The Daniel Webster Middle School that students left on Friday had walls that were a dull shade of otter brown. Its walkways were lined with old, unused lockers.
The Daniel Webster Middle School they return to today will be dazzling--a work of art.
More than 250 volunteers spent Sunday painting 74 murals across the campus using sealed lockers as canvases. The event was sponsored by L.A. Works, which brought together volunteers of Christian, Muslim, Bahai, Jewish, Quaker and Sikh faiths to enliven the school in response to the Sept. 11 attacks.
"I can't wait to see those kids' faces when they get off the buses," Principal David Legacki said. "Their jaws are going to drop."
Plans for the mural project had been underway for more than a year, said Eric Roth, executive director for L.A. Works. But after Sept. 11, volunteers wanted to use the event to reinvigorate the community and bridge differences.
"We got flooded with e-mails and people asking, 'What can we do?' " Roth said. "People wanted to volunteer, and they looked to us on how they could pitch in, because they can't go to New York."
The volunteers from churches, mosques, fraternities and student organizations were divided into mixed teams and assigned sections to paint.
"We purposely split them up so everybody could enjoy getting to know people of different faiths," Roth said.
At 1:30, volunteers stopped working for a 20-minute interfaith service.
Mural Inspired by Trade Center
Penny Fitzgerald, a muralist and graphic designer who lives in Venice, helped design images to decorate the English and math buildings. She wanted her mural to depict peace, unity and hope. Her murals included a collage of religious symbols, a dove flying over the world as people held hands, and three firefighters raising a flag--inspired by a photo taken after the World Trade Center collapsed.
"These are images I wanted to [paint] before [the terrorist attacks] happened," she said. "I've always loved firemen. They've always been my heroes. Now they're the world's heroes."
On a different building, where English and history classes are held, muralist Todd Becraft directed volunteers to paint a Mexican revolutionary, Abraham Lincoln, the original American flag with stars in a circle, a cactus, California's state flower, the golden poppy, and a castle with the words: "To be or not to be."
"This day is remarkable," Becraft said. "There are so many murals. Normally, two [murals] is a big day. But this place will be so different, and they'll do it all in one day."
Legacki said he hopes the revitalized campus will raise students' spirits and help them take pride in their school, located near the intersection of the 10 and 405 freeways.
Rachel Flowers, 11, a sixth-grade student, helped paint a portrait of a Mexican revolutionary wearing a sombrero. She was thrilled to take part in the project because she loves to paint. More important, Flowers said she couldn't wait to see the finished masterpiece and her classmates' reactions.
"It will change their attitude because they'll understand we need to respect our school," Flowers said. "The colors will make our school beautiful."