• Food Pantry Gets a Makeover, Courtesy of McDaniel’s CTE Art Students

    We dare you to drive by the Mainspring Food Pantry on the corner of 82nd Avenue and Fremont and not do a double take. Or a triple take. 

    Students from McDaniel High School’s art-focused Career Technical Education (CTE) class have spent the last four weeks turning the exterior walls of the pantry into one, huge, joyful mural as part of the course’s exploration of climate justice and community engagement.

    This is the second year in a row McDaniel students have used their skills to beautify a neighborhood building, their first being the Buddhist zen temple, Dharma Rain. 

    According to McDaniel art teacher Clint Harpster, the good people at Mainspring heard about that mural and approached him about having their exterior painted by his talented students. Harpster was more than happy to oblige. He arranged for Mainspring representatives to come talk to his class about their hopes for the project. Students then submitted their vision for the mural and two winning drawings were selected as the mural’s guiding aesthetic.

    Deny Lopez Polino and Casey Coleman were the lead artists on the project. They worked to combine their visions and made preliminary mural mockups from a theme of colorful abundance as a way to honor Mainspring’s mission of providing the community with free clothing and healthy, nurturing food. Then they took feedback from their fellow students and refined their vision further, settling on a mural of fruits, vegetables, and nature scenes in beautiful complimentary colors.

    “Our vision for the art on the mural was very inspired by the community,” Lopez Polino said. “We wanted to represent the community aspect of Mainspring that it's a place that anyone can come to. It's a place where people can come and be welcomed regardless of differences.”

    All that was left was to get to work.

    “The students are really the stars,” said Harpster. “The lead artists have put together the imagery and they direct their different teams. It’s awesome! My goal each year is to get them to a point by the end where I can stand back and just give them guidance if they ask/really need it, which they rarely do by now.”

    Completing the mural wasn’t without its challenges. The students battled both heat and rain, but they kept going, inspired to honor Mainspring’s important work and bonding in surprising and really wonderful ways.

    “I have never worked on a mural project before,” Coleman said. “I was blown away by the community that was established between me and my classmates throughout this process. We were literally a community working for a larger community. It amazed me that my whole class was able to come together and create something so lovely for an important cause.”

    Harpster said both mural projects have been a win-win-win. 

    “It's honestly been such a fantastic chance to get my students invested in this art form that I absolutely adore,” Harpster said. “They get to really give something to the community, and are interacting with said community in a way that reflects the lessons and things we've practiced in the linked courses too!”

    Working on a mural has been particularly gratifying for both Lopez Polino and Coleman, who get to drive past their work every day.

    “The most important part to me is that the community enjoys it,” Lopez Polino said. “I love hearing all points of view. It tells me what I need to improve on.”

    Coleman agreed. 

    “Before working on this project, I had no idea how positive of an impact murals could have on a community,” she said. “Every day my class gets honks and people approaching us to express their gratitude. I am proud that I was able to participate in a project that made people happier to live in the area.”