Mural showcases Akins student life


Kallysa Brown

Mexic-Arte Museum hosted a mural reveal ceremony at Akins on November 10 to showcase the work of participating art students and master artist Ruben Esquivel. The mural takes up three walls in a high-trafficked stairwell on campus by the fine arts building and is intended to capture what it means to be a part of the Akins community.

Samantha Limon, Staff Writer

Where there was once a set of blank white walls, is now a three-panel mural standing more than 20 feet tall in places with a collage of huge images representing the spirit of Akins Early College High School.

Besides a mural of W. Charles Akins (the namesake of the school), near the front office, the mural is only the second one in school hallways. It is the only large-scale mural on campus that includes a collection of student life images. It includes a mix of characters in action, including a football player catching a ball, a Diamond Dazzler dancer in mid-jump, a Ballet Folklorico dancer twirling her dress, and a classical guitar player.

Akins art students worked on the design of the mural since the beginning of the year and got to work on the actual painting in October. It was officially unveiled at a ceremony on Nov. 10 in which muralist Ruben Esquivel, student artists, and others who helped make the project a reality spoke about its significance for the school.

“I think it just creates a new environment that didn’t exist before.” art teacher Eric Cannon said.
Cannon worked with partners at Mexic-Arte Museum to secure the funding for the project and hire Esquivel to serve as the professional muralist overseeing the project. The museum worked with the City of Austin’s Office of Violence Prevention, Community Youth Development, and Austin Public Health for funding.

Art teachers at Akins have partnered with Mexic-Arte Museum for a number of years, including on the nationally recognized outreach program Screen It! This year, Mexic-Arte put on two workshops at Akins,-one with film photography for advanced photo students and another as a community-driven muralism workshop with advanced art students.

Cannon said Akins was fortunate to gain the support of Mexic-Arte Museum to help pay for the mural, which started with a call from Jose Martinez, Mexic-Arte’s education associate about a grant that would help pay for the supplies and hire a professional muralist to make it happen.

In addition to the space chosen for the mural providing large walls, good lighting, and lots of foot traffic, Cannon said he had his own motivations for choosing that particular location.

“My main goal when choosing this space, being a little selfish, is that I wanted our Fine Arts students to go from the Fine Arts building up to the regular classrooms and back and be inspired,” he said. “And I felt like this was just that like, natural channel for that to happen.”

Esquivel, who has done murals in Austin and Uvalde, said he was excited to collaborate on the design with Akins students who provided ideas and photos used to base some of the faces of the design. Before working on the Akins mural, Esquivel was selected to paint a mural on the side of a building in downtown Uvalde of a student who was killed in the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in May.

Esquivel said he was excited to work on the Akins mural with high school students.

“I had been wanting to paint a mural with kids, like high school kids for a while,” Ruben Esquivel said.

Senior Skylar Hawn said she enjoyed working on a project that had such a big scale and impact on the campus.

“To be able to do it on such a large scale and on such a big canvas, it was a really awesome opportunity,” Hawn said.

Senior Amber White said she was grateful for the opportunity to work on the mural, which she did for about a month every day until it was finished.

“I was able to leave my mark on this campus in a positive way and it’ll be there for generations to come,” White said.