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Millennium celebration murals are Coral Park students' legacy

Herald Writer
in The Miami Herald, on Thursday, May 13, 1999


When Sydnia Machado's oldest brother graduated from high school four years ago, it left a lasting impression. When she had a chance to write about a defining moment of the 20th Century, she immediately thought about the impact that his graduation had on her and her family.

``My oldest brother's high school graduation was an event that has had a great impact in my life and has helped me strive to be the best that I can be,'' Sydnia, 17, wrote of her brother Luis.

Sydnia's message was one of 4,000 that students at Coral Park penned as part of the Master Peace project. A school-based art program in partnership with Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Miami-Dade Art in Public Places, and Regis House, the project was designed and implemented by local artist Xavier Cortada, who worked with four Miami-Dade schools to create a legacy.

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Coral Park students worked with the theme ``Celebrating the Millennium,'' and produced four murals that incorporated the students' messages. West Miami Middle School's theme was ``Our World: Making a Better Place;'' Miami Senior High's was ``Cultural Traditions From the WPA (Work Projects Administration) to Miami High Today'' and Citrus Grove Elementary focused on ``The Meaning of Success.''

Art students at Coral Park divided the millennium project into four murals and each grade level was assigned an era: freshmen, 1900-1925, sophomores, 1925-1950, juniors, 1950-1975 and seniors, 1975-1999. Then through the individual mentoring classes, students were asked to write messages to a person or group of people in that era that made an impact on their lives.

A design team of 14 students from the advanced placement program chose which events to emphasize without dismissing key events that altered everyone's lives and continue to influence us today.

``The messages that the students wrote were our inspiration,'' said senior Cristina Victor , co-designer of the 1950-1975 mural.

``There have been a lot of bad and ugly events that happened throughout the century that cannot be dismissed. However, we didn't want to emphasize the negative, rather we wanted to accentuate the positive,'' said art teacher Peggy Falagan.

The murals at Coral Park took two months to complete and were unveiled April 29 at the Miami Coral Park auditorium. The project was joined by the performing arts department, which provided virtual travel through the century.

The Illusion Dancers in the advanced class performed dances, the Coral Park Jazz Band filled the auditorium with music and the Coral Park Thespians performed skits from each era.

``I was moved at how involved the whole student body was. It brought so many parts together,'' said Lea Nickless, coordinator of education and community outreach for Miami-Dade Art in Public Places.

The murals will become a permanent exhibit at Coral Park. They will be hung in four stairwells at the school, Falagan said.

``The Coral Park experience completely filled my vision of Master Peace, said Cortada, creator and artistic director of the Master Peace Project. ``It's not something that just happened in art classes, it's something that happened with the entire student body for future generations. The collaboration of expression was pure art.''