Beloved principal honored with mural

Muralist Desi Mundo unveils his rendering of Ray Principal  Sara Spurlark during a May meeting of local schools advocates. -Spencer Bibbs

Muralist Desi Mundo unveils his rendering of Ray Principal Sara Spurlark during a May meeting of local schools advocates.

-Spencer Bibbs

Staff Writer

Hyde Park native Desi Mundo, aerosol writer and muralist, created a mural of Hyde Park educator Sara Spurlark and donated it to Ray Elementary School, 5631 S. Kenwood Ave.

Mundo is the founder and executive director of Community Rejuvenation Project in Oakland, Calif. He’s also painted several murals around Chicago, including in Hyde Park. Mundo said the idea to paint Spurlark had been on his mind for many years; he finally found an opportunity to do it when he found himself with “an extra panel and lots of paint.”

Spurlark, who died in 2012, worked as an educator in the Chicago Public School system for 35 years before joining the University of Chicago to help it launch what is now the school’s Urban Education Initiative. During her time at CPS, Spurlark taught biology at Kenwood Academy High School, 5015 S. Blackstone Ave., before becoming the school’s assistant principal. She became the principal at Ray, which is how she and Mundo met.

“Mrs. Spurlark was my principal when I attended Ray,” Mundo said. “During my 8th grade year she moved on to another job but she was so beloved by the school that she was asked to come back to handle 8th grade graduation.”

Mundo said the reason the school missed Spurlark so much was because they had time to get to know her very well.

“Nowadays I don’t know if it’s the job or bureaucracy, but principals don’t last a long time [at one school],” Mundo said. “[Spurlark] was at Ray for 16 years. She had a great presence and always carried herself with dignity and I respected her.”\
Mundo said last year he offered to paint a mural on the Ray school building but wasn’t able to due to what he said was an exhaustive bureaucratic process.

“It was just easier to paint it on a panel and give it to the school,” Mundo said.

Mundo found his opportunity to create the mural when he returned home to Hyde Park in late May for a two-week residency at the Hyde Park Art Center.

“I was doing a series at Hyde Park Art Center where I was spray painting murals of liberation theologians,” Mundo said. “Once I was done painting the 12 liberation theologians I had one extra panel and I wanted to keep working.”

Using an old grainy photo of Spurlark that he refurbished using Photoshop he said he created the mural in about two hours.

The photo was unveiled to the public at the May Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Action Council meeting to ‘ohhs,’ ‘ahhs’ and applause. CPS officials then transported the mural to Ray School.

Mundo said he envisions it being placed on a wall outside of the school. Although no one from Ray returned calls by press time to say where the mural would be placed, Mundo said he is open to it being placed wherever the school thinks is best.