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Art project transforms high school cafeteria into a living gallery

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MYSEP youth employees learn and apply new skills to beautify Malden High School space for second year


By Steve Freker


Malden Mayor Gary Christenson has become quite the connoisseur of local and cultural artistic creations in his 12 years at the helm. It kind of goes with the job of heading up one of the most culturally vibrant and diverse communities in the Commonwealth.

That is why he was so impressed with the impressive artwork now on display at Malden High School’s Cafeteria “A” following a summer-long project by Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program (MYSEP) employees. “It is incredible what our Malden youth can create when given some guidance and then encouraged to express themselves,” Mayor Christenson said during a recent visit to the high school.

The Mayor discussed the project with its MYSEP supervisor, Emily Gonzalez, who will be beginning her third year as an Art Teacher at the Salemwood K-8 School this fall. What is especially impressive, the Mayor said, was the fact that a number of the MYSEP workers who created some of the fantastic artwork had done so on their first-ever try at such a project. “They had never been involved in a project like this, and they did a tremendous job. What an accomplishment,” Mayor Christenson said, with a lot of praise in his voice.

“I never cease to be amazed at what the youth of Malden can create when afforded the opportunity,” the mayor added. “I am so impressed by this project. It is a great contribution to our high school and community.”

“We are assigned students, a lot of them who had not requested this type of work, or any art-related work at all,” Gonzalez told the Advocate, “and we teach them, we work with them. It is inspiring how they can learn a new skill and produce such beautiful art.”

The creations which now adorn many of the walls – in mini-mural form – have been transformational, according to Malden High Principal Chris Mastrangelo, who has been closely following the project each step of the way, much to his delight. “It is magnificent, truly a wonderful and valuable addition to Malden High School,” Mastrangelo said. “It is simply transformational, making this cafeteria space so warm and welcoming with these artistic creations.”

The MHS principal explained how a similar project was proposed by Gonzalez last summer, and another group of MYSEP youth employees completed a project in the second MHS cafeteria (Cafeteria “B”). That project had a sports and cityscape theme, and it was a major success. “The students and staff loved the work those Mayor’s program artists did in that cafeteria,” Mastrangelo said, “and they will love this new art as well.”

Gonzalez said the youth workers take a lot of pride in their task, noting that the finished product is a tangible one. “Their work here will live on; they really feel they have made a valuable contribution. That is a life skill learned through the MYSEP program and that is always our primary goal.”


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