Jockey Hollow STEM Academy students paint a mural in their wing at Masuk High School. Photo by Megan Anderson

Love and tradition pours out onto the hallways of Monroe schools


A tile mural of a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly has the year across it to celebrate Jockey Hollow Middle School’s Class of 2000. The artwork adorning the school’s hallway was created with resident artist Alice Pulliam and funded by a grant, starting an annual tradition at Jockey Hollow, according to art teacher John Biase, who is in charge of the murals.

Many thought it would be a shame if the Class of 2020 did not make its mark on a wall after a year of remote learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic, so Biase said a mural was created featuring a scroll with every eighth graders’ name running through the picture frame graduates posed behind during their drive-thru commencement ceremony that year.

The mural in the Jockey Hollow STEM Academy wing of Masuk High School appears to be finished or very close. Photo by Megan Anderson

Julia Strong is a longtime educator for Monroe Public Schools, but this is her first year as Jockey Hollow’s principal, giving this year’s mural special meaning to her.

“It makes it even more special to walk down the hallways and see all of the murals from years past,” she said. “It really brings home the sheer magnitude of the love and tradition that poured out onto these hallways. This mural will always be special to me, because it’s my first year here. Maybe Mr. Biase will let me put my fingerprint on it.”

Strong said it will also be memorable because this year is Jockey Hollow’s silver anniversary.

Meanwhile, students at Masuk High School are working with art teachers to brighten the hallways of their school. High school students are making a mural and Jockey Hollow Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) Academy students are painting one in their wing.

“There are a lot of blank spaces on our walls and we have talented artists,” said Assistant Principal Ian Lowell. “We should use that to showcase the space with their work. We also want to spread a positive message and inspire.”

The new mural in a hallway off the main entrance is a work in progress. It includes the school motto: “Panthers Pick Each Other Up” and features a mother panther carrying its cub in her mouth while traveling over mountainous terrain.

Masuk High School’s new mural will highlight the school motto: “Panthers Pick Each Other Up.”

Lowell said five or six students are working on it during their flex period and after school. “That’s a big one students and teachers wanted to do,” he said of the mural.

In the STEM wing, art teacher Megan Anderson, who runs the academy’s Art Club, is overseeing a mural project being created by sixth, seventh and eighth graders.

“The Art Club has been working on this most of the school year,” Anderson said. “Everyone drew up different ideas. They researched other STEM schools. They voted for all the different parts of the mural they liked.”

Anderson said students also talked to teachers in different subjects about what they would like to see in the mural, before designing a final version on Photoshop.

The complex mural has the Jockey Hollow STEM Academy’s lion logo, an astronaut, a lightbulb, a globe with different countries’ flags, designs for science, technology, engineering and math, a tree of knowledge, ocean waves and a 3D-model of the earth’s crust, mantle and core among its fine details.

“One eighth grade boy who is very artistic and patient is doing the globe with the international flags,” Anderson said. “We’ll add an ancient Egyptian.”

Paintings, video, a quilt

John Biase, an art teacher at Jockey Hollow Middle School, stands by the new mural students are creating, a Jockey Hollow version of the famous Hollywood sign.

Most murals are painted with acrylic paints, but Biase remembers a variety of other mediums students used over the years.

“A parent I had taught many years ago said, ‘Mr. B, where’s 1999?'” Biase said of the Class of 1999’s missing mural. “They made a quilt, but because of the humidity, it got moldy and fell apart.”

Another year, a class used video to highlight dances over the decades.

“We had a burgeoning video production department,” Biase said. “Kids put together that video on Monroe Public Access. I don’t know if it still exists.”

From 2000 on, he said all of Jockey Hollow’s murals have been painted. The school has a large committee that brainstorms ideas for a design and a subcommittee does the painting. This year it has 15 young artists.

“Ideally, a half dozen students do the painting, but we want to be inclusive and do shifts,” Biase said.

Students work on the mural after school and Biase said he helps them set up and to organize their thoughts, while ensuring their work together goes smoothly.

“This year’s theme is using the Hollywood sign on the side of the hill, but it will say ‘Jockey Hollow’ with red curtains on each side and spotlights on the bottom,” he said. “It’s talking about a rosy future.”

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