History in the hallways: how a 30 year old mural continues to represent White Station


Dottie Young

Located in one of the most central parts of the school, the Facing History and Ourselves mural boasts its bright colors, flashing its many details to passing students. The mural was created by art students led by Charles Berlin 30 years ago.

Wandering up the stairs on the south side of the main building, students typically find themselves in front of a composition of color, history and cultural representation. After 30 years, the Facing History and Ourselves mural has continued to represent the different nationalities of White Station students as well as important historical landmarks and cultural objects. 

In the 90’s, art teacher Charles Berlin led an art club; this club was given the opportunity to bring life to the school’s walls.

“Facing History and Ourselves [club] commissioned us to do a mural that’s representative of the diversity at White Station, and we did it with world flags and world heritage sites that were famous representations of ancient architecture,” Berlin said. “The concept was to show all the world flags and all the countries and nationalities. I think there was a count at one time that White Station did where they figured out how many nationalities were being represented at White Station. It was cool because there were like 30 or 40 [nationalities] at one point.”

The mural’s paint sits on top of two brick walls with large grooves which makes it difficult to complete. Berlin and his students used masking tape, acrylic paint and a large amount of patience to finish the project. After many months of touch ups and intricate details they finally finished the wall. 

“All of those flags took months and months,” Berlin said. “We were painting nights, weekends and fortunately they’ve kept [the mural] up. It’s been through at least one remodeling where they painted over it so we were happy about that.”

In addition to the long-process it took to complete the wall, the group ran into technical problems and even problems with other teachers. 

“It was all student designed, and it was handled, but I came out and supervised and got yelled at by some of the teachers because we were too loud,” Berlin said. “I think [the mural was] partially successful, the German teacher, Dr. Herrmann, when he was here, …  corrected our spelling in German. We misspelled ‘Deutschland,’ so we ran into some technical issues like that.”

Despite the setbacks, the mural continues to stand out despite its age. However, there has been some buzz around redoing or re-creating the mural into a newer, more modern look.
“I think people don’t really notice it because people just walk by there and go to class, but it’s a cool reminder of our school’s diversity,” Cayenne Stephens (11) said. “ It’s nice that it’s there, the halls would probably be empty without it.”

After three decades, a lot has changed in the world and in our school. It might be time to think about how the mural can be changed to better represent White Station and its population in a more modern way. With this new input from students the mural might have some new updates in the future. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

“I feel like you could do something with school colors, and [it’s in] the art hallway and I think you could do something with that as well.” Lauren Hobson (11) said.