If you’ve been in the library recently, you’ve probably seen the murals being painted by art students. This project is the brainchild of Mary Panek, the head librarian, and Jacob Brodsky, one of the art teachers here at J-DHS. So why are the murals being painted, and how significant is this project?
What are the murals in the library?
Brodsky: “They can be thought of as ‘pillars of humanity.’ They represent a variety of people from different backgrounds who have achieved amazing things and made the world a better place, across disciplines and eras.“
Who are the murals of?
Panek: “The murals are a collection of unsung heroes, through civilization, almost, and we have all benefited from their contributions to society in one way or another, but we might not recognize their names or who they are. One over here is Mary Shelley, who wrote Frankenstein, and she was instrumental in developing the whole science-fiction genre. We have Ada Lovelace, who, back in the 1900s, I don’t remember when, but she was the first computer programmer in that period.“
The full list of subjects is Ai WeiWei, Paul Robeson, Tecumseh, Miyazaki, Maurice Hilleman, Ibn Sina, Dolores Huerta, Malala, Ada Lovelace, Yuan Yuan Tan, Josephine Baker, Mary Shelley, Pauli Murray, Jane Goodall, Matilda Joslyn Gage, and Betty White.
Why do you think it’s important to have these murals in the library?
Brodsky: “I liked the idea of getting some visual excitement in there, but in a way that made people stop and wonder who these people are/were… to let people know that there’s more to history than just the handful of the most famous names that we all know. And hopefully, to inspire us all.“
Panek: “Well, selfishly and honestly, I love having student art in here, so when Mr. Brodsky came in and offered to do something, I said I would love to have anything in here that the students would be willing to paint.“
How have you collaborated with the library/art teachers on the murals?
Panek: “One of the first things the students did is Mr. Brodsky told them the overall theme of what we were looking for, to see what the students came up with, and Mr. Brodsky, myself, and Mrs. [Oppedisano], came up with our ideas of who we thought would be good, so we kind of married both lists together.“
Brodsky: “We talked a lot about who would go on the murals, how they would be arranged, and the logistics of getting things done. It is a big undertaking and a pretty big disruption, so without her willingness, input, and hospitality, it would be a total failure of a project!“
When will the murals be finished?
Brodsky: “By the end of the year!”
Have you been thinking about any other art projects around the library or the school?
Panek: “It would be great if we could get things hung on the walls that represent a variety of our artwork from the students.”
Brodsky: “I have, but I am realizing now just how long these are taking to complete; from the concept, through the design process, and now the execution… So at this point, I just want to make sure these are done before we tackle anything else!”