Introducing The First Floor’s New Musical Mural

A mural on the first floor created by Stuyvesant students serves as a tribute to the music department, combining Wassily Kandinsky’s style and the playful colors of the 7-9 escalator banner.

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By Zifei Zhao

Despite housing the main entrance, the first floor of Stuyvesant High School is not frequently visited by the majority of the student population except for the music department classes chorus, band, and orchestra. Thanks to the dedication and artistic endeavors of student volunteers and the administration, the first floor finally received artwork intended to reflect the lively nature of the music department.

Located directly outside of the auditorium, the mural is adorned with an assortment of vibrant blues, oranges, yellows, and greens along with abstract shapes resembling people and numerous musical instruments. There is a hidden reference to SING! to go hand in hand with the performance elements of the music department and theater on the first floor. The letter “S” in the shape of a microphone lies at the center of the mural in an effort to incorporate the musical part of Stuyvesant’s culture. “There’s curtains, there’s people in an audience, there’s musical instruments, there’s music notes. It’s a very all-encompassing view of what happens in that wing,” art teacher William Wrigley said.

The design for the mural was created by three seniors: Eleanor Leung, Eugenia Ochoa, and Julia Shen. Shen thought of this idea after being unable to help with the fourth-floor mural since it was to be done by a professional artist. Prior to beginning any artistic work she sought approval to paint the mural from teachers and administration as well as assistance from her classmates. “Once the APs were finished, I started talking to the administration and [Assistant Principal of World Language, Art, and Music] Ms. [Francesca] McAuliffe about the idea,” Shen said. “[And] once I got approval from her, I started working on the design [with] two other students in my art class, Eleanor and Eugenia.”

While creating the design for the mural, the artists drew inspiration from a variety of artistic sources, including the banner located above the 7-9 escalator. “We definitely took inspiration from that banner because we loved all the fun shapes and colors,” Leung said. “We also wanted it to be very Kandinsky-inspired.”

Wassily Kandinsky was a Russian painter known for modern Western abstract art that focused more on depicting emotions rather than recognizable objects. He started painting in the abstract style in the early-20th century and derived his distinctive art style from listening to music. In order to combine these two sources of artistic inspiration, the artists chose to create a colorful and abstract mural located just outside of the hallway of classrooms belonging to the music department.

The three artists all mentioned the lengthy planning process, involving trial and error, while designing and incorporating colors for the mural. “We spent every day during art class just sketching out ideas,” Shen said. “We were trying to figure out the colors [and] what aspects we wanted to include because we had a lot of elements we wanted to put in it, like [representations of] the chorus, the piano, guitars, [and] various instruments.”

Additionally, the planning process was protracted by the students’ need for approval from administration. “We had to draw out the design and decide on colors and we had to run it through all the teachers in the music department and they all had to approve,” Leung said.

After acquiring their painting materials, the three students worked alongside student volunteers to begin painting the mural. The next step was to gather materials, such as brushes and rollers, and mix customized colors for the mural. Then, the design then had to be transferred to the wall through a grid system to add paint one tile at a time. “We just stenciled out the designs onto the wall,” Leung said. “We split the original picture into three by three grids and we transferred that onto the wall with charcoal to see where the objects would be and then we used paint to actually paint it.”

After a little more than a month, the mural was completed shortly before the spring semester ended. Though it was finalized as a result of spirited collaboration, the painting process did not come without challenges. Due to the medium with which the artists were working, the students had to make sure that each color was separately painted onto the wall, which required great attention to detail. “If we were working on something with blending and shading, they would have been able to paint consistently through,” Wrigley said. “In this case, [we had to] get down all of the blue areas and then we let it sit for two hours, and then we paint the next two areas, and we let that sit for two hours.”

Ochoa, who was in charge of scheduling, explained how she had to be calculative about planning the mural’s step-by-step creation in order for it to be painted successfully. “I created the schedule of when we were gonna paint which color which day. [I was] strategic about which colors I used each day so we wouldn’t run into the issue of two colors overlapping and then getting mixed together,” she said.

Many students who worked on the mural viewed the process as a learning experience in various areas like leadership and the teamwork process. “I’ve never done anything that huge before,” Shen said. “And I’ve never really had a directing experience, I guess, where I was the one telling people what should be going on.”

Some students who have seen the mural believe that it was a great addition to the first floor. “It makes it seem like the first floor isn’t as gaunt as it used to be. It would be a good exercise for [the artists], definitely a good stress reliever, and we could have more murals that are more interactive so more people could participate,” sophomore Krystal Khine said

With the successful completion of the first floor mural, the art department and students alike are looking forward to adding more murals throughout the school in an effort to pay tribute to other academic departments and hone in on the artistic talents of other Stuyvesant students. “It would be super cool to do another mural in a different part of the school,” Leung said. “It’d be so fun if we were able to create this legacy of kids who banded together to paint things in the school because we obviously have so much area to work with.”