Patrick Robinson
A three story mural celebrating human rights and diversity at Denny International Middle School was initiated by Principal Jeff Clark and then brought to life by Vice Principal Patricia Rangel and many mural painters some of whom from left are Dahlia Perry, Elizabeth Byers, Hilary Nyberg, Becca Gross, Nate Sander, Amber Brown and Julia Coleman. CLICK THE PHOTO ABOVE TO SEE MORE OR SEE THE GALLERY BELOW THE STORY.

SLIDESHOW: Denny mural celebrates human rights and diversity

Denny International Middle School Principal Jeff Clark had an idea to paint a stairwell at the school in an inspirational way. But that simple suggestion to Assistant Principal Patricia Rangel got a process started that grew into a remarkable celebration of human rights and cultural diversity.

Due to be completed in the next few weeks three murals covering three stories of stairwell now comprise a series of images that include original designs, highly colorful decorative elements but more importantly portraits of people that are historic figures representing the strength of the human spirit.

Artist Nate Sander, who works for the Seattle School District in the School and Community Partnerships department did the primary layout and much of the core design work with help from those at the school. "An opportunity arose here to do a mural for the MLK Day of Service," said Sander, "We pulled together all the City Year corps members and worked with their Director of Impact and got all the teams with 55 of them and 50 volunteers working on the old Denny site on the bioswales." The volunteers also came in over the weekend and got the 'ladder work' done. Since then Sander and Rangel and City Year members worked to get the background elements up on the walls.

Using video projectors, stencils, donated house paint, magic markers, spray paint and more they painted flowers, leaves, butterflies, and more. "A lot of the layout work had to happen once we got in the space," said Sander.

He explained the theme behind the mural. "Denny is an international middle school so one of the things that is talked about and celebrated here a lot is the cultural and ethnic diversity of the student population and community. So we worked on cultural icons that are relevant to our students. So based on our largest groups we tried to find something that was representational."

On the second floor are the portraits of those icons and they include Malcom X, the Dalai Lama, Ghandi, Aung Sun Su Kyi (from Burma), Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Cesar Chavez, Larry Gossett, Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela and Amelia Earhart plus Chief Sealth, Bob Santos, Bernie Whitebear, Roberto Maestas, and Helen Keller.

Rangel said, "For me this is for the entire community. When I take people on tours I tell them everything including the paint on the walls is an intentional manifestation of the global perspective we bring to our curriculum. It's a mirror for all of us of who we want to be and what we represent. The sky blue at the top is meant to represent that our eighth graders are really ready to soar and are now prepared to leave us."

Clark added, "I'd like to add a note of extreme gratitude for all the people who have been part of this partnership for our kids and the community. I want to specifically thank Nate Sander and Patricia Rangel for their amazing leadership and vision. It started as a very simplistic idea in my mind and it has grown to something beautiful and expansive."

Surprisingly the mural was very low cost since Sander was able to secure donations from area businesses and had a lot of volunteer help.

The mural should be complete and unveiled within the next month.

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