WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (WGHP) — Winston-Salem Preparatory Academy students grabbed their paint brushes to help create a mural in a historic neighborhood on Thursday.
“I think everybody’s more happy about it … People ride by and commend us on it,” said Daja’onna Ortiz, a Winston-Salem Preparatory Academy student.
Eight ninth through twelfth graders at Winston-Salem Preparatory Academy have spent the last month working with two local artists to create a story on the side of a building at 12th Street and Cameron Avenue in Winston-Salem.
The building has been in the community since the early 1970s. It sits in the Reynoldstown Historic District, also known as Cameron Park, which was a planned residential development of the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, a historically African American residential section of Winston-Salem.
In the last year, graffiti has covered the wall, and the owner wanted it gone for good.
The Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County, two local artists, Leo Rucker and Wilfredo Felix, and students at the school teamed up to cover it up.
“I think it gives them a sense of ownership, and it helps increase their sense of pride. It really makes them want to support their community even more,” said Keisha Gabriel, Winston-Salem Preparatory Academy Principal.
Randon Pender grew up in the neighborhood and says so far, the mural is a great depiction of how she saw the area as a child.
“We lived next door to our teachers, our lawyers, our preachers. It was just community,” Pender said.
The mural will wrap around the building and will have more than a dozen images showcasing the history of the district and notable people from the area.
It features John Carter, the first principal of Atkins High School, the first school in Winston-Salem built as a high school to serve African Americans, and now houses Winston-Salem Preparatory Academy.
The mural will also depict Julius Rosenwald and Booker T. Washington, who helped build the school with the assistance of the Rosenwald Fund.
“Images that really allowed us also to learn how important Atkins High School and the community, what became known as Reynoldstown, played an important part, not only just this community but the city,” said Leo Rucker, artist.
“It looks like history is being recorded. So I was elated to see it,” Pender said.
For many of the students, this project was a part of the first art class they have taken.
“They want it to kind of have a part of themselves to leave for whenever they … grow older, and they will be able to come back like, ‘Hey, I did that’,” said Brittany Stevenson, Winston-Salem Preparatory Academy art teacher.
The goal of the mural is not only to cover up the graffiti but to also deter people from doing more.
The mural might look nearly complete, but there is still a lot of work left. They will be working on it daily unless the weather stops them and expect to have it finished by the end of June.
The project is supported with a $40,000 allocation from Forsyth County Government’s ARPA Funds.
It is being managed by the Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County.