About 60 people recently saw four key phrases rendered as murals representing the Gettysburg Area High School (GAHS) core.
The once bare and gray walls in the second-floor GAHS learning space are now bright and filled with four murals to inspire students.
Displayed at different angles, students can see their intricate designs using their school colors of maroon and white, along with creative inscriptions of “Be Here, Be Committed, Be Involved, and Be Kind.”
“It speaks to who we are,” said Rector Jeremy Lusk at the recent opening of the “Warrior Way” mural.
The goal of the project, which began in the summer of 2017, was to “build a more positive school culture,” says Kristy Caywood, deputy principal.
The high school administration worked with students to come up with “mantras,” which became part of the theme for “Warrior Way.”
As part of the collaboration, Caywood said they were removing older posters that were no longer relevant and putting quotes from current students on the walls.
Caywood worked with Julie Myers in the art department to find ways to brighten up the high school’s learning spaces, which were gray and almost “prison-like,” she said.
The administration teamed up with artist-in-residence Chris Lauer, director of Waldo’s & Company, on this project, which started as one mural and turned into four, Caywood said.
“I’m proud of the kids who had a hand in this,” Lauer said. “These look beautiful.”
Lauer said he’s done other murals in the past and was connected to Gettysburg Area School District (GASD) through his work at Waldo’s, a local nonprofit.
Founded by a small group of artists seeking space to create art and enjoy the community, Waldo’s & Company offers “inexpensive studios, community art resources, classrooms, an art gallery, a music venue, and a coffee/soda bar,” according to its website.
Lauer guided the design based on the phrases and colors given by the district, he said, noting that he met with students to work on the design elements. Lauer estimated that the design itself took him 40 to 50 hours.
“When you see them in this space, they’re both impressively large and appropriate at the same time,” Lauer said. “They did a really good job.”
Caywood also mentioned Stan Licharowicz, GAHS technology education teacher, who helped with advanced technology, a CNC machine, to make the designs sharper instead of paint streaks.
When the pandemic and high school construction slowed the project, Caywood said students from the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) stepped in to help with painting.
“This was a really inclusive project,” said Caywood.
GASD Superintendent Jason Perrin said the entire project has been “a great collaboration” between different high school groups, who have been executing this vision.
“It’s fantastic,” Perrin said.
Lieutenant Colonel (retired) Mike Athanasakis, JROTC instructor, said the students working on the project were freshmen at the time and are now juniors. For three semesters, the students “put in a lot of hours,” Athanasakis said.
“It’s pretty inspiring,” Athanasakis said. “These murals were just like these kids traveling.”
Juniors Ronan Bigham and Jaceb Dickerson, who are both in JROTC, were excited to be a part of the project.
“It basically paints the room and gives it life,” Bigham said.
Bigham recalled working on the murals was a lot of fun. Bigham recalled working on the “Be Kind” sign, specifically painting the letter “K.”
Dickerson said he helped with the “Be Committed” board, painting the intricate pieces like the smaller white dots. As a more detail-oriented person, Dickerson said he enjoyed doing the “tedious” part of the project.
The project was made possible through support from the Gettysburg Area Education Foundation, Robert C. Hoffman Charitable Endowment Trust, Adams County Arts Council, and Waldo’s & Company, including Lauer, according to Myers, a visual and media arts teacher.