Monthly Mentor

Natalie C. Jones (February)
Each month, a different member is the guest writer for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog. Natalie C. Jones is an artist, small business owner, and the director of education at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture. She has 10 years of experience working as an art teacher and teaching artist throughout the east coast and the Midwest. Click "GO" to read her full bio.



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May 03, 2019

Beautifying Our Environment Through the Art of Muraling

By Frank Juarez

The oldest mural I found at Sheboygan North High School was painted by Mary Burns, class of 1974. The mural has a black and white cartoonish face with ribbon-like swirls of color stemming from it. To some it exemplifies creativity, but to others it comes off as questionable art. What does it mean, one may think?

Murals can have a negative vibe with those that do not understand them or what they are communicating to the public. I often think that our personal experiences outside of school can affect our way of looking at murals within our own schools. Painted exterior or interior walls with imagery and text can sometimes be misinterpreted as vandalism. This is where education is key in introducing to the public different types of art, its meaning, relevancy, and what it can contribute to a school’s culture. The art of muraling is another form of self-expression, creative risk-taking, artistic voice, and critical thinking. It is about beautifying our environment.

How we approach the art of muraling at our school makes a difference on how others view it. It is centered around creativity, originality, collaboration, presentation, and professionalism. One way of achieving this is by designing our murals to be aesthetically pleasing, meaningful, and supported by our curriculum with the same intensity as one of our art units.

As you walk throughout our school, you will see that most hallways and stairwells have a splash of color reflecting students’ artistic vision and pride. Each delivering something special with a unique style and an interesting way of looking at life through the eyes of a teenager.

North_High_75th_muralCelebrating 75 years of Sheboygan North High School. Mural design by Sheboygan-based muralist, Dale Knaak. Painted by art students.

Since 2006, every mural that was painted in our halls went through a proposal format addressing the intent of the proposed artwork, materials list, district and/or National Visual Arts Standards, timeline, presentation, audience, and evaluation. In addition, students were held accountable for the mural progress and commitment.

There are over 30 murals in our building. A few have been painted, over the years. Some photographed, framed, and installed to preserve our history. Many still grace the walls of Sheboygan North High School.

“I find these murals interesting to look at trying to piece together a timeline of our past. At the end of the day, the art that is proudly displayed on our walls were created by our students. What I have observed over the years is that appreciating and understanding art comes from our daily interactions with these works of art”. – Frank Juarez

The Process

Student artist: Hannah Thorpe, class of 2018

Hannah_Thorpe_mural_2 Preliminary sketches

Hannah_Thorpe_mural_2Color mixing


Hannah_Thorpe_mural_4Mural in progress

IMG_8787 copyMural leading to the art department by Hannah Thorpe

Other Murals

Mural by Julia Ammons, class of 2018

Be_the_next_generation“Be the Next Generation” Mural by the National Art Honor Society Students





Beth Hull

What a great post, I never thought about the fact that there were less provisions to go about painting murals, I'm glad that painting murals is incorporated into your class and that you have your students follow the procedures and planning that they do.

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