Ocean City Today

Foreign Language Club mural project

By Greg Ellison | Apr 13, 2017
Photo by: Greg Ellison The Foreign Language Club at Stephen Decatur High School is in the midst of producing a trio of large murals to promote social acceptance.

(April 14, 2017) Changing the world one mind at a time is the aim of a mural project being produced by the Foreign Language Club at Stephen Decatur High School.

French teacher Darlene McCann, who moderates the language club, said the “Art in Society” project traces back several years.

“I had a group of these kids in French 3 three years ago,” she said.

One day after a lengthy discussion surrounding the cultural climate here and abroad, the students concluded they were “tired of people just not being nice.”

“We got to this idea of acceptance and people being kinder,” she said.

Solomon Efergen, one of nearly two dozen Foreign Language Club members, said the original intent was to alter the atmosphere at their school.

“Then it went into if we can change the school why not change the world?” he said.

McCann said the club adopted the moniker, “Save the world” and began meeting to find ways to at least make a small impact locally.

“Last year, in the school building we did bulletin boards and a couple little things … to try and spread the positive message,” she said.

The idea of the mural project emerged after McCann saw television coverage of a project in Wynwood Walls in Miami, where street art has transformed an area of warehouses into a premier art district.

“They’re taking graffiti and they’re creating parks out of them,” she said. “They have a circuit where people can go around and do this circuit of graffiti parks. It’s beautiful stuff.”

As the club thought about what that neighborhood had done, members developed the concept of creating a trio of murals promoting positive social themes.

“I’m trying to instill in these kids that doing nothing is the same thing as saying its ok and things are not ok,” she said. “I’m trying to empower them because they’re going to be graduating and it’s up to them, and their turn, to make things a little better.”

As the club discussed the proposal with others last fall, it seemed well received, said foreign language club member Stella Cunningham.

“It’s genuine and came about naturally,” she said. “It came from a good place of togetherness.”

The students began researching concepts and preparing preliminary sketches, while soliciting community support to finance the project.

The group recently completed its fundraising, when members filled in for the evening shift at Decatur Diner.

“The kids worked it and (owners Bill and Matt Rados) were amazing,” she said “They donated all proceeds.”

Club member Patrick Reid said his cohorts’ fundraising efforts came about quickly.

“We raised $3,000 in a month and a half,” he said.

Major support poured in from the Ocean City-Berlin Optimist Club, which kicked in $1,000 for the effort, McCann said.

The students created a GoFundMe page, worked a dinner shift at SiCuli’s in Berlin, and received support from the Ocean City Art League and the Ocean City Lioness Club. In addition to numerous private donations, McCann said Home Depot donated paint supplies.

With resources and sketches in hand, the students, primarily seniors, will work to flesh out their artistic visions before the end of this school year.

“We’re going to put them on four-by-eight panels and we’re going to put three panels together vertically,” McCann said. “The Ocean City Art League wants us to put them on their chain link fence.”

The first mural, “Symphony,” has a background of the world map overlaid with a mosaic head playing a saxophone.

“Out of the saxophone horn, you have every symbol we could find that represents every culture, every religion and every person,” she said.

McCann said the hope is everyone can find something they can identify with in the myriad of images emanating from the saxophone.

“In the orchestra, every instrument contributes to the symphony while retaining its own individuality,” she said. “As a society, everyone should contribute to the harmony while retaining their own individuality.”

The second mural, “Pay It Forward,” has a tree in the center that is being cradled by the Earth.

“Then a banner on the front of the planet that says, ‘Pay it Forward,’” she said. “Around the tree you have puzzle pieces that are metaphorical for how people should work together and fit together.”

The third mural, “Where Will the Children Play,” was inspired by McCann’s former student Ian Postley, and is a reference to the Cat Stevens song, “Where Do the Children Play.”

“He’s got a lot of urban graffiti in the background and then he’s got kids and adults with single little flowers here and there,” she said. “The idea is you need to have space for the kids because it’s going (away.)”

McCann said Postley, a 2015 Decatur graduate who studied at the Delaware College of Art and Design in Wilmington, is also overseeing the undertaking.

“He’s also giving us some artistic advice,” she said. “He just had a show at Ocean City Art League.”

Club member Darrien Ross hopes the murals can give the community a fresh perspective.

“One of other goals of our project is to teach people that they shouldn’t be proud to be passive and apathetic about what happens around them,” she said. “They need to know that everybody is interconnected.”

Once the murals are completed, in addition to being displayed at the Ocean City Art League, McCann said the works would be mobile.

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