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DSST students create pathways to health through immersive mural at Anschutz Children's Hospital

DSST Public Schools and Anschutz Children's Hospital have joined forces to bring a vision to life that promotes and encourages wellness through art. Nestled within the hospital's stairwell, a vibrant mural emerges, inviting patients, staff and visitors alike to embark on a journey of inspiration and health.

“The mission of the wellness department at the hospital (was) to encourage more people to take the stairs,” said Alexis Wallin, the Visual Arts Teacher at DSST: Conservatory Green High School. “The idea was that by making it beautiful, including healthy images and ones that resonate with all ages, people would choose to take the stairs.” 

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The budding artists who participated in the project learned to navigate the intricacies of design approval and logistical hurdles, gaining invaluable real-world experience along the way.

“(Our students) had to plan and organize how to execute a mural in a stairwell that could not be closed down and was quite narrow,” Wallin said. They had to problem-solve a ton and really learned resilience. This felt very real.”

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Seniors Valeria Fuentes and Atziry Ricalday said the real-world experience gave them insight into their future as artists. Because of this, they both decided to pursue art as a career path.

"The experience with the mural felt fulfilling even with the tight schedule we had,” Ricalday said. “I felt like art was making a difference and that even small details as simple as having color in a stairwell improved a person's day." 

For all the students, the impact of the project was very real and overwhelming in the sense that the stakes were high. 

“We want to create high-quality work, so there was pressure and a need for honest feedback with one another that can often be avoided with critiques for classroom projects, where there is no client,” Wallin said. “We could not afford to accept the minimum. We felt driven to provide our best. This was more real than anything we could do in a classroom.”

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The mural embodies what it means to be an artist and leave an impact on the world through creative expression. 

"This is why I teach,” said Wallin. “Honestly, guiding students to make a mark on the world is incredibly fulfilling. This is especially wonderful since this is a visible mark and one we can visit again and again. "

As DSST and Anschutz Children's Hospital continue their annual partnership, the mural stands as a symbol of hope and inspiration—a reminder of the profound impact of art and collaboration.

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Read about a previous mural painted by these students here, or check out some news coverage of the Anschutz mural here.