About 30 students joined Mrs. Long on a field trip to visit the Maxo Vanka murals at St. Nicholas Croatian Catholic Church in Millvale.

These paintings took on new and increased meaning as at the time they were painted, Maxo Vanka had fled eastern Europe in the hopes of escaping growing fascism and violence.  At the time of the trip, it had been five days into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a dark backdrop that brought increased relevance and perspective to the works.


The field trip was a part of the LIGHT initiative. The LIGHT initiative was started in  Shaler and stands for Leadership in Genocides and Human Rights Teaching. One of the focal points of LIGHT is bringing awareness to human rights issues.


“So the Maxo Vanka Murals was for Freedom of Expression because they bring in Maxo Vanka to this church in Millvale and we pretty much gave him a black canvas, literally and figuratively, to draw whatever he wanted,” said World Affairs teacher Mrs. Long.


“They [the LIGHT initiative] suggested it [the field trip]. Because Maxo Vanka is now started to take students in for field trips because they had a hiatus with COVID. So I think we were like the fourth school to venture out and to go and to spend time there,” said Mrs. Long.


“I think it did overlap a lot considering that we are talking about WW1 [and] WW2 right now in APUSH that definitly helped me think a lot about how this is all so similar to what is happening now, and I kind of got the feeling that people who would have looked at these murals back then would have looked at what’s happening now and been able to identify with it and vice versa,” said Zoe Trexel, a junior, who participated through an opportunity presented by the Arts and Innovations Pathway.

Photos from Luc Gilchrist and Leinala Cabrera

For more information – https://vankamurals.org/


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