Overland Park & Leawood

December 10, 2013

Online petition expresses support for school’s murals

Blue Valley Northwest student works with principal in effort to make change

It’s been said a picture is worth a thousand words. In the case of student-painted murals at Blue Valley Northwest, those images are worth more than 500 signatures on a petition to save them from disappearing.

Junior Erin Lazarus recently launched a petition drive on Change.org after learning that the administration planned to paint over murals that grace nine hallways at the school. The murals first went up in 2005 when Principal Amy Murphy arrived at the school. Since then, a number of students from the Painting I and II classes have created the vivid murals.

“We believe if we can bring enough publicity to this topic and prove just how many students, family, neighbors, and alumni are outraged by this decision, that we may be able to persuade our administration to change their minds, and hopefully keep our artwork on the walls of our school,” wrote Lazarus as part of her online petition. “This is a reminder that this petition serves no purpose other than simply raising awareness of the issue. I have zero intention of using this as an ‘attack’ on the school, administrators, or anybody else involved.”

In an interview, Murphy said there are a couple of reasons for making changes to the murals.

“We’re to the point of getting too full,” Murphy said. “We’ve got such talented kids here and you got to show your work off if you were a painter, so what about the photography kids? So instead of putting work on the walls, we’re putting framed pieces on the walls and on canvas we will hang on the walls. … We want to make it so there are more things we can display.”

Last summer, a few of the murals were painted over, Murphy said.

“I don’t think the kids even noticed,” she said. “I think the kids have the wrong idea that we want to get rid of art. … This will be a three- to five-year project going hall by hall. … There are a few paintings that we may leave.”

Before painting begins in January, Murphy said, photos would be taken of the murals “so we have a record of what’s here.”

She and the art department will survey the murals this week to determine which will be taken down over the next four years. Paintings won’t be taken down while the artist is still at the school.

Murphy said she had met with a few students and alumni concerned about the murals.

“With the exception of one or two kids, when I’ve talked to them, they get it,” the principal said. “For some of the kids, they can’t envision it, (but) once they see it, they’ll understand it.”

Erin was one of the students Murphy met with. The two discussed the murals late last week.

“We were able to come to an agreement about what will be done with the murals,” Erin said. “With the exception of a few, which have been discovered to have copyright issues/inappropriate meanings, a number of the murals are here to stay — thanks to the petition. This never would’ve been possible without the help of my peers who all did their part to help the cause.”

Erin is glad she organized the petition.

“I do believe my efforts were impactful,” she said. “I feel as if my goal — to raise awareness about the murals — was indeed successful. We reached a total of 545 signatures — that is pretty incredible if you ask me.”

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