Behind the Mural

Social Justice Pathway juniors design a mural to display at Paly

Behind+the+Mural

Juniors part of Paly’s Social Justice Pathway (SJP) are designing a mural to not only demonstrate what they have learned about the Cherokee Nation, but to teach the Paly community about an obscure yet revolutionary figure. After looking at his students’ individual murals, SJP history teacher Eric Bloom observed that a majority of his students were interested in Kimberly Teehee, the first delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives from the Cherokee Nation. 

Bloom created an optional project for his students to paint a mural of Kimberly Teehee on campus. 

“Part of my whole philosophy of teaching is that when you can get kids to do real stuff, like putting a real mural on campus, then they genuinely want to do it, and [they] do it better than they would classwork,” Bloom said. 

Part of my whole philosophy of teaching is that when you can get kids to do real stuff, like putting a real mural on campus, then they genuinely want to do it, and [they] do it better than they would classwork.”

— Eric Bloom, SJP history teacher

Bloom first assembled a group of 12 hard working students from the SJP who were eager to take on this opportunity. These students were sent off on Bloom’s prompt and began the process of creating a proposal to ask the school for permission to create this mural.

Junior Rebecca Helft, a member of the mural’s artistic team, explains this procedure. “We split up into roughly two teams, one to focus on the design elements of the mural and another working on the researching and writing about the elements in the mural,” Helft said. 

The design team struggled to agree on the mural’s appearance. 

“Kellyn [Scheel], who is design savvy, was trying to think about not only how to make [the mural] interesting but easy to produce,” Bloom said. “I think this was a huge factor, because the actual painting is one of the hardest parts of a mural.”

C Magazine Art Director Kellyn Scheel became one of the main artists for this project which came with significant challenges. 

Being in such a tight knit classroom and working with these classmates for multiple years has contributed to a more open-minded environment for this project.”

— Kellyn Scheel, junior

“Working in groups is always the most fun but can also be really challenging,” Scheel said. “Every individual has a different artistic vision, whether it be the colors, layout, or aspects that go into the artwork, and no person has the same initial vision.” 

However, as the project progressed, the group came up with multiple sketches that included the most popular ideas, and collectively narrowed down their main theme. 

Junior Evie Kramer researches the mural, writes artistic statements and explains the significance of each of the mural’s elements. “My role is less of the artwork itself, and more the significance of each element,” Kramer said.

“As a researcher I am able to tell artists what we want to include and trust that they will represent the meaning correctly,” Kramer said. “But the artists are also able to tell us researchers what they want to include, and can trust us to find the research to back it up.”

The creation of trust among all members of this group, has allowed them to successfully create a mural full of purpose. 

“Each element of the mural has been carefully crafted and placed to have the most meaning, and each was decided and approved by the group,” Kramer said.

As of now, the SJP students have completed a final proposal for the mural, which has been sent to Paly’s principal and supervisors. Paly’s Public Art Committee member Kate McKenzie, its math department and its history department have given positive feedback to the SJP members. However, SJP students have collectively decided to wait for the approval from Delegate TeeHee before putting up their mural.

Those who have been working on the creation of the mural are also eager for the final product, specifically, Bloom.

We’re taking a pretty unknown idea about the treaty rights of the Cherokee Nation and making it into something that’s interesting and thought provoking.”

— Eric Bloom, SJP history teacher

“We’re filling the space of our campus with student work, which I think is really cool,” Bloom said. “We’re taking a pretty unknown idea about the treaty rights of the Cherokee Nation and making it into something that’s interesting and thought provoking.” 

Scheel is also proud of how much the SJP cohort has learned about both the Cherokee Nation and how to convey their message in a meaningful way. 

“I think that this entire project as a whole is extremely exciting for our SJP cohort,” Scheel said. “I saw our class put in tremendous efforts to make sure we were promoting the message we aimed to [and] educating ourselves on what to do [and] what not to do.”

Overall, the SJP students are extremely excited to share the work they have created with the hope of creating change. Through the many projects, discussions and opportunities, this group of 60 students hopes to continue to push efforts that invoke change and inspire people. 

“Being in such a tight knit classroom and working with these classmates for multiple years has contributed to a more open-minded environment for this project,” Scheel said. “Compared to just last year, we have evolved this mural into something way more meaningful.”

Featured Image by Social Justice Pathway Class of 2023 Art Team