Students splash life into English wing


Credit: Joyce Wu

Pictured above is the mural in the English wing. Seniors Amelia Ao and Yana Lipnesh designed this mural as a part of a school-wide competition. “Our design tries to encompass and balance themes of both childhood and adulthood, dreams and reality, freedom and hope for a greater future,” Ao and Lipnesh wrote in their write-up.

Joyce Wu

WHS has gone through numerous renovations in the past year, adding on a new turf, new softball field and new start times, all of which were heavily anticipated by the student body last year. However, this year, when walking to their English class, instead of seeing the plain beige wall, students were met with a vibrant mural.

This summer, seniors Amelia Ao and Yana Lipnesh made frequent visits to the high school to design, measure and paint this mural.

“It took us two to three times a week, every week of the summer, from two p.m. to ten p.m. every time,” Ao said. “Sometimes I went alone, and sometimes [Lipnesh] went alone. The last day we stayed until one in the morning, trying to finish on time.”

As part of the National Art Honor Society, Ao and Lipnesh were introduced to this school-wide contest to paint the walls of the English wing by art teachers Ms. O’Connell and Ms. Latimer. Ao and Lipnesh entered their design, and found out they were chosen about a month later.

“I’ve been doing art my whole life,” Ao said. “This competition was really special to me because my favorite part of art is bringing it to others, and this was just a really great opportunity to spread art throughout our community.”

Contestants were told to choose one quote from a selection of quotes, all from classic American literature, and design a piece of art that embodied the quote. The quote Ao and Lipnesh chose was from The Catcher in the Rye.

“Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all,” the quote says. “Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around, nobody big, I mean—except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff—I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going. I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I’d do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be.”

“We chose [this quote] because it was our favorite book our freshman year,” Lipnesh said. “We thought it would really inspire the students, as it is a quote that captures innocence and hope for a better future.”

Along with providing an art design, contestants were asked to provide a write-up to describing the design and how it connects to the quote chosen.

“The city, which was inspired by the cover of The Great Gatsby, is a representation of our society–a place in which the darker truths are often hidden amongst the bright lights and shining colors,” Ao and Lipnesh wrote in their write-up. “Holden, who is shown wearing his iconic red hunting cap, is hidden in the shadows, but he watches over the running children like a guardian angel. In the context of a school mural, we thought this could also represent the relationship between teachers and students and the caring, mentorial role that teachers play in their students’ lives. In the illustration, the children run along the cliff, and as they near the edge, they metamorphose into stars and float up into the night sky – a symbolic representation of being “caught.” Though Holden interpreted being “caught” from falling off the cliff as remaining an innocent child, we decided that this would actually symbolize the path towards growing up and reaching one’s potential without falling into the pitfalls of corruption that so often mark the pillars of adulthood: a transition of dreaming ahead towards the future while still remembering your childhood and everything that makes you who you are.”

Moving forward, the English teachers would like to continue the tradition of painting the walls of the wing, most likely holding a contest annually. But for now, the students and faculty of WHS are able to see Ao and Lipnesh’s work on the walls between B112 and B110.

“People seem to like it,” Ao said. “I feel like people always just walk through high school and then graduate, but this was kinda just my way of remembering everything we’d done. I feel very proud of the work we did, and I really feel like we are leaving a legacy.”

For more information, follow Ao and Lipnesh’s work behind the mural through their blog.