Sunalta School COVID Murals Spread Hope

Jan. 15, 2021

When COVID-19 meant the cancellation of in-person classes in March 2020, the Sunalta School leadership team considered how they could continue the goals they had set to build community. After participating in the Youth Leadership Forum with Dr. Sharon Friesen from the University of Calgary, five Grade 6 students prepared a list of activities to support students in feeling more connected to their school and each other. Just as their plans were about to take action, in-person classes were cancelled and the team’s plans had to pivot.

With the assistance of Vania D., our regular artist-in-residence, the Scarboro Community Association and Sunalta School Council, the leadership group applied for a Calgary Neighbourhood Grant. Their idea was to have all of the children in the Sunalta/Scarboro area as well as the students of Sunalta School create an art installation while at home and self-isolating. Vania shared ‘how-to’ videos on drawing and painting to assist children in answering the question "What makes you happy?" By September, Vania and Waldo’s Imaging Ltd. were able to create 12 inspirational murals of children’s artwork that were attached to the fencing around Sunalta School.

We’d like to share some of the perspectives from our youth leadership students:

“It’s a nice gesture to see our mural and brighten someone’s day. We can remember that today is not the worst day, we have learned how to cope.”

“We are encouraged to be part of our community and brighten up someone’s day.”

“I think this project will be great for togetherness, because everyone will see the artwork they made beside someone else’s and remember that we got through this together.”

Each mural featured children’s art, representing the importance of staying connected and creating together through stressful times. In September, Sunalta School had an unveiling of the beautiful murals with all of our students taking turns celebrating this magnificent art project.

In December 2020, teacher Marianna Makkai, student teacher Cameron Stuchley and the Sunalta Grade 3 students wrote cards with messages of inspiration with the murals on the front. They delivered them to homes in the community to again, brighten someone’s day. Several residents responded with messages to the children. Feelings of generosity and connectedness were shared and the leadership team’s hope of brightening the day of a community member came to life. Spreading a sense of belonging and inclusivity was appreciated and will be remembered for many years to come.