Meaningful murals decorate school corridor

MacFarland students’ artwork promotes acceptance, diversity.

By: Vanessa S. Holt
   BORDENTOWN CITY — Students at MacFarland Junior High School have left their mark on the school this year by transforming a windowless first-floor hallway into a corridor of cultural diversity with creative murals that depict images of friendship and understanding.
   The project was started in the weeks after Sept. 11 under the guidance of Rafe Vecere, coordinator of character education and drug programs at the middle school. Students were invited to submit sketches for their mural designs and the four that best expressed the district theme of "understanding, respecting and celebrating our differences," were chosen by a panel of teachers and administrators, said Dr. Vecere.
   About 30 students submitted sketches that ranged from patriotic to multicultural in theme. Three or four students worked on each mural over several months, devoting their after-school time to the painstaking process of transferring a small sketch to a segment of the hallway.
   At one end of the hall is an image of national pride and international friendship in a mural designed and painted by a group of seventh-grade special education students. A globe ringed by little figures holding hands stands out on an American flag that takes up close to 10 feet of the wall. Each figure is painted in bold, bright colors and depicted in garb that identifies it with a particular country, including India, China, America, Italy and France, said Reese Minnucci, 13, who designed the mural.
   "We all worked together," said Reese. Among the students who helped him was Courtney Hinkle, 13, who said the project was a lot of fun. Reese said he also had considered doing a painting that showed someone looking out a window at the twin towers of the World Trade Center.
   Other murals decorating the halls include ideas of acceptance, diversity and individuality. Michelle Himes, 13, an eighth-grader, said the idea for her mural came to her in one of her classes and she sketched it out on the spot. In her mural, two teens, a boy and a girl, hold up masks to cover half of their faces. "Don’t judge others by the masks they wear," is the message behind the mural, and Michelle said she wanted to show that people may be different on the inside than what they express on the outside. Michelle, who hopes to attend the Art Institute of Philadelphia in the future, has some of her work on display at a restaurant in Bordentown City and she enjoys creating everything from highly realistic art to Japanese-style "Anime" cartooning.
   Another mural is based around words, specifically a poem written by 14-year-old Amanda Pone, an eighth-grader. The neatly lettered poem includes the lines, "The color of your skin is not a barrier/It makes you unique," and "Inside we are all human, a chain of helping hands."
   The idea of "helping hands" is repeated all over the mural in shades of pink, purple and orange, as teachers, students and even a school janitor covered their hands in paint and pressed their palms to the wall.
   "We wanted something positive in the school," said Amanda. She said it was hard work and took a long time to do, but she enjoyed working with students and teachers on the project.
   "We have wanted something in this hall for years," said Principal Norine Gerepka. "I’m really impressed with their work."
   Amanda Smith, 14, also in eighth grade, designed a mural that intersperses inspirational phrases on a colorful pattern of rectangles. She and her friends found positive statements on the Internet and painted them on the wall, including one favorite that suggests, "Choose your friends by their character and your socks by their color."
   Other statements that encourage harmony and understanding include "If you want to make beautiful music you must play the black and white notes together."
   "It’s an important part of life," said Amanda. "You have to accept people as they are."
   The murals will remain on the wall as a constant reminder in years to come of the spirit of cooperation and unity that inspired this generation, said Dr. Vecere.