Future of student mural in Onoway school to be determined
A piece of student artwork on the wall of the Onoway Junior-Senior High School is at the centre of controversy, after it was painted, covered up, and then uncovered – all within a few weeks.
Kaela Wilton, a Grade 11 student in Onoway, said she wanted to create a painting depicting a topic she’s passionate about.
“I wanted to do something controversial,” Wilton said. “I wanted to hit on a topic and gay rights is something I’ve always felt strongly about.”
At Onoway Junior-Senior High School, there is a long tradition of allowing art students to express themselves with work on the walls of the school.
Wilton presented the concept for her piece – of two young men embracing and kissing – to her art teacher and her principal a few weeks ago, and her project was approved.
It didn’t take long for that to change, last week, Wilton received some bad news about her mural.
“It was up for about a week and I got called to the office and they told me they need to cover it up,” Wilton said.
“I was shocked and upset and I felt like they walked all over me and I felt betrayed.”
The piece was soon covered by a large bulletin board.
The school’s principal, James Trodden, said the mural was covered for a number of reasons, but the main one is it displays affection.
“We had looked at that and said ‘You know, kissing isn’t allowed in school’,” Trodden said. “So the painting was covered for about half a day.”
The board came down Friday, but Trodden said that isn’t final – further discussion about the mural with students, parents, and the community will take place before a decision is made.
In the meantime, Wilton is working on coming up with a meaningful way to cover it, in case it’s permanently censored.
“I want the comfortable to feel uncomfortable, and the uncomfortable to feel comfortable, so I’m going to try to come up with ideas to put on the board,” Wilton said.
Wilton said she’s received several messages that both support, and don’t support, her work.
Trodden said for now, the mural will likely stay uncovered until a final decision is made.
With files from Nicole Weisberg