Photo by Jessica Keller: Catharine Blaine K-8 physical education specialist Trina Pickens, from left, Veronica Very Davis, Hiawatha D. and Principal Ryan LaDage hold up their arms to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement following an assembly Sept. 16 during which the mural Hiawatha D painted on the wall of the school gym was revealed.
Photo by Jessica Keller: Catharine Blaine K-8 physical education specialist Trina Pickens, from left, Veronica Very Davis, Hiawatha D. and Principal Ryan LaDage hold up their arms to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement following an assembly Sept. 16 during which the mural Hiawatha D painted on the wall of the school gym was revealed.
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When renowned Seattle artist Hiawatha D. first painted a mural on the Catharine Blaine K-8 gymnasium wall in 2004, the artwork was an abstract expressionist piece featuring Seattle scenes.

As Blaine physical education specialist Trina Pickens told the students and families who watched the virtual unveiling of the new artwork Sept. 16, Hiawatha D.’s new piece is “so much more than a mural.”

When Pickens realized her gym wall needed a fresh coat of paint, she not only wanted Hiawatha D. to paint the new mural, she wanted it to be a legacy piece that focused on inclusion, community, relationships and positivity. Hiawatha D. took it from there.

“It’s a fresh start for a new beginning,” he said before the assembly.

Hiawatha D.’s new mural still features strong, bright colors, but the new piece features both Black children and adults.

While Hiawatha D.’s artwork celebrates and highlights Black lives, he said the purpose of the new mural is for Black and brown students at the school to see themselves represented and for others to recognize that those students are not only at the school, they deserve to be recognized and their experiences heard.

“It’s important that they do recognize and honor other people and to start that conversation,” Hiawatha D. said.

Driving that point home during the assembly, Veronica Very Davis explained the theme was “We are Here,” and a song of the same title was written for the occasion. The mural, she said, celebrates Black students and reminds them they are beautiful. Hiawatha D. said he hopes the mural will spur authentic conversations between friends and Black students and white about what Black and brown students experience on a campus where they are the minority.

“I just think it’s important for everyone who’s in your community, permanently or just for a moment, they need the ability to tell their truth and to be heard,” he said.

Hiawatha D. explained that many Black students of color who do not feel represented on campus struggle with feeling isolated and like they can’t talk to anyone. As a result, they may start to doubt themselves.

“All that comes from being in a place where they can’t see themselves,” Hiawatha D. said.

Seattle Chief of Equity, Partnerships and Engagement Dr. Keisha Scarlett said she thinks the mural, with the Seattle skyline and groups of Black children and adults, makes the school and the Magnolia neighborhood more approachable.

“Representation matters, and I think so many of our students don’t get to see any representation in our schools,” she said.

Hiawatha D. said the mural is not only a way to remember the past, it also represents moving into the future.

To make sure the healing mural’s theme is not forgotten over time, the story behind it and others collected during the project will be taught in Catharine Blaine art classes for sixth- through eighth-graders.

To view the assembly people can go to https://youtu.be/80aXBFZBUYA.

Residents can still contribute to the project by donating to the Go Fund Me page set up by Pickens. The grassroots community support effort is raising money to pay for the artist's commission. To donate or to learn more about the project, visit the fundraiser webpage