality of art in a space, which murals can really do. They take art from abstract to more real.”

Ms. Chandler: “Since all students have the opportunity to contribute, this project is not just art students. Lots of students with different interests are able to participate in ways that they feel comfortable with.”

Gabriel: “Yes! We have groups of students who help plan the murals and some who are here to help paint them. Some students work closely with teachers and faculty during the design refinement process before the mural goes up. There are opportunities for any student to get involved who wants to.”

Will Vistamar eventually be covered in student-designed murals?

Gabriel: “We aren't sure of a solid endpoint, but we aim to keep this project going until we run out of walls.”

Ms. Chandler: “We aren't sure of the endpoint now, but it is certainly a nice way for students to leave their footprint on their space before and after graduating.”

Do you foresee the murals project ever branching out and going off campus?

Steven: “Yes! Gabriel and I have actually both been contacted by Access Books (a non-profit that provides books and refurbishes libraries at underserved schools, via Katie C. ‘22) to go off campus and work on murals at other schools in the area.”

If you haven’t already seen them, we hope you’ll have a chance to view all the murals when we start up school for the 2022-2023 school year.
Vistamar School is a private independent high school in the South Bay region of Los Angeles.

Vistamar School