Student and mentor combine to create an inspirational treasure
By Steve Freker
MALDEN – At the end, it is unquestionably a labor of love, but it is still work – hours and hours of it. But when the result is a creation that compels those who gaze on it to stand back in awe, it is well worth it.
We are talking about the amazing mural-style creation which now adorns the wall behind the stairwell between the first and second floors of Malden High School’s primary building. It is titled “THRIVE” and it encapsulates one of the primary themes that has been promoted as part of the MHS post-pandemic culture for the past two years.
Longtime Malden High School art educator Joseph Luongo’s first intention was to lead a class of young art enthusiasts this past summer, as part of the Mayor’s Youth Summer Employment Program (MYSEP). Then he had another idea. This one involved planning and creating an artwork that would be lasting. Luongo said he hoped that the finished result would be something that would be meaningful to others as well.
“It has been received very well and that is very pleasing to us,” Luongo said, speaking for himself and his co-collaborator on the “THRIVE” project, former MHS art student Jade Mora.
Luongo, the Malden Public Schools veteran of nearly two decades and Mora, the award-winning 2023 MHS graduate, spent over six weeks – several hours per weekday – working on the remarkable mural piece, from basic outline to final perfection.
Mora placed first in a statewide Boston Globe–sponsored art contest in 2022, and her creation also took third place nationally in her art category when it advanced to that level.
The mural includes a variety of different colors and symbols that are meaningful to the Malden High School community and students in general, starting with the school mascot as a central piece. The “Nedlam” Lion is front-and-center, right above the colorful “Thrive” and the traditional “Tornado” symbol.
Most of the Malden High student population of close to 1,900 arrive and come into school in the morning through the Salem Street main entrance. That means for well over 1,200-plus students and staff it is the first sight they see in the morning.
“It’s inspirational,” said Malden High 7th-year Principal Chris Mastrangelo. “They [Luongo and Mora] created a piece of art that captures everything about our school and its culture.”
Mastrangelo explained that last year – the 2022-23 school year – Malden High School’s theme for the students and staff was “This is our year to Thrive!” Luongo and Mora took that emotionally charged phrase and brought it to life with their amazing mural art. Now whenever anyone enters Malden High, for most, it is their first greeting.
“We liked that part, too, with the art being the first sight they see at this school,” Luongo said.
“That is the best part; we have great chance of putting a big smile on someone’s face right after they first walk in the door,” Mastrangelo said. “Not a better way to start the day.”