A 40-foot wall at Sequoia Charter School is now intricately decorated with butterflies, cherry blossoms, praying mantises, a crane and a samurai.
The original mural was a 10-month project envisioned, designed and created by Saugus High School senior Angel Lima, who spent nearly every day of her summer out in the sun painting the mural.
“One of the biggest things I want is for it to be therapeutic for the students, I want it to be a resting place or maybe even inspire students to pursue art,” Lima said. “I want them to know that there were will be challenges and hardships but in the end they can overcome, that they can pursue what they want to pursue.”
The idea for the project began in October when Lima and Sequoia School Principal Brandi Davis met and discussed the needs of the charter school which serves a small population of students with special needs.
“She had told me the story of Sequoia High School and how all the money goes to services for the students because they have special needs and those needs to be met,” Lima said. “She was talking to me about a mural that would be needed and I said immediately, ‘I’ll do a mural!’”
As a member of Saugus High School’s Literary Magazine, Lima had painted large pieces on butcher paper and posters, but she had never painted a mural outside before. However, the 17-year-old knew she wanted to take on the challenge so she could give back to the community.
“What was the most beautiful about her contribution was that she did it out of the well-being and creativity of her heart to give back to the community,” Davis said. “It’s also a gift from a student to students in the Hart District.”
Designing the Mural
Lima’s only direction was to incorporate the school’s mascot, the samurai, in her piece; the rest was up to her.
“I was kind of in a creative slump because the idea was so vague and I had only been to the campus once to see the size of the wall and get the measurements,” Lima said.
But this slump ended when Lima saw one of her fellow students, who is half-Japanese, create a picture of a crane with a read sun in her AP Art Studio class.
“I thought I needed to look up the symbolism of that,” she said. “Then the idea and the message slowly started to develop for what I wanted to provide for these kids.”
For months, she created different types of sketches before drafting her final design that now appears on the Sequoia School wall.
Every element of the mural, from color to shape, has a larger meaning.
The seven butterflies represent joy and happiness, the cherry blossoms symbolize rebirth and new beginnings, the praying mantises mean peace and patience, the crane represents longevity, the red sun means good fortune and the samurai is the school’s mascot.
“I think the other thing that’s really cool is that Angel spent a significant amount of time researching. She encapsulated the historical 14th century reference of what a samurai looked like,” Davis said. “She really took into account her artistic talents and historical components and giving a message to students of hope and perseverance.”
The mural also includes the Bushido Code, which is both the mantra for the school and the seven principles samurai carried throughout their lives. These principles include integrity, bravery and courage, kindness and compassion, politeness, honesty, honor and loyalty.
“The Samurais were supposed to carry it throughout their training and as a code of honor for themselves,” Lima said.
Creating the Mural
Despite the heat or the sun, Lima spent up to 12 hours a day at the school painting the mural with a smile on her face.
“She literally put her talents into action. She had to utilize her communication skills, her collaboration skills… all of the things that adults that run a business do,” Davis said. “To see a student of that caliber was a phenomenal experience.”
When she knew she couldn’t finish the details of the mural alone, Lima enlisted the help of other Hart District students from Academy of the Canyons, Saugus High School, Valencia High School and West Ranch High School.
“I was overjoyed when the students from other schools were so willing to come here, take time out of their day and contribute to a school like Sequoia, a school they had never been to before or been exposed to before,” she said. “It was a good feeling to know I brought people together who might have never talked before.”
Davis said the mural has already positively impacted one of her students who started tearing up when she saw it completed.
“I want the students to come here and take pride in being a samurai and relish in the thought that it is a gift from a student to the students to build a community without walls,” Davis said.
The mural also created a space where all could feel welcomed and fostered a sense of togetherness between the Hart District schools.
“In my opinion, Angel is a highly-intelligent, creative individual who truly comprises the human spirit of giving,” Davis said. “She wanted to give back to the community and build community through artistry from student to student.”
On Twitter as @_ChristinaCox_