‘Better than I pictured’: Community effort leaves La Jolla’s Muirlands Middle School with a legacy mural

Departing Muirlands Middle School student Felipe Outi stands in front of the campus mural he designed and helped paint.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

Departing eighth-grader Felipe Outi designed the new painting, inspired by several characteristics of the school.


Though he’s moving on from La Jolla’s Muirlands Middle School, soon-to-be high school freshman Felipe Outi has left a legacy on a Muirlands wall: a mural encompassing all the school means to him.

The mural’s installation — part of an annual program at the school for departing eighth-graders — was a collaborative effort among many, with the Community Engaged Mural program of the VAPA (Visual and Performing Arts) Foundation pitching in to help with funds.

A VAPA program will provide training and funds for the school’s latest ‘legacy mural,’ created by eighth-graders to represent their years at the school.

March 22, 2023

Muirlands was one of seven San Diego Unified School District campuses that VAPA chose for the Community Engaged Mural program. The foundation works to enhance access to and the quality of arts education.

Felipe’s eighth-grade peers chose his design for Muirlands from two choices (narrowed from four by Muirlands art teacher Patricia Cox and Principal Jeff Luna).

Felipe said the unnamed mural is inspired by several characteristics of Muirlands. The painting’s proximity to the school’s music room is apparent in the musical notes and horn seen on the left, “and then we have to have a bit of the academics,” indicated with various curricula symbols.

A large soccer ball graces the image, since “people like playing sports. … Soccer’s a big sport here,” Felipe said.

“Then there’s the California beach,” he said.

All the mural components are “pointing toward Muirlands,” he added.

The mural turned out “much better than I pictured,” Felipe said.

“It really was a community engagement mural,” Cox said. Parent volunteers and about 15 school staff members, “from custodians to speech pathologists,” turned out to trace the design on the wall at night.

Much of the mural was painted by Cox’s art students during school days; the adults helped finish it.

The CEM program awarded each school $500 for materials and equipment to paint the murals and additional training to engage, organize and lead groups of community members in creating the installations.

“They gave us a tarp and a ladder and step stool,” along with paintbrushes and more, Cox said. ◆