New initiative brings student art to high school halls

Henri Robbins | Online Editor

The walls of Mason High School are getting a makeover.

Recently, Mason High School started an initiative to incorporate student art into the halls of the school. Students from the National Art Honor Society (NAHS) volunteered to create a Mason-themed mural designed by sophomore Porter Lorenz. Since the mural began, teachers Daniel McKay and Tina Roberts, the chairs of the art department, have reached out to Mason alum and artist Paul Giovis to work as a resident artist and help students with their next project. 

McKay and Roberts were approached by Principal Bobby Dodd about installing art around the school. After discussing, they made plans for students to design and create art to display in the halls of the school. 

“We want to make sure that students have an opportunity to interact with and be affected by the arts on a day to day basis,” McKay said. “We want to broaden student experience and show how art can be woven into their future plans, whether as artists or not.” 

The mural’s designer, Porter Lorenz, wanted it to reflect the community of Mason as a whole. He worked with McKay frequently when designing it, and is glad to see his vision become reality.

“I didn’t originally think I was going to be chosen for the mural, so when it happened I was shocked,” Lorenz said. “Seeing it actually come to reality as something that people are going to see all the time, and knowing that it’s something I did, that definitely feels good.”

To incorporate the arts into the lives of students, Mason staff are creating initiatives to display art around the school. Principal Dodd said that, as he walked through the halls in the school, he noticed a glaring issue. 

“When you walk around our school, there’s a lot of white walls,” Dodd said. “While it’s a beautiful facility and we’re blessed with a lot of resources, I think that with the talent we have in the building regarding our kids and our staff, we should really be showcasing more of our students’ artwork throughout the building.”

To fill these blank walls, students like Lorenz are using their art classes to work on artwork that can be displayed around the school. They work on these projects in addition to the set curriculum.

“Last year, in my second semester, I was in Digital Image Design 2 and Mr. McKay put out a post on Schoology about a mural,” Lorenz said. “It was one of my favorite classes of the day, because you can do any project you want, and Mr. McKay is a great teacher, so I said why not? I had plenty of time, I have a good idea, and when you have a good idea you just go with it.”

When making the mural, Mason enlisted the help of NAHS. Members of the society used projectors and acrylic paints to copy the mural onto three large panels. Senior Julia Rosado, the president of NAHS, said the mural is a monumental project for the society. 

“We’ve been working on it for both semesters; it’s been our biggest project this year, and it’s turning out really well,” Rosado said. “It’s basically just another way for us to leave our mark on Mason, make it a bit more colorful and more exciting, and make the halls a bit more enjoyable to look at.”

Moving forward into other projects, the art department has reached out to Paul Giovis, a mural artist who graduated from Mason High School in 2008. Currently, there are plans for him to guide students as they work on the next mural. 

“Two of my favorite art teachers, Aaron and Tina Roberts, asked me to come in for a career day presentation,” Giovis said. “We sat down and started brainstorming ideas of an art project I could work on in the high school. My plan is to break down the mural painting process for the students and really give them an inside look at what all it takes to put together a mural. I will give them a step by step process from start to finish and show them efficient ways to get the painting done.”

The art within the school is meant to connect with students, and make their experience feel more natural, said McKay. As the department continues to work on murals, McKay said he hopes the arts are able to become a larger part of students’ high school experience. 

“If you believe – and I do, the arts department does – that visual arts are a fundamental part of any human’s existence to live a rich and a vibrant life, then it needs to be an experience for any student, whether they’re taking a visual arts class or not,” McKay said. “It needs to be woven into their experience here in Mason. I really do see this as part of that conversation, which is, ‘How do we let the arts be something that every student finds accessible and can have a connection to, and that they consider as a part of their cultural experience at Mason High School?’”

Dozens of students have been involved with the creation of the mural. With the sheer amount of artists and students coming together to create the mural, Rosado said she appreciates how it has been able to bring members of the society together and combine many artistic styles. 

“It’s been a really amazing thing to see everyone grow and see the process grow,” Rosado said. “This is the biggest that NAHS has ever been, so we’ve had a lot of people help and a lot of artistic views on it. It’s a really amazing thing that we’ve had so many artists and art styles all combined into one goal.”

As the art on the walls of MHS is developed, McKay said he hopes to connect to students within the school. Art is fundamental, he said, and it should allow students to feel more connected to the world around them. 

“The art on the walls has to be relevant to any student in Mason,” McKay said. “It has to be something students can connect to. It can speak truths about their experience in Mason, and hopefully it’s encouraging, inspiring, and positive.”

Photos by Henri Robbins.