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Muir Middle School Hall Of Heroes Unveiled

John Muir Middle School unveiled “Hall of Heroes,” a new series of murals painted by local artist Randall Williams, at a ceremony on Thursday afternoon, October 8. Fifteen notable figures from throughout the world have been painted in large portrait-style in the school’s 100 hallway.

“I wanted to make each person really come to life in the paintings,” Williams commented. “I’ve been an artist all of my life and with this project, I wanted to have the students look at them and say, ‘wow.’”

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

“My hope is that these kids research these figures and learn more about them,” he continued. “I want [the portraits] to speak to them beyond the images.”

The notable leaders portrayed in the mural were selected by the teachers and administrators, and each portrait includes a quote to inspire students.

The Muir Middle School Hall of Heroes includes:

  • Susan B. Anthony – Women’s Rights Activist
  • Cesar Chavez – Civil Rights Activist
  • Malala Yousafzai – Nobel Peace Prize Winner
  • Frida Kahlo – Painter
  • Helen Keller – Author/Political Activist
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. – Activist/humanitarian
  • Herman Melville – Novelist
  • Little Richard – Song Writer and Musician
  • Theodore Roosevelt – U.S. President
  • Aung San Suu Kyi – Burmese Politician
  • William Saroyan – Dramatist/Author
  • Elizabeth Cady Stanton – Women’s Rights Activist/Abolitionist
  • Harriet Tubman – Abolitionist
  • Elie Wiesel – Writer/Political Activist
  • John Muir – School Namesake and Naturalist/Author/Environmental Philosopher
(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Maha Bitar, ASB President, opened the program with the Pledge of Allegiance. The Muir Symphonic Band, led by Suzie Snell, performed the “Star Spangled Banner” and the Muir Imaginations choir, led by Lydia Lee, performed “This Land Is Your Land.”

Burbank High School twelfth-grader Brandon Kilham gave a presentation in the character of the school’s namesake, John Muir. A tribute to Little Richard, written by teachers Glen Jaffe and Steven Moos was performed by Jaffe, Moos, teacher Bill Esparza and eighth-grader Khalil Mansour.

The Muir Middle School Hall of Heroes was sponsored by Logix Federal Credit Union. The project took 11 weeks over the summer break to complete.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

“We’re proud to have both Logix Federal Credit Union and Randall Williams partner with us again to create these portraits of historical leaders,” Principal Greg Miller said. “Our students will have the opportunity to see these people who made a difference and some still continue to improve the world. We’ve already incorporated their stories into our classroom conversations.”

In 2014, Logix sponsored a 5,000 square-foot mural of Yosemite, Yosemite Valley, in the sixth-graders lunch area. This piece was one of many that Williams has completed for Burbank Unified Schools and the largest mural in the City of Burbank.


Yosemite Valley Art Installation Unveiled On John Muir Day

On California’s John Muir Day, April 21, John Muir Middle School held a celebration debuting the nearly-completed Yosemite Valley art installation painted by local artist Randall Williams with help from many of the school’s students.

Muir Principal Dr. Greg Miller spoke about the Muir’s history and work and his importance and lasting legacy for the state of California and the nation. The Muir Symphonic Band opened the ceremony with the national anthem and the school’s choir sang “America the Beautiful.”

(Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Former Muir Principal Bruce Osgood, BUSD’s Sharon Cuseo, BUSD Superintendent Dr. Jan Britz, Board of Education’s Larry Applebaum, BUSD’s Dr. Tom Kissinger, BUSD’s Emilio Urioste, Muir art teacher Fatima Morales, artist Randall Williams and Muir Principal Dr. Greg Miller (from left to right) (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Andrea Carpenter, Logix Credit Union’s Chief Administrative Officer, praised students who had a hand in the project, and the company’s hopes to “bring out potential in students like you with a paintbrush and a pen.”

The event was attended by many local city and school officials, Muir students and members of the community, including Board of Education members Larry Applebaum, Dave Kemp and Ted Bunch, Superintendent Dr. Jan Britz and BUSD officials Dr. Tom Kissinger, Sharon Cuseo, Emilio Urioste and Peggy Flynn. Councilmember Jess Talamantes, former Muir Principal Bruce Osgood and Burbank Arts For All Foundation Director of Development Trena Pitchford were also in the audience.

