Students' mural illustrates unity

For the past four months, more than 100 Allan F. Daily High School students have put their culturally diverse heads together to create a mural that aims to find commonalities among their innumerable differences.

Much like the entire Glendale Unified School District, the students at Daily — an alternative high school that caters largely to struggling students in need of a second chance — come from a virtual kaleidoscope of varying cultural and ethnic backgrounds.

Their sometimes stark differences, however, made them a perfect group to work on a special mural project commissioned by the Glendale Sunrise Rotary club, which set out about a year ago to bridge inter-cultural gaps at the root of historic tensions in the city, said Salvation Army Capt. Jim Sloan, who is also president of the Rotary club.

Those tensions, Sloan said, were “evident and obvious to everybody but we didn't want to talk about it much.”

Speaking before a crowd of more than 100 rotary club members, civic and education leaders on Good Friday at what he hoped was the first of many community unity breakfasts to come, Sloan asked the question that the ongoing effort seeks to answer:

“How do we get our cultures to come together?” he asked. “We have so much in common and we have to celebrate that.”

The rotary club assembled its Unity Committee, led by Zaven Kazazian and is charged with directing community projects that celebrate diversity and promote unity, and its first project was to commission a student-made unity mural.

Enter Emily Goff's art students at Daily High School: 12 particular creative and dedicated students comprised a core group that, with guidance from professional muralist Roger Dolin, designed the 54-foot-long mural.

Students spent an entire week of class discussing their personal family stories and musing on what unity meant to them, Goff said.

The brainstorming sessions ultimately gave birth to a 54-foot-long project, a portion of which was unveiled at the unity breakfast on Friday.

Once the design was finalized, students helped bring it life by working individually on 12-inch panels that have since been assembled according to a complex grid that Dolin created.

The almost final product — its not scheduled to be done until April 28, when it will go on display at the Glendale Central Library — depicts a group of children beside the Alex Theatre, the frontal portrait of a Glendale Firefighter and students navigating the campus of Glendale Community College.

Viewed from a distance, the figures and landscape flow seamlessly.

But seen up close, borders of the individual panels are slightly askew as if a testament to the different personalities and interpretations of diverse minds working as one, Daily High Principle Sherry Stockhamer said.

The unity breakfast and mural project marked an opportunity for a community often perceived to be at odds over distinctly ethnic lines to celebrate cultural commonalities instead of tangling over differences, said Assemblyman Paul Krekorian, who gave a keynote address on Friday.

“Every element of American history can be tracked by this question: How do we come together? .?.?.?.?Every time one of us?.?.?.?points a finger at one another in the community we have to ask ourselves, are we doing justice to this American legacy that we've been left,” he said.


?RYAN VAILLANCOURT covers business, politics and the foothills. He may be reached at (818) 637-3215 or by e-mail at ryan.vaillancourt@latimes.com.

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