In 1994 Arts & Communication High School was under construction. Hammers, saws, and pliers show up on the cover of the yearbook, and in a photo that could be a synecdoche for the year, the profoundly creative multi-faceted Mona Lisa just outside of the dance room in the main hallway is captured in progress, a work of art not quite done.
Art in progress was a reality at Arts & Communication in our school’s third year, just as it is with construction looming today.
Marisa Gonzalez was an eleventh grader that year, and one of three students to paint the film mural above room #104 in the front of the school. She and her friends Ian and Aaron “painted it as a project for Spanish class during our Junior year, with the promise to our teacher Susan McKinney we would be practicing our conversational Spanish while we were painting.”
Marisa recalled that “Susan was also my Ohana teacher that year. I remember how easy she was to talk to and coming to her with my ‘boy problems.’ That was probably one of the most refreshing things about the school, feeling like we were in a partnership with the teachers and that they valued our ideas. The teachers created the framework, but as students we were also able to help shape the school into what we wanted it to be. I think Tom Marsh had a lot to do with creating that culture of mutual respect between teachers and students. It was awesome to feel listened to by adults.”
That respect and connection between staff and students has been a defining trait of Arts & Communication since the beginning, and is still one of the realities valued by the adults and students who make up our school. Rooted in the caring work of our founding mothers and fathers, care and kindness are as important in our history as art and communication.
The 1994-1995 school year marked a turning point for Arts & Communication, with the graduating class the “last of the original test group” who opened the school. Those 78 seniors were a creative bunch, painting, writing, working with clay, making music, and making a difference.
…and sometimes making mischief. Marisa, that muralist, also served on the yearbook staff and recalled “Yearbook was also a blast. I remember working weekends where it was just the yearbook staff and our supervisor Deb Monnier at the school, doing layouts. Back in those days it was all done by hand, cutting and pasting everything into place. Deb let us play music over the PA system (usually the Violent Femmes), and on breaks we would push each other on rolly chairs down the long ramp in the hallway. Deb would always warn us to be careful, and we would jokingly say, ‘Okay, Mom.’”
But along with that laughter, and humming along to New Times some real learning, and long term skill building, sidled in alongside the silliness. Marisa added: “We loved our yearbook Mom and she taught us a lot. I’m now a graphic designer working on the yearbook that really helped give me a good foundation for my future career path. I had done yearbook in junior high, but there it felt more like the adults were in charge and we were just there to follow directions. With Deb, she let us take charge. It’s always nice as a teenager to have adults trust you. She even let us sneak a few ‘easter eggs’ into the yearbook. Our senior year, a couple of former students, Trevor and Mahlon, came by to visit. They had graduated the year before and were on the yearbook staff previously. Somehow we decided that it would be really funny if we snuck them into the yearbook. So we took their pictures and added them in among the actual seniors. I still giggle when I flip through my old 94/95 yearbook and see them in there.”
As the school evolved, becoming something more than a fledgling program, so too the building was remodeled to meet the growing needs of Arts & Communication. New science labs and a new stage sprang up on campus, the dust and wet paint a part of the school’s life throughout the year.
Even amidst this hammering and sawing, at Arts & Communication the spirit of creativity flourished. Students photographed their world, performed on stage and off, and produced a yearbook complete with silly photos.
Arts & Communication served as a place where those students in the silly photos became young adults, where they began to set the trajectory of their lives, lives as diverse and interesting as they were (and are) and colored by the imaginations fostered in classrooms on the evolving C.E. Mason campus.