The template for Mural Club’s Bisa Butler painting. Club members were assigned different tiles to paint individually and work on at home. Once finished, the individual sections will come together to form this mural. (Photo courtesy of Mia Hoyos)
The template for Mural Club’s Bisa Butler painting. Club members were assigned different tiles to paint individually and work on at home. Once finished, the individual sections will come together to form this mural.

Photo courtesy of Mia Hoyos

Mural Club continues creating despite the challenges

February 17, 2021

Like most York clubs and after school activities this year, Mural Club has taken a creative approach in order to adjust to the COVID-19 restrictions and safety guidelines. Whether it be by physically splitting up the work onto different canvases or meeting via Zoom, the club’s members have found ways to use those challenges to their advantage. 

The club, founded in 2002 by former ceramics teacher Mrs. Danowitz, designs and paints meaningful murals around the school’s classrooms and hallways. In 2011, when Danowitz left to pursue a new career, Renee Kuharchuk took over and became the club’s sponsor. Over the years, students in Mural Club have filled the school with their inspiring art and creativity. 

“I joined Mural Club in freshman year because I saw it as a place where you can be creative in your own way while still working toward a common goal with your peers,” the vice president of Mural Club, junior Mia Hoyos said. “The club has been around for a while, and we have some of our work in the hallways, mostly the atriums. You will probably recognize the K.I.N.D club mural that was painted a while back by the club as well as the Bob Ross mural that hung in the atrium as our Fine Arts Week Project. Currently, we’re working on decorating above the lockers in the Art Department with a mural by Bisa Butler.”

Bisa Butler is an African American artist from New Jersey. Born in 1973, Butler attended Howard University and began creating artwork celebrating Black life. Her pieces have been exhibited at several prominent locations such as the Smithsonian Museum of American History and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.

Club member and vice president, junior Mia Hoyos, paints her two designated canvases at home while on Zoom with other members of the club.
(Photo courtesy of Mia Hoyos)

“Bisa Butler is an artist that has recently been gaining some traction in the art world for her unique style of art,” Mural Club president, senior Catherine Chlystek said. “All of the pieces she does are made out of yarn that’s woven together to make an amazing realistic piece.”

As to why Mural Club chose to recreate a piece by Butler, club members like Chlystek have good reasoning pertaining to the current political climate and calls for racial justice. 

“We chose to make a mural out of one of her pieces to show our support for the BLM community because of what has been happening in our world lately and because she is a good representation of modern art,” Chlystek said. “We believe that by showing more culturally diverse artists, as opposed to just the classics like Picasso, we can help educate York students by making them curious and willing to learn. We want students to be able to see this mural in the hall and want to ask about what it is and who painted it.”

Members usually get together after school to work on their group projects, but this year, the restrictions placed on meeting in-person have hindered that activity. Producing group work without physically meeting can be hard, but the club has found ways around these obstacles. Just like the different fabrics and threads Butler has used in her weaving, Mural Club members act as parts of a whole as they individually paint designated sections of one large piece. 

“To continue the production of our murals during the pandemic and remote learning, we decided to split our large mural into sections, and each of us work independently on our section,” Hoyos said. “We still have our weekly meetings as a check in and collective work time, instead now they are via Zoom. Ms. Kuharchuk has made the transition pretty easy through her weekly supply pickups where we can get any extra paints or other supplies just as if we were in person.” 

Hoyos’ second canvas. One of many that will be pieced together to form the entire image.
(Photo courtesy of Mia Hoyos)

While Mural Club’s members are apart, they make sure to keep their great minds thinking alike by providing each other with updates and tips for their pieces, just as they would during a regular school year. 

“Working on a mural with others when you are not together definitely has its challenges, but we have found our way around many of the issues,” Hoyos said. “During our club meetings, we share our progress and techniques used on specific parts of the mural; this helps us create a unison piece even though we are not together.”

Though this past year has been as surreal as a Salvador Dali painting, members have persevered in order to bring light back to the walls of York, their true canvas. Expressing yourself during these times is as important as ever, and Mural Club is doing just that while simultaneously leaving an impact on York. 

“I love sponsoring Mural Club because being an artist myself, art is super important to me,” Kuharchuk said. “I love sharing my love of painting with my mural club students. I also love how students can ‘leave their mark’ on York by designing and developing murals, then actually painting them. It’s a hands on experience for sure.”

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