A colorful mural, 30 feet wide and 10 feet high, now greets students at Elsie Allen High School as they walk to class.
It represents the namesake of their school, Elsie Allen, a Pomo woman who championed education.
The mural, painted by students, shows Allen weaving a basket under a tree filled with colorful flags.
It recognizes and honors not only Allen, but also the diverse cultures of the school and the talent and dedication of its students, said Kathryn Loomis, a former art teacher who spoke to students, teachers and to the organizers at an unveiling ceremony on Monday.
Director Gabe Albavera said it was the first large mural on campus and a step in the effort to beautify the campus to highlight “creativity, commitment, passion, the talent of our students “.
It is also one of the few wall paintings in southern Santa Rosa depicting people of color.
“Our school is predominantly Latinx, but we also have students from all parts of the world,” Albavera said. “Being able to see a woman of color on our wall honored in this way has a huge impact. “
Elsie Allen High’s student body is 91% students of color, and 73% come from low-income families.
Seeing the community come together to honor these students on Monday, “I get emotional,” he said.
Four students spent time over the summer painting parts of the mural as part of an apprenticeship with Artstart, a Santa Rosa-based nonprofit that provides advice to art students in Sonoma County and organizes public art projects.
Kimberly Escoto, 17, a senior, was one of the apprentices and helped paint Elsie Allen herself.
“I loved it,” Escoto said. “It was really inspiring for the students, to have all of our cultures represented on this mural, to get all of us together from all these different groups and to work together.”
For her, working with ArtsFtart also had a personal impact.
“In my family, art was never seen as something you could make a career of,” Escoto said. “Being part of this fresco and seeing everything come together really marked me. “
The mural began in the spring of 2020 when 25 black boxes the size of a shoebox were sent to 25 students at Elsie Allen High School. Each box contained a rectangular piece of wall fabric with a flag motif, brushes, paints, a water tank, and a paint palette.
These materials would be used to paint 25 vibrant flags representing different nationalities and identities such as the Dominican Republic, LGBTQIA, Pomo tribal nations, Mexico and more. In the mural, the flags are all hanging from an oak tree that overlooks Allen who weaves alongside a wolf, or Lobo, who is their school’s mascot.
The mural was completed in September under the direction of lead artist and designer Hannah Day and was funded by donations from the Elsie Allen High School Foundation, 100-Redwood Circle, and the City of Santa Community Advisory Board. Rosa.
A former student, Rose Hammock, a member of the listed Round Valley Indian tribe of Pomo, Wailacki and Maidu descent, addressed the audience at the unveiling. She is a member of Pomo Project, an organization that offers workshops and cultural teachings.
“As a student here, a lot of people looked at me strangely when I said I was Pomo, because they didn’t know what it was,” Hammock told the crowd. “Being able to have art like this is a great opportunity to tell our story as Indigenous and Indigenous people. “