Painting Cross Keys

Cross Keys High School hosts the final mural of the Living Walls and We Love Buhi project, representing the immigrants of Buford Highway through public art, that the Legend covered in October 2017. Local artist Yoyo Ferro designed the mural using material from student engagement sessions at the school in August. Working with wife, Cross Keys teacher, and Lakeside alumnus Kristin Ferro, the two got approval for the mural and support from the CK community in completing the project.

New Heights: In the second weekend of work, Yoyo Ferro and Living Walls project manager Kristin Consuegra use a lift to paint horizontal along the wall.

Photo by: Hope Davis

The idea to paint on the school came from a student in Kristin’s art class. Kristin asked where students had seen walls in the area to use for the mural, not thinking of their own building as a possibility. “I thought ‘haha they’ll never let us do that,’ but then I thought, ‘wait a second; let’s just ask permission,’” said Kristin. The Ferros went through a chain of seeking approval for the project from the CK students, principal, Regional Superintendent, Dekalb County School District Chief of Operations, DCSD superintendent, and the board of education. The project’s bottom line exceeded $5000, meaning it had to be approved by the Board of Education. The Cross Keys High School Council presented the project to the board as an artwork donation from Yoyo Ferro and Living Walls valued at roughly $20,000. Living Walls, through contributions from donors, provided full funding for the project as well as extra paint for future touch ups.

Coming Home: Cross Keys alumni Adela Lopez studies art education at Georgia State and plans to return to CK to teach. “I’m most proud of the staff here because everyone looks out for their students,” said Lopez, “especially in this political climate.”

Photo by: Hope Davis

The Ferros held student engagement days in August as a part of the Living Walls process, involving the roughly 90 students in the CK art program. For the first day, Yoyo spoke to students about his background and how he found his style of art. On the second day they provided students with tracing paper and photos of Martin Luther King to trace in order to train the eye to the contours of the face. Students then completed blind contour drawings by drawing a partner’s face without looking at the paper. “The lesson was about not being too serious,” said Kristin, “and it made the students talk to each other because they didn’t really know each other.” Yoyo used the blind contour portraits in the final mural design by incorporating lines from the students’ work to form the bold lines that make up the abstract design of the murals.

Over two weekends in January, after the Board approved the project in December, roughly 30 Cross Keys students, staff, and alumni came out to help paint the mural. “They’re not just helping out, they’re really doing it [painting],” said Yoyo, “Nobody knows how good these kids are and how engaged they are.” People enjoyed doughnuts, took turns playing music from their phones, and Kristin took individual portraits of everyone who came through the first week.

The Finished Product: The contrasting colors and patterns of the mural represent the diversity of Cross Keys.

Photo courtesy of: Kristin Ferro

“This is not what you expect when you see a mural on the side of a school,” said Cross Keys U.S. History teacher Rebecca Carter, referring to the piece’s abstract design. The mural aims to celebrate the diversity and spirit of the school without being literal or on the nose. “I’ve never been to a school this connected as here,” said CK senior Tyler Batts-Lutterbach, “we had a rally for DACA and like everyone came.” The mural represents an opportunity for Cross Keys to project their own image. “We have a lot of stuff to help students who might not be used to public school in America,” said Carter, “We want to help kids get acclimated because we have such a big immigrant population.”

In it Together: The figures in the sky of the mural symbolize the ideas of working together and that “the sky is the limit when you work hard.”

Photo courtesy of: Kristin Ferro

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