A mural by a local high school sophomore now fills a once-bare wall in a Falls High School hallway.
Painted and designed by Shay Mannausau, the mural is located in the band and choir hallway at the high school. The large piece took her nearly three months to complete, and while she wouldn’t say she’s 100 percent satisfied with how it turned out, she says she can stand to look at it.
“I don’t think any artist has ever really liked their end product... but I’m satisfied with it,” she said. “I can look at it. I’m glad I was just able to finish it. I did struggle a lot through it and redid it so many times.”
Of course, she’s her own worst critic. After a Facebook post by the Falls school district showing off Mannausau’s work, the supporting comments came flooding in. And, Michelle Boelk, band teacher, also said she loves the finished product.
“It celebrates music in general,” Boelk said. “Not just the music we play in that hallway in band or choir classes, but our love of music in our everyday lives. Music is a big part of many of our lives whether we actually play an instrument or not and that feeling is definitely depicted in her mural.”
Originally, Mannausau wanted to include color in the mural, but when she started running out of time to have it completed, she stuck with black and white.
“What made me feel quite good about that was Mrs. Boelk liked it better black and white,” the teen said. “Music notes are black and white but when you play music, you give it its color. My piece was more like the notes and the band will play and give it the color.”
It’s a deep thought coming from the budding artist.
Mannausau recalled finding a calling in art only two years ago. After an art show at Falls High School, Boelk noticed the potential in Mannausau and sought her out for creating something for the hallway.
“I saw Shay’s artwork at one of the art exhibits that Mrs. Simon (the art teacher) had organized and was very impressed with her talent — especially with her drawings of people,” Boelk said. “Shay played trumpet in the band so I had talked to her about doing some art work in the band room and the practice rooms. Then, through further discussions we decided that a mural would be even better and the hallway needed some fresh modern art.”
Deciding what the mural would encompass took some time. Through several draft sketches, Mannausau settled on the final design.
While juggling her summer job, Mannausau spent her summer months creating the piece of art.
“Toward the end, I tried to work on it every day,” she said. “One day, I was there for 11, almost 12, hours.”
Aside from never having worked with paint, it was the size that intimidated the teenage artist the most. She found it difficult to back up far enough to take it all in.
“I couldn’t back up enough to see the whole thing,” she said. “And I had to use scaffolding to reach the top.”
For parts of the mural, Mannausau used herself as a reference. For the scene of two people dancing, she would move her hand in different positions to get the angles right.
“I’d draw while looking at my hand,” she said.
The more she discussed the mural, the more comfortable and confident Mannausau appeared talking about her work.
“I hope she has gained confidence in her artistic abilities and her decision making skills,” Boelk said. “She had to make changes in the way she was doing things along the way and many of us struggle with decisions like that as it can be stressful and overwhelming, but she handled it with great maturity.”
Boelk said she’s hopeful the project displays how the school community is like a family.
“Many of (Shay’s) classmates have taken an extra trip upstairs to view her artwork that they had heard about,” she said. “The music students who walk that hall everyday stop and linger on it often as they walk by. Many ask who did that and what grade she is in. Also, Shay is not in band this year but that doesn’t mean she isn’t contributing to the music coming from that hallway anymore. Her art is part of the entire musical experience we strive to excel at every day... There are so many passions that students have and being able to share them with each other in an artistic manner is part of what makes us all human.”