“By the end, the mural wasn’t just about a kid who had died but an expression of the whole school’s culture.”
In 2011, on the second to last day of school, ninth grader Sean Fuchs and his younger brother Kyle were killed in a horrific murder-suicide. The next day, one of his friends asked Patrick Yurick, their art teacher, if they could create a mural in his honor. Thus began the Imagine Mural, which turned into a year-long project that every student and staff member at the school had a hand in.
Sean had been a part of Patrick’s afterschool Graphic Novel Project. Over the following summer, the Graphic Novel Project students met frequently to plan the mural. A fund had been set up to honor Sean and his brother, and their mother contributed funds to help pay for the mural.
This project was featured in the 2021 book Changing the Subject: Twenty Years of Projects from High Tech High. You can learn more about the book and the projects within by visiting the official website.
The group decided to honor Sean by taking a poem he had written in his English class and using it as inspiration for the mural. Sean was also a musician, and his favorite song was “Imagine” by John Lennon, so that song also inspired the mural’s imagery. Since the mural was going to hang in the front of the school, greeting visitors and new students, it had to both represent the school and honor Sean.
Patrick wanted to use the experience of the project to support the grieving process for the whole school. Even though not everyone knew Sean well, it was a violent and traumatic incident for the entire community. Patrick wanted to find a way for every member of the school–students, faculty, and families, –to have a chance to contribute to the mural.
Two groups worked on the project in the fall semester: freshmen who were in the class with Sean’s former teachers, Ted Cuevas and Kay Flewelling, and Patrick’s eleventh grade art students. The design for the mural was split into six panels so each class was responsible for designing three segments.
Students created many drafts of the design. The art students investigated the history of murals and landscape installations, while the humanities students read fiction and non-fiction about future visions of humanity and the planet. The two classes needed to communicate with each other as they worked through drafting and revision. During two staff meetings, students presented their close-to-final drafts of the design to the faculty.
Once all the designs were approved, the mural panels were prepped to be painted and the mural panel designs were stenciled onto blank staging. A day-long community painting experience was planned so that all staff and students had the opportunity to come help paint a section of the mural.
After the community painting experience, the eleventh grade art students worked alongside two local muralists on finishing touches and detail work. The panels were sent to an auto body shop, where they were treated for UV protection. At the same time, one student decided her senior project would be to re-landscape the area around the mural so that it would be easy for people to approach it and sit and contemplate. Sean’s mother donated a bench in his honor.
The mural was unveiled at an all-school assembly. Teachers and students spoke about Sean, and a friend of Sean’s read the poem that inspired the mural.
I don’t care if I go down in history.
I don’t care if I am remembered.
But if I am,
I hope that it’s for a good reason.”
— Sean Fuchs (last stanza of poem)