ROXBURY, NJ - Mornings are a little less dull at Roxbury High School thanks to a new mural that greets students and staff as they enter the school.
The entry vestibule mural is the result of a collaborative effort across the high school Art Department and involved help from artist-in-residence Ian Ferguson. It was completed Sept. 22.
While there were differing levels of participation, all students in high school art classes contributed to the creation of the mural in some way.
Roxbury High School art teacher Renee Zengel said the high school Visual Arts Department was, for some time, looking to have a mural in the main lobby to generate visual excitement as people entered the building.
The department used the project as an opportunity to have students to interact with artists outside the high school. Ferguson, who works under the name “Hydeon,”is a contemporary artist, illustrator and designer living in Brooklyn, NY. According to his website, he has worked with clients such as The World Trade Center, Converse and Red Bull, and his work has been published in VICE Media, Forbes Magazine and elsewhere.
Ferguson arrived at the school on Sept. 18 and on his first day he brainstormed with students in art classes to determine what should be depicted in the mural, said Zengel. She said students were asked to draw what they see and think about Roxbury. The most popular drawings were used as inspiration in the mural, combined with Ferguson’s own aesthetic and approach.
“It was important to him that the ideas come from the students who live in this community,” said Zengel.
Horseshoe Lake, Cliff’s Ice Cream, popular hang-out spots and symbols of students’ sports and activities are depicted in the mural.
The creation of the piece, which took five days, was a collaborative effort between teachers, students and Ferguson. Once Ferguson’s design was approved by the Visual Arts Department and school administration, the team worked tirelessly to complete the project during school hours and on breaks.
“Once the painting of the mural began it was an organic flow of work,” said Zengel. “Ian [Ferguson] would let a teacher know how many students he could use at that time and we would ask for volunteers. We started first with the AP Studio Art and Portfolio Development class. While not everyone could participate, all were invited to view the mural process.”
The aim of creating the mural was manifold. The team’s goal was to represent the high school’s community in a piece of work displayed to every person who enters the school and to give students real experience in creating public art and working with an accomplished artist.
“Historically, murals build a sense of community,” Zengel said. “Not only is there the aesthetic experience of viewing the mural, there is a deeper conversation created. The imagery is about and created by the people that make up the community which fosters an ongoing relationship. The experience of art makes spaces more welcoming, stops us to think and consider the connections we have to what is in front of us.”
Jeffrey Tallman, a senior student chosen to paint the mural, likes the way the artwork has added life to the school entrance. “It was depressing to walk in and see a blank white wall,” he said. “This mural makes [the school] much more lively.”
Zengel said she was impressed with the student artists’ work ethic. “Students were so dedicated to this mural, working for hours straight because of the pride they felt to be creating this work for their school and community,” she said. “Ian Ferguson did an amazing job inspiring the students to be involved and dedicated to what they were making.”