Life beyond Covid: New mural at Ukiah High School honors the past, looks to the future
Article by Justine Frederiksen for Ukiah Daily Journel | firstname.lastname@example.org | Full UDJ Article
The newest mural at Ukiah High School shows a young woman dropping a mask to blow on a dandelion, symbolizing the hopeful return to a world where simply exhaling in public no longer feels subversive and anti-social.
“We wanted it to be something that anyone years from now could appreciate, but also put in enough subtle details that anyone who lived through the Covid-era could recognize,” said artist Danza Davis, who began the process by meeting with a small group of students from the school’s Campus Culture class. “And they wanted three things: to honor the lives lost, to showcase the vaccine, and to convey hope” for life beyond the pandemic.
After their brainstorming sessions, Davis presented some ideas and the mural quickly came to life. The main image is an outline of a young woman, drawn in purple because purple and gold are the school’s colors. The woman is dropping a mask and blowing out a dandelion puff as “one of the countless activities quintessential to childhood that became seemingly reckless in the time of Covid,” Davis wrote in her project description.
Floating behind the woman are Covid-19 viruses, while floating in front are the dandelion seeds, symbolizing that the pandemic has loosened its grip on our daily lives. In the background is a graph representing the millions of people who died from Covid, and the graph grows shorter and shorter until it reaches the syringe-shaped shadow behind one of the floating dandelion seeds.
“The syringe represents the vaccine, and the hopeful end to the pandemic,” said Davis, explaining that the students wanted to include the vaccine, but in a subtle way. “Anyone who lived through the Covid-era will recognize the virus shape, know why she has a mask, and why there would be a syringe. But we didn’t want the images to be too ‘on-the-nose,’ like some others that feature very prominent syringes.”
Davis said the flowers depicted are “the Mexican marigold, in recognition of the disproportionate number of people affected in our Latino community, and a white California rose, a rose native to Mendocino County as a reference to the tradition of white roses at funerals.”
‘We should do a mural’
Teacher Chris Douthit, who is also the campus librarian, said when the school began offering limited in-person instruction again in the spring of 2021, only two of his Campus Culture students returned to the classroom.
“So when I asked them what they wanted to do, Ruby (Vargas) said, ‘We should do a mural,’” Douthit recalled, explaining that when he took the idea to school administrators, they suggested he find an artist to work with. Alyssum Wier, executive director of the Mendocino County Arts Council, then put him in touch with Danza Davis, who has worked with local teens on other projects, including a mural at Juvenile Hall on Low Gap Road.
Douthit said Davis then met with the students to hear their ideas, which he said was for a mural that was “elegant and honored the profundity of the situation, but that was also hopeful.”
When Davis came back with her suggestions for the mural, Douthit said he was impressed by the “synergy” of their collaboration, and “very grateful that the administration suggested that we work with an artist.”
The mural was funded by a grant from GASP: Get Arts in Schools Program, in collaboration with the Arts Council of Mendocino County. The students who worked on it with Davis include Vargas, Isabella Marino, Kelly McCormick and Ivy Wheeler.