Students Paint New Orchestra Wall Mural in Fine Arts Hallway


Amelia Lackey

The mural is a big project. Dawn and Bella hope to complete it either this semester or over the summer.

The fine arts hallway is like a second home to many band, choir, orchestra, and theater students. After the winter break, students returned to see a change on one of the prevalent walls of the hall, the one just outside the orchestra room.

For the past six years, the Fine Arts hallway has been decorated with a mural, painted by former student Kurt Arzaga, featuring classical orchestra composers. 

A new mural to replace the old one is now being painted by sophomore cello player Dawn Mansfield, assisted by junior cello player Bella Jones. Mansfield designed the mural on an 8 inch by 10 inch canvas and it was approved by the directors, Mr. Teniente, also known as Mr. T, and Ms. Richardson. 

“I remember sitting at the kitchen table and talking to my mom about the fact that none of the ideas I was coming up with seemed to do it for me,” Dawn said. “She gave me a suggestion that actually translated on the wall as the piano under the cello which set the style for the rest of the piece, so I credit my mom for that. I knew I wanted a cello on the wall because that is the instrument that I play and the warm colors would work nicely with the cool toned blues and steel grays that are already on the hallways.”

The old mural was painted by a former student, but never finished. The new mural is being painted by Bella Jones and Dawn Mansfield to replace it. (Guillermo Teniente)

The previous mural was never actually completed because the student painting it graduated before he could finish. The orchestra directors hoped to have him renew it, but he no longer resides in the United States. Dawn and Bella’s talent provided the opportunity to redo the mural, while still maintaining its personal connection to the orchestra.

“Right before COVID we had a donor who donated money for the old mural to get restored,” Mr. T said. “Unfortunately, when we got quotes to get it restored, it was way out of our budget. It was last year that both Dawn and Bella gifted us with paintings of their own and we were mesmerized by their talent. So instead of hiring a stranger to come work or rework our mural, we decided it would be more meaningful to have current students lead this project.”

Dawn smiles as she begins painting the curtain that will frame the sides of the mural. In the background, Bella adds more color to the cello. (Amelia Lackey)

The mural will feature not only a cello, a harp and a piano, but sheet music that Dawn says may end up being readable, with some of the music she has played in the past on it. She started this project thinking it might take the rest of her high school year to complete, but she now thinks that it could be finished by the end of this school year or summer. 

“The mural was just meant to be a big project, but I suppose there are a few things that cause me to bear some deep thoughts towards it,” Dawn said. “Like I mentioned, I wanted to leave my mark on the school. I also want it to represent my love for playing the cello and being involved in the orchestra program altogether. The people I’ve met from it have made me feel amazing and included, which means a lot to me so orchestra is my happy place.”

Dawn and Bella purchased supplies with the money from the AHS Orchestra Activity Funds. They did not use all of the money, so if they need more supplies later they will be able to use the rest of it to purchase more. They pull out supplies every Wednesday after school and work on the mural piece by piece, working on whatever part of it they feel inspired by.

Orchestra is important to me because it’s a beautiful  way to communicate with those around you using one common language- music,” Bella said. “To me, the mural means portraying the art of music through physical art. To the orchestra as a whole, it means a piece of timeless art that will represent our program.

Bella and Dawn meet on Wednesday afternoon once their sectionals are over. They decide what part of the wall mural to paint when they arrive, based on inspiration. (Amelia Lackey)

Dawn and Bella work based on inspiration. They may start a Wednesday afternoon by adding shading to the piano keys, then decide to add more depth to the color on the cello. They think about starting the sheet music and decide they don’t want to pull out the ladder. They may then move on to adding strings to the cello or adding details to the harp. As they work, they talk to each other and to other regulars of the Fine Arts hall who are passing by. They break to do sectionals and then return to the flow of painting details that come together to build a bigger picture.

“My orchestra class actually did a vote on whether or not we should make a new mural, and the class decision was to keep our original mural and maybe touch it up,” junior viola Ashlyn Roberts said. “It was a bit of a surprise when we saw our beloved mural gone after the winter break, but we’ve come to love the new addition to the fine arts hallway.”

The regulars of the Fine Arts hall saw the initial change to the hallway when they returned from the Winter Break. Now, they see the weekly progress of the mural as it is created by Dawn and Bella’s inspiration.

“I’m going to miss the old mural that we had for years that was here before I was even in high school,” senior Emily Vega said. “But I’m excited to see how the new mural is going to turn out.”