By SPENCER GRANT     3/30/2022

Happily splashing dolphins, sly-looking sharks, cavorting seals, a friendly turtle and students playing at the Huntington Beach Pier are all part of the new 40-foot mural by local artist Melissa Murphy adjoining the St. Bonaventure school play structure.

The whimsical and colorful mural at the Huntington Beach school on what was formerly a cinderblock wall was created to show God’s love in the community. Artist Murphy explains it was inspired by the stained glass at St. Bonaventure Church. She’s a veteran of several murals elsewhere in Surf City and the winner of the Chamber of Commerce Best of Huntington Beach award.

Funding and support for the project came from Dr. Allen Kuhl of Livermore, CA, in loving memory of his late wife Jeanne, an artist and admirer of French Impressionism and landscapes. Along with his daughter Vanessa Frei, the school’s director of marketing and enrollment, he came up with the idea of the unique and educational work of art.

“We feel very blessed that a generous donor like Dr. Kuhl came forth to bring us this opportunity to both inspire future generations and honor a loved one,” said Principal Kim White.

The mural took four weeks to complete as students watched Murphy at work.

“I had so much fun with the project,” she enthused and so did students and staff.

Murphy’s mural inspired a schoolwide Creative Writing contest. The overall winner was student Rita Wilton with her poem, “The Living Christ” on the theme that “Christ Is Alive at St. Bonaventure School”:

Ocean waves pounding the seashore
Sand crabs stalking the sea floor
Dolphins dancing around in a synchronistic
Green grass swaying in the cool
And rustling the leaves of big trees
Children playing and laughing with friends
Hoping that the fun never ends.
Christ is alive inside us all
In each living creature big and small
No need to worry or fret

Because Christ never leaves you, don’t forget.

The school’s student body participated in the March 18 blessing and dedication ceremony presided over by pastor Father Joe Knerr. Present were Dr. Kuhl, Principal Kim White and Dr. Denise Valdez, who is associate superintendent of Orange County Catholic schools. A highlight of the ceremony was Rita Wilton reading her poem after which all Creative Writing contest class winners received certificates of participation from principal White.

Principal White summed up the mural’s value, saying “It’s respite in a turbulent world. It’s unique in the Orange County Diocese but I hope it will be seen as an invitation to join us and paint murals in other parishes.”

Dr. Kuhl also hopes to encourage this story’s readers to visit the mural and stay to attend Mass at St. Bonaventure Church.

The dedication concluded with students standing and Father Joe Knerr conducting The Lord’s Prayer and Hail Mary.