Murals Bring Color, Diversity to CHS

Murals Bring Color, Diversity to CHS

Serena Adams, Grace Boote, Leah Burgess, Sarah Hintzen, Bleu Print Special Contributors

Murals have been appearing along the walls of Chelsea High School. Two of the recent additions to this collection of wall art have been murals of an African American woman in the upstairs girls’ bathroom and a Muslim woman in the downstairs girls’ bathroom. Naturally, one may wonder why these ethnically diverse paintings adorn the walls of a high school in a town that is 95.52% white. In our efforts to discover the story behind these murals, we found that there’s a bold intentionality to this art, including its placement and its intended audience.

We first learned about the process behind approving the murals by speaking with Principal Kapolka. Kapolka spoke about adding color and art to our school, but doing so in a way that gets student representation out there. He stated that first, a student must start with an idea and bring it up with Geo and the art department. After the department’s approval, it is then ‘Kapolka approved.’

Kapolka stated that his goal is to “start with the bathrooms and go from there.” This is just the first step in making our school a more colorful place. Not only does this add a touch of character to our school; it also represents the art department and the students involved in it. According to Kapolka, “We display academics and sports and celebrate these accomplishments; those are all out for people to see. But if you don’t go down to the art and music wings, you don’t see the art portion of our school. So by bringing it out, we can equally represent that.”

I wanted to represent the beauty of minority groups that might not have as much of a presence in our halls”

— Emma Catalina, Mural Artist

According to the artist behind these murals, Emma Catalina, the placement of and people featured in the murals were chosen deliberately. Catalina decided to place the murals in the girls’ bathrooms because this is normally a place where self-deprecation often occurs. She chose “positive, uplifting quotes” to encourage confidence in female students. The quotes are also “not about the physicality,” but are instead focused around intelligence and mentality. While planning for the murals, Catalina decided that diversity of the women was also important to include. She decided that “blue would really make it stand out, and it’s a bright, fun color.”  When considering what to do in the other bathroom, Catalina decided to paint a Muslim woman because she, once again, wanted to depict a culture not necessarily well-represented at Chelsea High School.

“Most of the reactions have been positive,” Catalina says. The boys liked them so much that they asked her when they would be getting their own murals. Many complemented Catalina’s work as it was being completed. While Catalina says that there were a few dissenting voices who commented that the murals were not representative of the school as a whole, she said this was exactly the point. “I wanted to represent the beauty of minority groups that might not have as much of a presence in our halls,” she said.

Bathroom mural of Muslim womanAs for the process, Catalina mentioned that painting the murals was pretty easy thanks to their pop art style. However, she described herself as “a stickler for little things,” resulting in a lot of time spent on touch ups and corrections.

Catalina also mentioned that there were murals planned for the boys’ bathrooms, as well. Whether or not these will be completed by her, she was unsure.

Emma Catalina’s overall goal was to show that, although Chelsea may not be racially diverse, we wish to accept and embrace diversity. “A lot of kids are going to be culture shocked once they leave Chelsea and enter the real world,” she said. Diversity brings about empathy and understanding in people, which is why these murals were purposely placed in a high school with a majority-white population. Be on the lookout for more artwork like Catalina’s murals to grace Chelsea’s halls in the near future.