A group of people from the Birchwood neighborhood are trying to save a mosaic mural that was created at the original Shuksan Middle School in 2003. The mural, if not moved before August 17, will be demolished with the rest of the building. A new Shuksan Middle School is set to open on the same campus this fall (the building is almost complete now).
While this seems like a simple situation, there is quite a controversy around moving the mural.
The large mural was created in 2003 by students, staff and parents working with artist Donna Wheat. It shows the diversity of the students in the school and gives visual representation of how many cultures there are working together in that community. At the time, instead of being mounted on a board so that it could be moved in the future if needed, the mosaic mural pieces were mounted directly into the wall of the school (other side of the wall is the gym).
A couple years ago, before any building construction started for the new school, the Bellingham School District held public meetings with the Birchwood and Alderwood neighborhoods to talk about the building project. At that time, officials said the mural would be removed and saved, much to everyone’s pleasure, according to the parents spearheading the effort.
Between then and about a year ago, according to Ron Cowan, assistant superintendent of business and operations, the school planning team for the new Shuksan Middle School (comprised of staff, parents and administrators) decided that the school should have a new direction and a fresh start and that the mural shouldn’t be brought to the new school after all. When Shuksan opens this fall, there will be a new mascot, new school colors and an emphasis on science and technology, Cowan said.
This decision was shared at another public meeting with Birchwood parents, Cowan said.
The group of parents said they never heard the decision change and that district officials are just deciding not to move the mural.
The group has been given permission by the district and construction crews to be on the site and try pretty much whatever they want to remove the mural intact (after signing waivers). The parent group has determined this will cost about $1,870. Donations are being accepted through the Save the Shuksan Mural account at any Whatcom Education Credit Union branch.
If the mural is removed intact, the parent group wants to move it to the new school. However, there is currently no plan to do that, or a place for it, Cowan said.
In an effort to change district officials’ minds, there will be a march from Shuksan Middle School, 2713 Alderwood Ave., to the Roeder Administration Building, 1306 Dupont St., on Monday, July 27 from 4 to 6 p.m.
The group trying to save the mural is also circulating a petition.
To contact the group, email them at SaveTheShuksanMural@gmail.com. There is also a facebook page for the mural here.