Foothill Middle College students collaborated on a pair of murals with the San Francisco-based Precita Eyes Muralists last month, an annual orientation workshop opportunity for students looking to express their creativity.
Foothill Middle College is an alternative, nontraditional program that serves juniors and seniors in the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District.
Two groups of Middle College students worked on the murals for three hours each – one group, called Agency, completed its mural Sept. 9, and the other, dubbed Understanding, wrapped up its work Sept. 10. They created the murals in San Francisco, but they will be transported for display at Foothill.
Middle College instructor Michael Wilson said the mural workshop began eight years ago. Before students begin to paint the murals, they take a tour of Balmy Alley in San Francisco’s Mission District, which features 30-40 murals along the walls of an alleyway. Students view and analyze the murals, some of which are celebratory and others that stand as critiques.
Twenty Middle College students participated in this year’s workshop, and with guidance from Precita Eyes Muralists, they discussed possible themes for their murals, which make a statement on the Foothill Middle College community. For example, the Agency group’s boasted a “Carpe Diem” message.
“It’s pretty amazing to watch,” Wilson said of the mural-making process. “They’re all taking turns painting in shifts, and the muralists are making sure that everyone’s voices are being included in the process. … (This is) about leadership, and it’s about articulating the goals of the community.”
During the tour of the murals, Wilson overheard a conversation among students discussing how important it is to get out of their own community and visit other places.
“It wasn’t just painting the mural, but getting out into a community and a community that was different from their own and experiencing all that it had to offer,” Wilson said. “They were very appreciative of that.”
Tricia Langdon, an instructor in the Middle College program, said that with students in quarantine over the course of the pandemic, they seemed almost overwhelmed to be outside their own neighborhoods.
“I think they were very excited to just be in a different place,” she said. “One thing that we’re trying to do with the trip is to make them realize that they can go to San Francisco, even if they don’t have a car. We’re not only teaching them to go paint a mural, but also teaching them about transportation, how to get there, and open their world up a little bit.”