Archive for Tuesday, July 11, 2006

School murals face writing on the wall

July 11, 2006


Teacher Tawnia Lashley first found her way inside South Junior High's twisting halls by following the murals.

Her room was down the hall from the big sun. Her son's classroom was across from the image of Star Wars.

"They make South unique," Lashley, a photography teacher and yearbook advisor, said of the murals.

They've been road markers in a labyrinthine building, pictures to please the eye in the absence of windows. But it's time to begin saying goodbye to the many wall paintings at the school, 2734 La.

Though district officials plan to photograph each mural, the bulk of the originals will ultimately go down with the ship when the building is razed with the opening of the new school.

"Some of them will be saved," said Tom Bracciano, the district's facilities and operations director. "Some will go down with the building."

The murals - which started as an art project - first went up more than a decade ago. They proliferated, becoming a source of pride for students and teachers.

The colorful drawings cover almost every bit of wall along the winding corridors.

Signed by students, they are a mark of the times and interests of their creators.

They include a rendition of Grant Wood's "American Gothic," the Kansas state seal and Bart Simpson.

There's also a Salvador Dali imitation and a student version of Vincent van Gogh's "Starry Night."

Then there's the Taj Mahal, hot air balloons, a McDonald's restaurant-inspired mural, Allen Fieldhouse, Shirley Temple. And there's Elvis.

"It's really sad for me to see they have to be abandoned," said Supt. Randy Weseman, who was teacher and principal at South for several years. "But that's sometimes the price of progress, I guess. We'll be able to at least preserve something visual of them."

Art teacher Ryan Beavers is working to photograph each mural. Though the final plan has not been set, Weseman said he envisions displaying the photographs in a big mosaic in the new school.

"There are some things that we can do to make sure that they're not forgotten," he said.

Though beloved, they aren't enough to save the building from the wrecking ball.

And while some admit they'll miss them, they're also looking forward to a bright new school.

"It's sad because I think that's just a big part of the building," Lashley said. "But at the same time, I'm in favor of getting this new building."

South Junior High

The existing South will be demolished next August. And the new building will open for classes in the fall of 2007.

Bracciano offered updates on some of the projects taking place at other schools:

l The new cafeteria at Southwest Junior High, 2511 Inverness Drive, probably won't be ready for the start of the school year. Students will continue to use the existing cafeteria, and the new one likely will open about a month after the school starts.

l New art and photography rooms and band and choral classrooms at Central Junior High, 1400 Mass., will be ready for the start of school. The new gymnasium is expected to be complete for fall 2007.

l West Junior High, 2700 Harvard Rd., has about five portables in place as renovations continue with completion set for March.

l At Lawrence High, 1901 La., the men's locker room will be inside a storage building near the west gymnasium as the men's locker room undergoes renovations. The project includes locker room renovations, science labs and an east gym entrance.

l Crews are removing asbestos ceilings from Broken Arrow School, 2704 La., working on other renovations which should be complete by the start of school. The school's new addition will follow.


12345 9 years, 4 months ago

The paintings are beautiful. I am glad someone is working to preserve and honor them.

govols 9 years, 4 months ago

I wonder if they could cut them out of the wall and auction them off ... like a school fundraiser.

Fangorn 9 years, 4 months ago

I worked for South for two years, and at South for two years before that. I also navigated the curved hallways by the murals. Some are silly, some are very well done, all are worth something to someone. I'm not sure how they could go about it, but I think the fund-raiser idea has merit.

My high school in Nebraska had very much the same thing in the main cafeteria. The images memorialized many signs of the times: the Challenger, the advent of personal computers, Vans sneakers, personal pan pizzas. Classes before us had started the project. Classes for years after us continued it. When they expanded the school, the "old" cafeteria was no longer used. It broke my heart to find that the murals had been painted over when I last visited the building. I hope some effort is made to preserve as much of the South Jr. High paintings as possible.

vinyl_chloride 9 years, 4 months ago

Will the LPD come and arrest them if they don;t paint over the murals?

cinnabon 9 years, 4 months ago

I loved seeing this article. As a former South student over 10 years ago, I designed and painted one of the murals. It was, and still is, a great source of pride for me, even though I am not an accomplished artist. I believe it was Laura Torres, the art teacher at the time, who started the student projects. What a wonderful vision she had! It would be great if the murals could be preserved or catalogued on some way. Maybe a book could be made of the collection as a momento of the school for all of us who went there.

JHawker 9 years, 4 months ago

I was also a student at South about 7 years ago and loved seeing the creativity of the murals - they brought so much to the school and environment. I am glad that they are attempting to preserve a lot of these, however i wish the original works could indeed be saved and used in the new building.

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