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Country Day and Hidden Valley Elementary School Students Collaborate to Beautify Campus with Colorful Murals.

By Dwayne Wilson, Middle School Art Teacher

Finished green and gold mural with eagle in center

In early November 2023, 10 of Country Day’s National Junior Honor Society (NJHS) members and 20+ students from Hidden Valley Elementary School (HVES), collaborated to beautify their campus by creating large, colorful murals at their school.

The purposes of the collaboration were to:

  • Utilize art as a vessel to bridge the gap between schools from two different socioeconomic environments,
  • Provide leadership opportunities for all students through creative processes, and
  • Create an opportunity for students to explore their artistic abilities and curiosities. 

The student participants included Katherine Dunham, Anna Grace Frenzel, Brady Heintschel, Gavyn Jones, Clay Morris, Baylor Murr, Chloe Parsons, Reese Pham, Anoushka Vishwanathan, Jackson Wilkerson, and Cole Zouzoulas.

The neighborhood of Hidden Valley is located on the north side of Charlotte, near Sugar Creek Road and Interstate 85 North. It was initially built in the early 1960s, as a predominantly middle-class white residents’ suburban area. In the late 1960s, middle class black families seeking better housing began to move into the neighborhood and it has remained a stable and thriving enclave for mostly middle-class black families ever since. Hidden Valley is a rapidly changing neighborhood, whose population is mainly African-American and Hispanic/Latino. When the elementary school opened in the 1960s, it had a population of less than 200, of which 99 percent of students were white. Today, the school has a population of more than 900 students, of which 99 percent are students of color, and 60 percent are bilingual.

When the assistant principal at HVES, Kaz Muhammad, and his team, helped spread the word in their neighborhood that an opportunity to explore art was coming to their campus, the excitement was challenging to contain. These young artists committed to an entire Saturday morning, 8 am-noon, to make this project happen! They confidently conveyed their love for art, explored their lingering curiosities, and even demonstrated leadership qualities throughout the collaboration, as did our students. 

children painting a mural

The primary mural was created in the exterior, domed entrance of the school. It entailed a 14ft circle of the school's initials (HV) using green, white, black, and yellow. The remaining murals were inside and included larger-than-life crayons and jungle animals. Amongst the many 8th-grade Country Day students in attendance, Katherine Dunham and Reese Pham dove right in with a small group of first graders to assist with the crayon mural, while Cole Zouzoulas and his second-grade companion, approached the main mural near the front entrance. 

The students enjoyed the experience and felt confident because there was no focus on requisite skills. We wanted all students to come out and have fun, without any worries or concerns over artistic talents and skills. We hope this collaboration will continue to grow, with a new round of students, as Hidden Valley looks forward to offering more mural opportunities in the near future.

Click here to see a time lapse of the mural creation.