Making a Difference: Mt. Horeb students create art & awareness with mental wellness mural

Published: Apr. 5, 2018 at 9:15 PM CDT
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When a student took their own life last fall at Mt. Horeb High School, it of course came as a terrible shock to classmates. Three of those classmates had an idea: Use art to shine a light on mental health, to let other students who might be struggling know they are not alone...and that there is hope.

As she painted a large, colorful mural, senior Kristen Koenig said, "After we had that mental health crisis at our school, everyone was so upset. It was like one of the worst things to ever happen to people. So, me and some of my friends were thinking, what is something that could actually bring a change to school and force people to talk about this? It is an issue and it is an issue very close to us."

They believed creating art could create awareness of mental health at their school...and in the community beyond. Fellow senior Lexi Ricci said, "It kind of sparked me, and Kristen, and Taylor Roys to think about what we can do to bring light to bring awareness, and also to help others while we're doing it. There are so many people who are suffering in silence with mental health disorders."

The three seniors approached their art teachers with the idea of painting a huge "mental wellness mural" that would hang on the school's wall. The week before spring break, they teamed up with Dane Arts Mural Arts and more than 1,000 fellow students and community members to bring it to life. Koenig said, "There's been a lot of people being able to touch this mural and put something personal into it."

Roys added, "That's part of our goal with the mural is to help people open up with what they're going through: That they're not alone, and that they're totally welcome to share their stories, which is very much part of the healing process."

The mural will feature uplifting quotes, and It will remind them there's always hope. They are placed on a painted jungle background. Koenig described the design. "You can see this is going to be a pathway, which is leading out of a darker spot...kind of to represent darker times in life and leading into this, which is going to be sun shining through the trees into a brighter place."

The light from a canvas created by classmates, bringing light to life. Ricci said, "There's hundreds, and hundreds, and hundreds of different kids who have put in work to this mural...who are passionate about this. If people can see it and know, like wow, all of these people care, I just feel like that can hopefully help somebody in some way."

The mural will hang in eight separate panels around the school, until school construction is done. They'll be combined into one large mural that will then hang in the new school commons area.

If you'd like to donate to the project, they're still raising money. You can send a check to the Mt. Horeb Area School District.

(We heard about this story thanks to Dana Showers, an art teacher at the school. If you know of someone, or an organization making a difference, you'll find the nomination form, by clicking on the link attached to this story).