By Kallie Hoffman
As we hustle from one class to the next, trying to stay on top of our schoolwork and myriad of social commitments, we often overlook the simple pleasures in life such as the satisfaction of cracking open a new book. In June of 2016, a mural directly outside of the freshman hallway was painted to remind people of the joy of reading. One of the highlights of the mural is its vibrant acrylic colors and pictures of famous authors, which capture the attention of students and teachers walking nearby. The painting is not political or controversial, and in fact, has almost a soothing influence that helps reduce stress and anxiety. The mural is also captivating, as it highlights a number of different subjects and authors, from Shakespeare to Jack Kerouac to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. You may be surprised to discover that the mural was not created by a professional artist, but by students at Byram Hills who donated their time and talents to the community.
Senior Samantha Mayers, who is responsible for the Fahrenheit 451 portion of the artwork, describes the mural as a “connection between art and history that artistically expresses literature throughout the ages.”
The painting has not only inspired thoughtfulness and curiosity; it has encouraged students to read and explore new options in literature. For example, freshman Allison Stillman explains “after seeing the mural every day, I have become more inclined to read because the greatest authors and stories in history are presented on a wall right in front of me.” Walking by the mural, you are taken on a journey from William Shakespeare’s early stories to the intricate novels prevalent in modern-day society. The trail includes quotes from various authors, and surrounding its boundaries are visuals of some of the most influential literary works in human history. Small portions of the wall are often overlooked because they are not overwhelming, but tiny sections such as the painting of Tim O’brien’s The Things They Carried and Lewis Carroll’s Alice and Wonderful can be the most profound. Sometimes, there is a certain beauty in capturing the true essence of a novel with only a simple picture.
The mural also has become a source of creative energy for all who pass through Byram Hills High School. On the wall, Maya Angelou’s quote reads, “there is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Students are typically consumed with a multitude of afterschool activities and stress, but the mural combines art and literature and reminds everyone that there are many avenues for creative expression. As Meredith Mayers remarked, “it makes me reflect on my life choices.” Any time a piece of art can cause us to take time out of our busy schedules and think about life, you know it is a huge success!