Volunteers came together on Saturday to paint a new mural – a project that represents many things to students and teachers from Robert Bateman Secondary School and the community.
“It ties together nature and the people that we lost,” said Victoria MacMillan, a Grade 12 student involved in the project.
The large-scale mural on Laburnum Avenue by Palfy Park has been in the planning stages since 2011 and on Saturday the first phase of painting began.
Bateman fine arts teacher Sherry Dunn came up with the idea, thinking the Palfry Park wall would be the perfect place for a nature-themed mural that celebrated some of the school’s achievements.
The wall had an ongoing issue for the city and the Bateman Community Association due to graffiti. Dunn realized by working together with the community group, the mural project would be a success.
But then Dunn was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to hand off or delay much of the project as she regained her health. Jo Houghton, also a teacher at Bateman and a breast cancer survivor, took on much of the project in order to help Dunn.
While the project continued to move forward, at a slower pace, tragedy struck the school in December of 2011.
Bateman student Cheryl McCormack passed away after using ecstasy, and her classmates claimed the wall as their own.
“The kids used the wall as a memorial and when I saw that, I thought I really don’t want to be the person to paint over that,” said Dunn.
But then she had a new idea. Dunn knew that other students had been memorialized on the wall in the past.
“Why don’t we do a sanctioned memorial to all of the students we’ve lost?”
Dunn first spoke to the McCormack family and asked what they thought, and what Cheryl’s favourite animal was.
It was a deer.
The same questions were asked of the other families until Dunn had a list of animals and birds that would represent those who had passed.
In all, there are seven memorials (six students and one teacher) incorporated into the mural.
MacMillan said that some fellow students were initially hesitant of the project, because it was still used as a memorial, but now that has changed.
“It’s a way they are forever there and not forgotten.”
Mila Djordjevic, a Grade 12 student at RBSS and the student artist leader, has been involved in the project since the beginning and said that the adversity they overcame to complete the project has been an inspiration.
“What I hope people get out of it is to never give up… other communities can do something similar.”
Dunn said that “never give up” has become an unofficial motto for the wall. She was thrilled to see so many students and community members out helping to paint, saying that though the project is emotional for many people, it is positive to see it coming together.
“It’s connected the people and the community to a place.”
Another painting day will be scheduled to complete the project. For more information, visit www.theirwall.com.