Fixing McAuliffe’s mural walk

Charles Gonzalez works on the mural. Photo courtesy of the Anderson Gallery

Charles Gonzalez has gone back to his old school to repair something he left behind.

When Gonzalez attended the school it was known as Pine Junior High School and he was the first student to participate in what has become a legend in the west Orange County Community—the McAuliffe Middle School mural walk art project.

While McAuliffe Middle School is going through a needed major renovation it has had a negative impact on some works in the project, which began 38 years ago and continues to this day

The renovation could affect a series of murals done by students going all the way back to 1974. Although the potential damage to the murals is probably repairable, it is a time consuming process.

Gonzalez has volunteered his time to fix his mural that among many others that followed, has adorned the halls of the middle school since 1974 when he was in the ninth grade.

Gonzalez’ mural is about 9 feet by 8 feet and is visible in the upstairs hallway of the main building on the campus. It is now one of more than 200 murals on the campus, each one done in the style of a world famous artist; from Leonardo Da Vinci to Pablo Picasso.

The hallway is a walk of history, of art and of the school. Students in teacher Bill Anderson’s Art II class created each mural as a final project. It included a paper on art history written after researching several artists, a formal analysis of the artists work in writing, a copy of the artists’ work and finally a mural in the style of the artist painted on the wall.

“It was a great learning process as well as an opportunity to have their work viewed by others for generations,” said Anderson, who is now retired and run Anderson Art Gallery in Sunset Beach.

Gonzalez’ first mural was done in the style of Pablo Picasso and featured President Abraham Lincoln and his son Tad. It is the mural that suffered the most damage in the renovation of McAuliffe.

Sherry Tanaka, art teacher at McAuliffe, has continued the project since Anderson retired in 2001. Tanaka contacted Gonzalez to let him know about a door being placed directly in the middle of the mural.

“Charles was surprised that his mural was still there and said, ‘Yes, I will do whatever it takes to repair my 38-year-old mural,’” Tanaka said.

She then contacted Anderson and told him Gonzalez would be at McAuliffe on  a recent Tuesday afternoon and invited him back to meet his former outstanding art student. It was their first meeting since 1974 and it occurred in the McAuliffe hallway, at the mural. Gonzalez said he was was excited about having the opportunity to renovate his mural and give it the respect he said it deserves.

Any individuals that have done murals at Pine/McAuliffe that want to check the mural they executed in the last 38 years are invited to do so.

According to Anderson, the McAuliffe mural project was done to accomplish two things:

1.    Create a sense of pride in the school and the history of the school by having works by students of the past up to the present.

2.    Create a museum of art history in the hallway of the school by having works in the style of Leonardo Da Vinci, Rufino Tamayo, Vincent Van Gogh, Salvador Dali, all the way to Jackson Pollock and Milford Zornes. Milford Zornes actually demonstrated to students on campus at McAuliffe in 1997. He was 90 years old at the time.

The program not only had a major effect on the art students, but every student on campus since they walk the halls everyday their three years on the campus.

The students who have attended McAuliffe have respected the project as seen in the fact that there has been no damage to any of the murals over the lat three decades. The project is planned to continue as long as there is wall space on campus.