Bringing Creativity to Our Walls: The Artistic Murals Across Minnetonka

Anna Geldert, Staff Writer

In the silo, a scientist mixes chemicals in a lab while a frog sits on a branch. On the staircase, a boat floats peacefully in a harbor. At Minnetonka, murals are a part of our lives from the moment we step foot in the building.

“I think public art in general is really important because it is accessible to everyone. Art that is in museums… it’s there for only certain people who find the time to go see it. Public art is a little more equitable,” says art teacher Melanie Mozingo.

Mozingo teaches Graphic and Product Design and Photography at MHS and was the adviser for National Art Honor Society for eight years. She also worked with students on murals in the commons and staircases, as well as some of the painted ceiling tiles in art and science rooms.

Over the years, students in art classes and clubs have collaborated to plan, design and create the many scenes that decorate the walls of Minnetonka High School. This process is very extensive and involves a unified effort from dedicated students, staff and administration.

“Students are able to propose a certain area that they wanted to work on, and we would have to get approval from Mr. Erickson,” explains Mozingo, “It is student-driven, more than anything.”

Sophia Sumners and Lily Thompson, both ‘19, are working on their own mural in Ms. Peterson’s biology room this year as part of a project for the IB Diploma Program. They will be working closely with members from National Art Honor Society to help bring their ideas to life.

“I’m really excited to see how it turns out,” says Sumners. “If everything goes as planned, one mural will depict a field of sunflowers, while the other will picture a luscious forest and trickling stream.”

The students also expressed some of their concerns going into the project.

“One of the paintings plays a lot with depth, which is something that is just hard to paint in general,” explains Thompson.

Neither Sumners nor Thompson takes art classes at school. They are hoping their friends in NAHS will be able to help them work out the more difficult elements of the murals.

The oldest mural is the one in the silo, which was painted in the ‘70s. This mural was accidentally painted over one summer by painters who were simply instructed to repaint the school, not knowing they were supposed to avoid this area. When students and staff returned in the fall, they were surprised and disappointed to realize the mural had disappeared, and decided to go through a long and complicated process to remove the paint and get it back. Clearly, the murals at MHS are a truly important part of the school’s culture.

“[The murals] beautify our school and communicate our values,” says Mozingo. She goes on to explain how many of the murals are water-themed, if not directly relating to Lake Minnetonka. “We try to show things that reflect our community,” she said.

School murals can also create a more friendly environment in classrooms. Sumners explains how she feels the murals around the school seem to “loosen the tension,” especially when they are painted in or around challenging classes. Thompson adds that the murals’ dynamic and creative aspect “really has an effect on learning.”

The murals at MHS are a unique expression of art and creativity for everyone who gets the opportunity to pass by them. For students that take part in making them, they are a creative outlet and an opportunity to leave a piece of their mark on the school in a unique way.

“Art reflects our lives, it reflects out individual stories,” says Mozingo. “I think the more stories we can tell about our experiences, the better.”