Students, staff and families will be greeted with an amazing new piece of artwork when entering Fridley High School this school year. A mural, representing the diversity of the school’s student body now welcomes all people entering the main entrance. The mural also references the International Baccalaureate Learner Profile characteristics which include: Inquirers, Knowledgeable, Thinkers, Communicators, Principled, Open-minded, Caring, Risk-takers, Balanced and Reflective.
Principal Patty Hand saw an opportunity to revamp the front hallway and intentionally sought out Christopheraaron Deanes, the district’s culture and climate coordinator, to create an original mural for the space. Deanes, who is a visual artist and program director of the Roho Collective, partnered with St. Paul visual artist Ricardo Dominguez and local public and gallery artist Christopher E. Harrison on the artwork.
Creating murals in educational settings is not new to Deanes, but this mural is special to him because it’s the first one he’s painted in a school where he is currently employed. His goal for the piece was to not only show diverse bodies, but diversity in language and cultures.
“It’s important to not only see students that look like them, but to see students that don’t look like them as well,” Deanes said. “I can appreciate the breadth of that level of diversity. As a country, we’ve gone beyond diversity into equity and inclusion, but forgot about diversity.”
Deanes started collaborating with Dominguez after noting how Dominguez’s work mirrored his own, and decided to bring him in to help complete the mural. Dominguez, who is a member of the Roho Collective and Art From The Inside, noted that this is his first public artwork. Deanes said the artwork celebrates their own cultures and bridges the gaps with others as well.
“My whole goal [as an artist] is to engage community and find critical ways to open up conversations about who we are,” Deanes says. “A lot of things in our lexicon as a culture and country right now place us squarely in the division category. My work is all about trying to unite us and trying to find those commonalities.”
Deanes is thankful to Superintendent Hiel, Principal Hand and Assistant Principal Zarlee for their support, input and enthusiasm which helped to bring the mural to life. Deanes is excited for students to interact with the mural, take photos in front of it and feel good to be a part of it.