WHS students give back to community through art and ceiling tiles


Heather Lee

Junior Emily Kim paints Baymax from Big Hero Six. Kim plans to give the tile to a local hospital. PHOTO / Heather Lee

While walking the halls of WHS, you will notice something special about the ceiling. Overhead, the ceiling tiles are dotted with paintings of pastel flowers, a yellow submarine, or even a Disney character. You might wonder, who made these and how did they get up there?

The two clubs responsible for painting the ceiling tiles are Art Club and Painting for Patients. Both clubs meet in rooms 38 and 40 each activity block to work on individual projects.  

“Painting for Patients is more community service driven, while the Art Club is [focused on making] art around the high school,” art teacher Julie Hom-Mandell said. As the advisor of both clubs, Hom said they help people “see how art can impact one’s mood and feelings.”

Art Club members create both the ceiling tiles and the senior projects that are displayed around the school.

“We’re really chill, [and] we welcome people who love art. It’s just a nice community,” junior Julia Tang said. Along with junior Emily Kim, Tang is co-president of Art Club. In the past, both have created multiple ceiling tiles for the school.

Junior Emilia Schwallie has utilized the club to “Disney-fy” WHS. She has created 11 ceiling tiles depicting various cartoon characters such as Moana, Olaf, Chip and more.

Schwallie said she likes painting animated characters because they are easier to draw than humans. She utilizes Art Club meetings to create the characters she wants.

“It’s easy and it’s fun, and you can make [each tile] really fast. You can just come down and work on it if you have a free block,” Schwallie said. “It’s very relaxing and welcoming. You can do whatever you want, provided that you’re being productive,” she added.

In addition to painting ceiling tiles, Art Club helps create the seniors’ legacy project. Last year, club members painted some of the Sunset Mural and the Boston Mural for the class of 2017.

Though they are still in the earlier stages of planning, Kim said they are focusing on a rock-based medium this year.

“In general, we think it’ll be a flat rock design. We have a plan for each grade to design a rock and a color and it’ll come together as one piece,” Kim said.

While Art Club mainly focuses on making art for the WHS community, Painting for Patients donates ceiling tiles to charity. Like Art Club, Painting for Patients creates ceiling tiles but gives them to Boston Children’s Hospital instead of the school.

Though it’s a small gesture, seeing the cartoons and bright paintings brings joy to children who are being treated in the radiology room. Hom-Mandell said she likes seeing students giving to a good cause through art.

“The community spirit really warms my heart when I see them wanting to physically get the tiles [to the hospital]. That small gesture goes a long way,” Hom-Mandell said. “It’s like a gift that keeps on giving.”

Having made a ceiling tile for the hospital last year, sophomore Haley Wims said the good cause is the reason why she decided to paint a ceiling tile.

“I liked the idea of [my tile] being in a children’s hospital,” Wims said. “I just thought it was cool, because it would make the kids there happier.”