Darien High School students find beauty in cafeteria renovation
DARIEN — When construction began on the Darien High School cafeteria expansion project, and a partition wall went up blocking out the sunlight normally admitted through room-length floor-to-ceiling windows that look out over the school’s football field, art teacher Jaclyn Sammis got a surprising visit from Principal Ellen Dunn.
“She said, ‘I want to do something for our seniors on the wall because I feel bad that the last month-and-a-half or so of school they have this dark dreary cafeteria,’” Sammis remembered.
It was two weeks before April break, and Dunn had an idea to create a mural on the wall made up of pictures of all members of the 12th grade.
The details of the design was left up to Sammis’ Drawing and Painting III students.
“The first day when we just go that idea of the mural, everyone knew we wanted to do something with a wave in it. I drew an initial sketch on my chemistry homework,” said Shriya Desai, a 16-year-old sophomore, as she and her classmates worked on a Salvador Dali-inspired surrealistic painting assignment on Tuesday.
Desai came up with the design, a wave broken into a geometric pattern with shapes of different size and contour, and presented it to class the following day, where her peers embraced the idea.
A second student, 15-year-old sophomore Octavia Molkenthin, then took it upon herself to color and flesh out the design, using applications on a school-issued iPad she had recently received.
“A lot of ideas were thrown together in class. I was kind of just messing around and put together some of the things other people had said, and then put together what I had in my mind with color and everything,” Octavia.
“Technology being used in a drawing and painting class in a way that I’ve never seen before,” said Sammis.
Once the design was set, the class next had to agree on a color scheme for the many shapes within the wave, which required the students to work collaboratively.
“The kids have really strong opinions and didn’t agree with each other all the time,” said Sammis. “It was interesting watching them collaborating and working together.”
Eventually, after several days of deliberation, the class came to a consensus, opting for colors that include light purples, greens and blues, all of which evoke the ocean, and began the painting process, which they had only three days to complete.
Because of the time constraints, the relatively small space — Sammis estimated about 10 feet wide and 8 feet tall — the students had to work within, and the number of students, 12, involved, the application of paint proved difficult.
“When we got into painting the parts and different ideas of patterns going on, we didn’t necessarily know how to distribute everything,” said senior Marie Ostrand, 18. “We noticed certain things didn’t translate the way we thought they would. So we’d all take steps and re-evaluate before continuing again.”
The mural was completed the week before April break, with lettering over the top of the cresting wave that says, “Let the good waves roll..” a phrase chosen by the senior class.
While the students were home the following week, Sammis and administrators came in to hang headshots of the school’s 330 seniors, to whom the photos were a surprise. The mural will remain up in the cafeteria through the end of the school year.
“It was a nice opportunity for the school to reach out to our class directly and ask us to do something and work on a project altogether,” Ostrand said.
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