When Chesapeake High School students enter their school, they immediately come face to face with a vibrant symbol of diversity, inclusion and unity. Chesapeake cluster parents Amy Panzer and Erin Shawbell spent their summer vacation painting the floor-to-ceiling unity mural in the main hallway at the request of CHS principal Stephen Gorski.
“I created the unity design originally for the Chalk Walk at Chesapeake High School,” said Panzer, referring to the artist response to allegations of racial incidents at Chesapeake during the last school year. “The Chalk Walk was a project to help bring togetherness to the school and community.”
The design depicts multicolored hands supporting the earth in a show of unity. It represents the belief that we are stronger together.
“I believe that one of the purposes of art is to help people not only get to know and understand something with their minds but also to feel it emotionally and physically, and to motivate people to turn thinking into doing,” said Panzer. “My hope for the unity mural is to inspire students and staff to come together, to build stronger relationships with each other, and to empower and educate the community.”
Panzer volunteered to help paint inspirational murals in the bathrooms at Chesapeake Bay Middle School last school year, which is where she met Shawbell. The two said they enjoyed bringing color and inspiration to an otherwise dull environment and went on to do more, including the teacher’s lounge and a stairway.
“To me, art does so much more than to just be visually appealing,” added Shawbell. “To me, art feeds my soul and transforms any space to create an energy that is felt by every person who sees it.”
Panzer said, “Art is the expression of imagination appreciated for beauty or emotional power. It is a universal language that brings people together, of all ages, colors and backgrounds. It evokes contemplation and discussion. It tells a story and brings awareness.”
Panzer said the artists received many positive comments when creating the mural. “It truly is so rewarding to see the appreciation from everyone,” she added. “We will continue to bring change with paint at CHS and CBMS and hope to fill all of Anne Arundel County schools with color and inspiration. Together we will make a difference.”
Shawbell shared plans for her and Panzer to “fill more schools with happiness and smiles.”
“I feel like by contributing our murals into schools countywide, we can bring a little lightheartedness back, something I’ve noticed is lacking,” she said. “Our children’s schools have changed into more of institutions and less of places to feel free and excited to learn.
“Art changes that,” continued Shawbell. “I want to see more harmony between students and teachers, and students toward other students. We are all human, and we are all in this together. So if this creates a dialogue between all human beings, then I feel it has accomplished what I feel Amy and I have set out to do.”
Gorksi was thrilled with the mural. “It’s our hope that every time students, parents, faculty or staff look at it, they will recognize and know that we are Chesapeake, individually and collectively,” he said. “We are better together in our unity and when we celebrate our differences.”