Students, museum collaborate on mural as positive response to gun violence, racial profiling

The students also chose the 8-by-9-foot mural's location at the YMCA — high on the wall of the gymnasium.

The students also chose the 8-by-9-foot mural's location at the YMCA — high on the wall of the gymnasium.

Photos courtesy of National Ornamental Metal Museum
Whitehaven High School students designed and crafted a mural, with the help of the National Ornamental Metal Museum, for the Davis YMCA. It includes more than 200 copper tiles. The mural will be dedicated on Friday.

Photos courtesy of National Ornamental Metal Museum Whitehaven High School students designed and crafted a mural, with the help of the National Ornamental Metal Museum, for the Davis YMCA. It includes more than 200 copper tiles. The mural will be dedicated on Friday.

To contradict the adage, too many cooks do not always spoil the broth. Sometimes it takes extensive cooperation to accomplish something significant, an example being "Reaching for Equality," a mural that's the result of collaboration among the National Ornamental Metal Museum, ArtsMemphis, Whitehaven High School and the Davis YMCA.

The 8-by-9-foot copper piece was designed and executed by WHS students and consists of more than 200 copper tiles in grid form that reveal one image. The theme of the work, appropriate to America's current cultural climate, is the causes, effects and solutions to gun violence and racial profiling, as interpreted in the artistic vision of the students.

The mural, which hangs high on a wall of the gymnasium, will be dedicated in a public ceremony Friday from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at the Davis YMCA at 4727 Elvis Presley Blvd.

The Metal Museum received a $15,000-grant from ArtsMemphis for the project. The remainder of the $23,000 cost was made up by in-kind donations and general operating funds, said director Carissa Hussong.

"The students made all the decisions," Hussong said, "not only about the theme of the mural but where to it should be located, high on the wall so it can be seen easily."

Not that the whole process was easy.

"It was hard," said Holly Fisher, the museum's project manager and the hands-on coordinator for the six-week-long process, "especially in the discussion period talking about violence and guns and racial profiling. I started by asking the students what was wrong with the world, what were the social ills, and we went on from there. It took a while for them all to be able to agree on a similar point of view, but all of them had been affected in some way by profiling, themselves or their families or friends."

Also difficult was overcoming the idea that art is a solitary pursuit.

"The students had to learn to cooperate and work together. That was the most challenging part of the process," said Fisher, "that so many students had to come up with one design for a single work of art."

In the end, however, "art made it possible to have this conversation, and art made it possible to have a positive response."

The mural is dedicated to Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old African American shot and killed by George Zimmerman in Sanford, Fla., on Feb. 26, 2012. The incident became a flash-point for issues about guns, racial profiling and Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law. The piece's central image represents a profile of Martin that replaces the noted profile of Abraham Lincoln. The phrase "In God We Trust" has been replaced by the mural's title, "Reaching for Equality."

Dedication of "Reach for Equality"

Friday, 4 to 5:30 p.m., at the Davis YMCA, 4727 Elvis Presley Blvd. Call 901-398-2366.

© 2013 Go Memphis. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Comments » 0

Be the first to post a comment!

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.