Peralta’s distinctive murals are the first thing you see when you enter our campus (and this website!). They are the result of Oakland painter Jamie Morgan‘s ongoing work with students in the after-school program. Over the 15 years since Morgan began working at Peralta, these murals have expanded to cover nearly every wall of our buildings, turning their bland facades into joyous riots of color, shape, and movement.
Each spring, Morgan chooses a new theme that will spark the imaginations of young children. Themes have included gardens (inspired by Peralta’s own blooms), ocean life, music, and backyard animals. Students spend several months sketching their ideas and then working with Morgan to create the wooden cutouts that become a permanent part of the school.
Here’s Morgan’s description of the new spring 2011 murals:
Since we are running out of spaces to do a mural, this Spring our project was broken down into three small murals. The theme has been “City Life,” inspired by the work the renowned artist Jacob Lawrence. His work grew out of depicting life in Harlem in the 1920′s and 30′s, from which he developed a well-known narrative series of tempera paintings on Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman and the Migration Series, amongst others. These seemed a suitable model to work from, especially since Jacob Lawrence was one of (Peralta Principal) Rosette Costello’s professors at the University of Washington. We have tried to touch on his themes, as well as the abstraction and use of color in his paintings.
One mural shows city life in the early morning hours with buildings, buses, cars, garbage collection, etc. in the transition from night to day. Another mural shows neighborhood activity in the city. A lemonade vendor—like the shaved ice vendor in one of Jacob Lawrence’s paintings—is prominent. The last mural is based on two classroom scenes painted by Lawrence, showing students absorbed in concentration at their desks and writing on the blackboard.