Artist Randall Williams smiles with Muir students at the Yosemite Valley art installation unveiling. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Artist Randall Williams smiles with Muir students at the “Yosemite Valley” art installation unveiling. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

“I always like working with kids,” said artist Randall Williams. “When you start the project, they’re not really sure what it’s going to be. This mural was so big, they couldn’t tell what was going to happen.”

“You have a really good chance to go inside their mind and show them something. You have their full attention,” Williams continued. “Creating this piece isn’t just about the finished artwork, but about the process.”

Students “learned that art takes time and it’s a process,” he added.

“I’d call this Yosemite Valley mural an educational installation,” Williams said. “You are in it and under it and next to it, and when it’s finished it will have three-dimensional aspects, too.”

(Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Muir Principal Dr. Greg Miller, Logix Credit Union’s Alethia Calagias and artist Randall Williams pose with a section of “Yosemite Valley.” (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Williams drew his inspiration for the Yosemite Valley art installation from Ansel Adams photographs of Yosemite National Park. Adams was, in turn, inspired to spend years making images of the natural beauty in the area after reading Muir’s descriptive writings about Yosemite.

“Today, we honor John Muir. He’s had a great effect on California and the nation,” Miller said at the ceremony. “He was one of the first people to realize nature is a treasure… and through his advocacy,  Yosemite, the Grand Canyon and other national parks were created after he met with President Theodore Roosevelt.”

“The splendor of the Yosemite Valley is in this painting in the sixth grade lunch area,” Miller added. He also talked to the attendees about Muir’s legacy in founding the Sierra Club.

“He is one of those people who have had a transformational effect on people and we can be proud our school is named for him,” continued Miller. “This mural is a tribute to him.”

Muir's Symphonic Band, with teacher Suzie Snell, readies their performance inside the "Yosemite Valley" art installation. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Muir’s Symphonic Band, with teacher Suzie Snell, readies their performance inside the “Yosemite Valley” art installation. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

While the initial cost of the mural, $5000, was funded in by Logix Credit Union and BAFA, the total is close to $7000. Additional funding was provided by Muir’s Associated Student Body (ASB) and some of the money the school received as payment for hosting filming on campus after school hours. Miller didn’t want cost to be a factor in the ultimate result.

“This is going to be here long after all of us are gone. So, I came to Randall and said: ‘Look, I don’t want time or money to keep you from knocking it out of the park. I don’t want people to look at this and think it’s a mural. I want them to look at this and think it’s a work of art,'” commented Miller. “So, we talked about what that would take.”

Miller, a former math teacher, measured the installation at over 5400 square feet. When finished, the artwork will incorporate three-dimensional elements throughout the installation. Acrylic paint was used for long-lasting hardiness on the concrete poured over 30 years ago.

Yosemite Valley mural is the largest mural in the Burbank Unified School District and quite possibly, the largest in the city of Burbank.

(Photo by Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by Ross A. Benson)

“Usually the lunch space was all gray and boring and dirty, ” said sixth-grader Kim Pape, who enjoyed watching the progression of the painting. “This is going to make it look a lot brighter.”

Another sixth-grader, Livia Nazari, who worked on the mural’s creation painting grays and blues for the mountains and sky, said, “It was really fun because you get to make your mark. Twenty-five years later, you can say, ‘Oh, I worked on that mural!'”

Haley Briggs, also in sixth-grade, thought watching Williams paint was awesome.

“It was really cool because when he was making the John Muir portrait he had a little picture of John Muir taped up next to the wall and he was listening to music and dancing and painting,” she explained.

All the girls agreed it will be a lot more fun to eat in the space, also called Osgood Pavillion in honor of former Principal Osgood.

(Photo by Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by Ross A. Benson)

“Randall is just so amazing to work with,” commented art teacher Fatima Morales. “He is so passionate and has a great vision for the mural.”

“The kids are so excited to work with him,” she added. “Every day, they ask me: ‘Is Randall here? Are we going to get to paint today?'”

“It’s just beautiful for our campus, ” Morales continued. “It’s a great experience for kids to work on a large scale art piece like that. They learn about proportions and depth of field. I love it!”

Once the Yosemite Valley art installation is complete, in the coming weeks, the sixth-graders’ round lunch tables will be moved back in and the students will reclaim their now-vibrant space.

Artist Randall Williams sits with his work in progress, the Ansel Adams-inspired "Yosemite Valley." (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Artist Randall Williams sits with his work in progress, the Ansel Adams-inspired “Yosemite Valley.” (Photo by Ross A. Benson)