Walt Whitman High School is proud to unveil an original mural by artist and Whitman Class of 2006 alumnus Efren Andaluz III. Best known as Andaluz the Artist, his artwork has gone mainstream as he’s become known for his vibrant murals that burst with color and realism. Over the holiday break, Efren Andaluz created a masterclass mural in WWHS to wrap up his tremendous year of successes as he was proud to create a piece for his old stomping ground that features colorful culture and diversity that everyone can admire. In collaboration with the Walt Whitman High School World Language and Art Departments, SHEF, Miles for Michael, and the WWHS PTA, the renowned artist was commissioned to create this mural showcasing the diversity and spirit of Walt Whitman.
The large floor to ceiling mural, located in the 300 wing stairwell by the high school’s Performing Arts Center, brings diversity to the forefront. "The mural was inspired by the diversity within our South Huntington Community,” shared Aileen D’Addario, Whitman’s World Language Honor Society advisor. “It represents the French, Italian and Spanish languages that are taught at Whitman as well as other cultures from around the world. The goal was to also connect the World Language and Art hallways together by including a famous Latina artist in the work. We hope it conveys the message of freedom, equality, hope, acceptance, peace and unity that is the foundation of our incredible nation.”
In collage-like measure, the painting depicts scenes of countries from around the world, joining together with famous artist Frida Kahlo as the Statue of Liberty that symbolizes how art and culture are implicitly connected. “When I was coming up with the idea, I thought of something that spoke true to New York but also America as a whole,” shared Andaluz in speaking about his original piece. “I love painting the Statue of Liberty, and Frida is the epitome of feminism as well as being Latina. I wanted to showcase the Latino culture while also including different cultures and monuments to show unity.”
While the mural itself exemplifies equality and diversity, the support from our district’s organizations also united to bring this project into fruition. "The South Huntington Educational Foundation (SHEF) and Miles for Michaels' decision to support this wonderful mural project was a sound one,” shared Chairperson of SHEF and Race Director of Miles for Michael, Sheila Buhse. “Efren Andaluz's talent is incredible, and it is on full display in the high school where he graduated and has since gone on to pursue an extremely successful career. Having graduated from WWHS myself along with many of our SHEF members, I know we take great pride in the fact that someone from our community has achieved such wonderful success. This art mural will be a reminder to our current and future students of ‘what is possible.’ This is a wonderful message for our students that dreams are here for them, and they are attainable.”
Efren has gone on to paint numerous murals since graduating from Walt Whitman in 2006. One of his most notable works is the Kobe Bryant mural located in Costa Mesa, California, where Efren memorializes the famous basketball legend by being the first and only person to have painted him, his daughter, and all of the victims of the tragic helicopter crash. When asked which mural is his favorite to have created, the artist shared “Riebe's Art Supply that was in Melville before closing. It was my art supply store growing up and they taught me a lot about the different equipment and airbrush techniques. When I painted the side of that building, I did it as a tribute for art legends throughout history like Bob Ross, Frida, Da Vinci and Andy Warhol.”
This new addition to Whitman is significant now more than ever. Displaying different cultures proudly with thought out and colorful imagery makes the meaning behind this piece even more pungent and timely. “As a World Language teacher at WWHS and Efren’s former teacher,” commented high school teacher Ms. Fiona Cardilla, “I am proud to see this mural come to fruition and to have many years to come to enjoy it in our building.”
Our high school students responded to the art piece with equal excitement. Students in Mr. Rodriguez’s Spanish 4 College course responded to the new mural in a class assignment. Junior Lana Maniatis shared “Andaluz’s mural is very powerful and has deep meaning. The image of the statue of freedom in the center represents freedom and equality for all. The Statue of Liberty is a symbol of the welcoming lands of America that are home to immigrants. There are also different monuments and structures on the mural that represent different cultures and ethnicities. The purpose of this mural is to show that America is a home for everyone. It shows that they support people of all cultures. The words unite, culture, and diversity also highlight the beliefs on which America was founded. America is everyone's home where people can seek refuge and make a new life.”
World Language Honor Society Officer Magaly Garay viewed the new mural and noted “No matter what color, race, or background you’re from, we can all unite as one through art." Members from the Art Honor Society had insightful input as well, specific to their beloved high school. "I think the mural is an excellent addition to the 300 wing, especially since most language classes are in the 300 wing,” shared freshman Elana Denis, “[the mural] does a great job of representing the diversity of Walt Whitman." Sophomore Kristiane DiMaulo, also a member of the Art Honor Society, commented that “This mural symbolizes that even though we can have cultural differences, we are all linked by the ability to create and share with others. Art can transcend cultural differences."
We thank Andaluz the Artist endlessly for this captivating and significant addition to our high school and community as a whole. It will truly serve as an earnest reminder of acceptance, hope and unity for our Wildcats to appreciate for years to come.