Former Staff Writer
Most people learned division in the third or fourth grade and use it for the rest of their lives. Communities divide based upon interests, race, beliefs, academic stance, socioeconomic rank, and many more reasons. Members of the DSF branch of the National Art Honors Society (NAHS) are seeking to break down these barriers through art in the school cafeteria.
“[For] the majority of the summer, it was me and one of my friends. We painted the ceiling beams and the columns gray while listening to music because it was only the two of us,” said senior Amy Zhao. Other participants who helped formulate the project include graduated students like Josh Dietz, Kevin Williams, and Robert Weibe-King.
Senior Munni Pramanik also came in the summer of 2012 to offer her assistance. Her older sister, Jannatul, a Freeman graduate, who is now in her second year at the University of Virginia, was one of the founders of the project.
“[Jannatul] decided to help even though she didn’t need to- that’s how much she liked art. She’s the type of person who’d give her help whenever it’s needed,” Munni said.
“People support what they help create. If they help create [the project], I hope they find pride in it,” said Mrs. Baker-Neal, chairwoman of the Fine Arts Department. “It is mostly geared towards people who would like to create a visual voice.”
The mission began with an idea from Mrs. Cook, the head of the cafeteria department. “We wanted to give the cafeteria a face-lift,” said Mrs. Cook. She was able to get the paint, brushes, and painter’s tape for free because of donations from Henrico County’s School Nutrition Services.
So far, the smaller cafeteria, which is also used for testing, thus why it is more confined than the larger one, includes navy blue silhouettes of students with various “heights, ethnicities, and backgrounds,” said senior Morgan Oliver, president of National Art Honors Society.
Mrs. Baker-Neal said that they are attempting to include various types of students because the walls are “built on generations of kids”.
“The idea is to try and get different silhouettes to represent diversity in the school as a whole including arts, talents, and sports,” Amy said, emphasizing the project’s attempt to unify the school. Painted on the gray columns, there are positive qualities of Freeman like “Respectful,” “Strong,” and “Proud.” One of the final touches will include a painted ribbon around both cafeterias to “bring them together as one,” Mrs. Cook said.
The cafeteria’s new design “reminds us of being a Rebel,” Munni said.
Some students expressed mixed feelings about the cafeteria’s new look.
Freshman Laura Taylor Hopper and seniors Chelsea Kelly and Mikaela Hunt agreed that the project might be futile in its attempt to unify the two eating areas. The upperclassmen said some people just like to sit where they want.
“I support the idea. If it’s gonna work, I don’t know,” said junior Jenaya Moore.
Junior Shane Allin was not entirely sure but wishes to remain “optimistic” in regards to the mission.
The NAHS is taking it “one step at a time,” said Mrs. Baker-Neal, making sure that the diversity of Freeman is portrayed.
Overall, the sprucing up of the cafeteria shows Freeman as a unified body and promotes inclusivity and acceptance even though the project is not complete.
In the words of Mrs. Cook, “We’re one body, one unit.”