Symbolic Mural

by Meg Hansen, Director of Marketing and Communications

A beautiful, symbolic mural now graces the east side of our elementary school building, receiving praise from our internal community and those who pass by on 55th Street each day. Not only is it a stunning piece of public art to be enjoyed by all, it’s filled with symbolism from the birth of our school in 1987 to now. This years-long project became a reality thanks to the founders of Friends School and many others.

Under the guidance of Head of School Honor Taft and then Board Chair Jenny Donovan, the search began for a local mural artist who would not only create a beautiful visual for all to enjoy, but who would capture a design that reflects the values, vision and priorities of Friends School, including our commitment to protecting the environment and to diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice. After reviewing the work of several local and national artists, and with the help of Street Wise Arts, Friends selected artists Jaime Molina and Pedro Barrios from The Worst Crew to create this meaningful piece.

At the end of April 2022, parents, teachers and staff joined Streetwise Arts and artists Jaime and Pedro to explore our shared values and themes for this special mural. Subsequently, the artists spent time at the school meeting with all the elementary school students and teachers and surveyed all community members to capture multiple voices to use for their initial concept for the mural. And then they went to work. Several weeks later, they presented their design which was received with unanimous approval.

On September 1, 2022 Jaime and Pedro arrived with scaffolding equipment and began drawing the mural in real size on the side of the building. Students, staff and families were intrigued and often visited the wall over the next couple weeks to check on the progress and celebrate in the excitement of what was to come. Every day it progressed, the excitement built. 

Work was completed on September 16, 2022 and unveiled to our community and all who pass by. 

Each mural element tells the story of Friends School, all of which was captured from the history of our school and from the thoughts and dreams of our community members.

Mural Symbolism

Rain Cloud and Seeding– Represents the process of teaching and learning

Head, Hand, Heart– Evolution from knowing to caring to loving to doing

Cottonwood Branch– Story of the stars inside of the cottonwood branch. Reminder about the importance of wonder, respect for nature and the endless possibilities in creating your own world

Bridge Shapes– Representative of the actual bridge in the preschool play area, and part of the beloved preschool silver and gold transition ceremony. Also a metaphor for compromise and using creativity to meet challenges and solve problems of all sorts

Door– Represents the plethora of possibilities in learning when young people are encouraged to be active in their education and to open doors for themselves and for others in their community

Puzzle Piece– Represents the process of students taking all of the experiences and knowledge that they have acquired and thinking critically to pull those pieces together

Blank Page– Represents the eventual graduation of our students. Like all of our Friends School alumni, their futures and stories are unwritten and super exciting

Flower heart – if regular love is symbolized by a heart with two humps, then this three humped version illustrates the extra love that you have that you wish to put out in the world. The symbol also represents the head, hand, heart that is central to the Friends School mission.

Constellations – Illustrating the idea that the stars are out there for everyone to create their own constellations. You don’t have to accept the old fables that have been handed down. You can use your imagination and create your own.

Many thanks to everyone who was involved in this incredible project:

  • Larry Gold and Hope Morrisett for their financial gift and initial vision for the project
  • Jenny Donovan and Honor Taft, who spearheaded this project and pulled everything together from gathering proposals, to organizing our community, to managing the entire project.
  • Friends art teacher Anna Ura and the Friends School students, teachers, staff, and parents who gave their input and shared stories of the things they love about our school to make sure that this artwork reflects our values and who we are as a community.
  • Jamie Molina and Pedro Barrios of The Worst Crew for their incredible design and installation of this very meaningful piece of art.
  • Leah Brenner Clack at Street Wise Arts who graciously and patiently guided us through this process.

Challenging minds. Nurturing spirits. Honoring individuality.