Local school fighting graffiti and inspiring students with bathroom art

Local school fighting graffiti and inspiring students with bathroom art (WKRC)

CINCINNATI (WKRC) - Getting any teenager to clean up their room can be a challenge.

A bigger challenge? It would probably be getting them to clean the bathroom.

But at one local high school, beautifying the restroom is a source of pride and inspiration for some students.

At most schools, painting on the bathroom wall could get you suspended, but at Western Hills High School in Cincinnati, painting on the bathroom wall could get you an “A” in art.

“The ownership, it is so unbelievable. The students are so excited to see that, I did that. My brushstroke there. I was part of it,” said Cheri Smith.

At West High, art is in the curriculum. Classes are taught by Cheri Smith.

So why bathroom painting?

“Well in the past we had a lot of problems with graffiti, profanity, kids wiping things on the wall,” said Smith.

“She told us after school we can come in and start making the bathrooms beautiful,” said Yvette Red, a 10th grader.

The idea is to make “the John” a place of West High pride by adding color to what's normally a pretty drab part of the building.

“And don't worry if it doesn't look good to start. We'll work on it and it will get better and better and better,” said Yvette Redd, a 10th grader.

Some of the bathroom art honors the seniors with phrases like “Pride, Unity, Respect,” but other bathroom drawings are to inspire those seniors to go beyond high school.

Bathrooms are painted with the logos and colors of universities and of course, this being in Cincinnati, there's the University of Cincinnati.

West High is predominantly African-American, so kids are now adding murals depicting historically black colleges like Tuskegee Institute and Central State.

“And hey, Central State is in Ohio. And I want my students to walk in here and say hey that woman on the mural looks like me,” said Smith.

There are 26 bathrooms in West High. The goal is to paint them all.

About one-third are complete or in progress. The first one was complete a few years ago and its theme was Purdue.

It's just coincidence, really, that the art teacher is a Purdue grad.

All kidding aside, there's more to this project than just fighting graffiti.

While these students may not become “Renoirs of the restrooms” (or maybe they will) they'll also come away with a sense of pride, of learning, which is what school is supposed to be all about.

“When we started, I wasn't good. I tried to draw, but I'm not that good. But she said don't worry, once you start adding stuff it will look better,” said Yvette Redd, a 10th grader.

One more thing about art: It survives.

“In 50 years from now I’ll bring my kids here and say believe it or not, I helped paint the bathroom,” said Redd.

Western Hills High School, where life imitates art and art imitates life in the bathroom.

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