When Principal Christopher Carnes walks down the halls of Herrera Elementary School in north Houston, students line up to give him give him high-fives.
After becoming principal nearly five years ago, Carnes said student enthusiasm has increased partly because of the vibrant green and yellow colors throughout the school and outside.
“When I started upgrading the building, the kids’ pride really changed,” Carnes said.Herrera’s enhancements didn’t start with artwork; the school was a part of the district’s 2007 bond program, which included more than 180 construction and renovation projects on campuses across the district. At Herrera, work included the school’s parking lot expansion and interior hardware replacement.
But Carnes wanted to brighten up the campus as well, so he decided to add colors and hallway murals, using an art firm that went through the district’s official bidding process. The district is currently soliciting proposals from more companies interested in providing that kind of mural painting service. The purpose, according to the district’s bid specifications, is to provide “an appealing visual element to students, staff, parents and school visitors.”
Carnes considers the money invested in the school’s artwork well spent, creating an atmosphere for student growth and success. The colorful borders in the school’s hallways represent different cultures and speak to the school’s goal of being welcoming and inclusive.
“I wanted them to see the changes and be confident and happy to be here,” Carnes said. As an added benefit, the outdoors mural has discouraged graffiti: “They like having something they can look at and feel pride in,” he said.
At Reagan High School, the campus artwork is also meant to inspire. Students see bold phrases like “Reach for the Stars” and “Risk Takers” as they walk through the hallways.
“You can always put posters on the wall, but if we’re instilling values in students, we have to have that permanent piece so they know we’re serious about the motivation we’re instilling,” Reagan High School Principal Connie Berger said.
Berger graduated from Reagan in 1979 and accepted her first teaching position at the school in 1983. When she became principal of the campus in 2006, she considered the plain walls a blank canvas to motivate her students at a school she says is rich with tradition.
Logos from Harvard, UCLA, LSU, Princeton, Baylor, and other universities line Reagan’s academic building. The students walk through the halls and see colleges they’ve never heard of, Berger said.
She said all the art is intended to help her students imagine a successful future.
“Our students need to know that they can do it,” Berger said. “What’s stopping them from achieving the goals they’ve had since they were 5 years old?”
Vendors and firms interested in supplying mural painting to HISD can download the RFP here. The last day for questions is April 3, and all proposals are due by 3 p.m. on April 10.