Utterback Magnet Middle School students were given a letter from principal Cindy Mady last Friday, Dec. 13, to let parents know that the dozens of murals painted throughout the school's hallways "will no longer be present."
Here's a copy of the letter:
"Utterback's halls will be repainted, which means the mural art that has decorated these halls will no longer be present. In preparation for this painting upgrade, action is being taken to memorialize these pieces of Utterback's culture. This week, members from the TUSD Magnet Office will be photographing the murals so they will be permanently remembered. These photographers will be collected into a portfolio and a slide show of the murals will be created."
Will the new murals be painted in their place by current students? A Range source said it's been discussed, but that each mural will have to go through an approval process. However, there's a plan for those photos taken of the murals according to the principal's letter, "eventually the photos of the murals will be framed and mounted and hanging in Utterback's hallways. The slide show will be available for playing in our front on performance nights."
Well, at least it's good to know the school will still have performance nights for dance, choir and drama classes. So, part of the magnet plan isn't only about figuring out how desegregation failed in TUSD's magnet schools all these years, but it's also about upgrading the schools, too? But keep in mind, Utterback is an arts magnet, which means it should be able to roll a little differently than other schools (the theater in the school is a district gem; it really is).
However, according to what our source told us, the letter sent out to parents on Friday is probably an approach to smooth out any potential protest from families and that what really occurred isn't about the school needing a new coat of white paint, but that new TUSD Superintendent H.T. Sanchez wasn't too impressed with the artwork.
As a result, a crew came into the school last week and painted over some test areas on some of the smaller murals. When staff and students reacted negatively to the possible change, an online survey went out asking staff if they thought there was a mural worth saving or not. "The survey felt like a justification," our source said.
Later in the week, during an assembly to explain to students what was going on, students reacted strongly—pounding their feet on the floor. Teachers, some of whom had talked to their students about what was going on, took heat for the failed and unruly assembly.
If the walls stay white for too long, several sources said to expect students to bring out the Sharpies.
The Range asked TUSD communications director Cara Rene for more info, and she responded:
The school is undergoing an upgrade and beautification project that includes that planting of trees and the new paint is part of the overall plan to freshen and brighten the school.
The student artwork on the walls at Utterback has been painted over several times during the past many years as it is not a permanent art mural, but a wall that had been made available for students to express themselves during the school year.
It was never meant as a permanent feature and does not have any historical significance — the current paintings have been created over the course of the past decade. Again, the space was provided as a place for expression and never intended to be a permanent feature of the school.
The school is documenting the current paintings for a slideshow so they can be remembered.
There are some mounted artworks at Utterback that are part of an art installation and those will remain