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Draper Journal

Mural designed by students represents diversity in Draper community

Sep 07, 2023 02:55PM ● By Julie Slama

By July, Channing Hall students and artist Carrington Haley had made progress on the mural of the students’ perception of Draper community and their school. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

The concept was born with last year’s eighth-grade Channing Hall class, as students in the charter school’s international baccalaureate program saw “the larger world around them and wanted to be inclusive to everyone.”

Heather Fehrenbach, who is part of Channing Hall’s mural design committee, said the original thought stemmed from the diversity of students in the school.

“Channing Hall has seen a much-welcomed increase in international students enrolling in our school in recent years and we really wanted to make sure our families feel welcome,” she said.

Early in 2023, while the eighth-graders drew their ideas of the mural, Channing Hall administrators got the nod from both the Utah Department of Cultural and Community and Draper City’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee for the mural. IKEA partnered with the school, teaching students about design concepts and reaching out to local businesses to help support the project as well as brought in Carrington Haley as the artist to collaborate with the students’ design. 

The end project, a mural celebrating the cultural diversity of Draper and Channing Hall, will be unveiled on Sept. 29 at the school, 13515 S. 150 East.

“This mural is a gift to Draper and our greater community,” Fehrenbach said. “This mural represents unity and diversity. We honor those who come before us and celebrate the new rich and vibrant cultures that now make up our beautiful city. We feel a strong desire to create a place of joy and belonging not just for our students and families, but for our community.”

The mural has much symbolism representing much of the school’s student body. There are flowers, such as Protea, a South African flowering sugarbush, representing diversity; Lily of the Valley for equality; and bright flowering Cosmos for unity. Other plants represent different nationalities with at the mural’s center, the Tree of Life, which has come to symbolize the Draper community.  

The mural also includes the Bear Canyon Suspension Bridge, water and mountains, all painted in bright colors.

“We wanted it to be colorful and happy, and fit with an elementary and middle school,” Fehrenbach said.

Much took place before the actual painting began in June.

In April, six students were chosen for their original ideas and met IKEA’s interior design team. Kali Kaufusi, who now is a ninth grader at Alta High, was one of those students.

“We wanted our mural to be about diversity, communities and culture,” she said. “We met with IKEA and showed our drawings and explained the meaning behind them. A lot of us had the Tree of Life and mountains. I had the suspension bridge.”

IKEA Loyalty Manager Andrea Rivers said during several meetings as a group, they talked about what they liked about each drawing so they could hone in on what they really wanted. 

“We talked through composition and what the meanings behind those were; their stories of what they stood for was heartwarming,” she said. “I can’t tell you the number of times that people on the team, myself included, cried. The understanding those kids have about what it means to be included and their passion around diversity and community is just so inspiring.”

Through collaboration, the group narrowed down the key elements.

“We found multiple common themes,” Rivers said. “They really wanted a representation of the mountains because they felt the mountains were these great protectors and a couple of times they said it was like two hands coming together and holding them. They’re very passionate and wise when it comes to the explanation behind the art that they produced. They wanted to have the Draper tree and then around it, there is some water symbolizing the original tribes that were here. We coached them through what composition really means in art, and how visually, it’s important to tell a story. It’s also important to make sure that the person who’s seeing it gets to take what they want out of it. So, when the kids wanted to have all these flags for every country their student body is made up of, they understood that it would be a lot visually and it really will overpower the mural. They agreed flowers that are native to those places would be a good representation.”

Kaufusi appreciated the lesson in color selection from IKEA’s team.

“We learned about the colors and even how any company will have their own colors. We looked at all these colors and picked the ones that came together to create the look we wanted. It was an awesome experience,” she said.

Rivers said the design team pulled out a huge Pantone color swatch book and physically cut pieces of the swatches so the students could see them in their mural and decide what they really loved.

“The exercise was important for them to learn thought process behind it. They learned it’s not just picking random colors like blue or green or understanding, there’s not just one red, but 400 reds they can pick from. Through this process, they began to see what their mural would look like,” she said. “The intent was to create this learning experience for students that would allow them some coaching and mentoring from some design professionals to understand the process and have this opportunity.”

Kaufusi said it was amazing. 

“It’s just such a cool experience because I’ve been to IKEA with my family, but I’ve never been behind the scenes and I never knew what it took to design a mural,” she said.

Next the group shared the concept with the artist, Haley, who moved to Utah three years ago from Louisiana. She already has painted a mural in Provo and is working on a second one in that community.

“The kids shared their sketch and the meaning behind it. She took their ideas, made some tweaks based on her representation of what the drawing should look like, and turned them into something totally beautiful. That’s where the collaboration comes in. Everybody has a little piece of themselves in it,” Rivers said.

Haley said she knew certain elements, such as the mountains and symbolism for the school’s diversity, were to remain in the mural.

“As an artist, I stylized it,” she said. “I made sure to keep everything that they dreamed and imagined for it. They knew the whole time that an artist would interpret it, and they did a lot of extensive work with IKEA to make it the best possible sketch they could hand to me. I changed the colors some to make it work together and really pop.”

Kaufusi said she learned from Haley as well.

“She taught us what dedication goes into being a muralist and put what we said in her notes on her iPad. She really wanted it to represent what we wanted,” she said.

After school finished in June, Haley extending painting the bottom portion of the mural to the middle school students.

“The first day, I had them paint blocks of color instead of doing shapes right away. We knew this whole corner blob would be green so that’s what they painted. It was really to get them used to how much paint you need and how to hold it to prevent dripping everywhere,” she said. “The bottom part of the school wall is cinderblock so, I had to really pack in the priming for all the holes. I did all the edges on that because it’s a little tricky and as we’d go along, I’d shape a flower, and they’d fill it.”

Kaufusi joined her in those morning paint sessions along with about 15 other students.

“I got to paint some of the base colors. We also got to paint some of the flowers and water,” she said. “This experience has made me love the artistic side of the design.”

In early August, Haley was planning to finish the upper portion of the mural on a lift.  

Fehrenbach said the finished work will have a QR code next to it that will display information about the mural, its symbolism and the partnership.

Haley appreciated sharing her love of mural painting with the students.

“It’s a playground for an artist because you have some freedom and I really enjoy working on my feet, being outside. I learned a lot about the Draper community and this was extra special because we’re all working together. These students really love this school. They love their city. They have such pride and that’s really special,” she said. “It was great working with IKEA; Andrea is the glue of this project. She’s helped with getting supplies donated from Home Depot and Lowe’s. She’s a strong leader and communicator who has the kids’ interest at heart in this learning process.”

Rivers said that also is an IKEA value.

“We always say that children are the most important people in the world, so we treat them that way because we know they are the people who are going to drive the future,” she said. “This was a win-win, to be able to have our team be involved with the community and have the kids get to experience some coaching in design from professionals.”

Kaufusi, who was Channing Hall’s National Junior Honor Society president and a volleyball team member and who wants to study sports medicine in the future, said she learned many lessons from the project.

“I learned anybody can be an artist and can appreciate art. You can find beauty in anything,” she said. “Anybody can be a leader and we learned those skills first-hand from some role models we worked with, and collaborating with different people is important. It’s amazing when you can also put things together from different perspectives and share it with our entire community.” λ