Campers with the CareerSource summer camp pose with the mural they spent the summer painting with artist Javier Arreguin. [ Wendy Weitzel | The Star ]
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Summer camp unveils murals at historic Washington High gymnasium

A summer’s worth of work was revealed Thursday to a crowd of children chanting, Ty Pennington style, for their summer camp counselors to move the bright yellow school bus concealing the artwork from their view.

Then, as the bus slowly backed up, they erupted into applause for the mural and for the local artist who had helped them paint it over the past several weeks, Javier Arreguin.

The mural, one of two painted over the summer, was the culmination of the work of the CareerSource Summer Leadership Camp’s fifth through eighth grade campers, with a little guidance from himself, Arreguin said.

But the concept for the design, which depicts the integration of the town’s schools and the history of the Washington High School Gymnasium, where the camp takes place, was inspired by the ideas of the campers themselves.

“I was able to hang out with the kids, and I had the idea that they love sports around here… so when I started asking the kids what they wanted to see, they by themselves said they wanted a tiger and wanted a shark,” Arreguin said.

A school bus blocks the view of Washington High School’s new mural before it was revealed Thursday afternoon. [ Wendy Weitzel | The Star ]

The mural, which depicts a tiger in one corner and a shark in the other, shows the history behind Port St. Joe High School’s Tiger Shark mascot.

The tiger mascot, which belonged to George Washington High School, the town’s historically segregated school, was combined with the Port St. Joe High School shark mascot during the integration of Port St. Joe’s Schools in the early 1970s.

Washington High School was then partially demolished, but its gymnasium, which has served as a hub for gatherings, meetings, festivities and summer camps for nearly a century, remained intact, which is where Arreguin said he found inspiration for the central figure of the camp’s mural.

Painted between the two animals in striking black and white is David Jones, Washington High School’s basketball coach during the time of desegregation and the namesake of the preserved Washington High Gym.

“I had these two elements, and I wanted to see how we could combine these two different environments,” Arreguin said. “How can you combine those things together? A tiger is from the jungle, and a shark is from the ocean.”

“… I asked who the person this building (the gymnasium) is named after… He was a part of why a lot of the older people in this community learned discipline, and he was a pillar of this community. Combining these different elements, these two mascots, has a very human element to it. There’s a face to that humanity.”

The camp’s third and fourth graders also worked on a mural with Arreguin, this one depicting the faces of some of the campers themselves, surrounded by colorful shapes inspired by their own drawings.

CareerSource special project coordinator Lianna Sagins said she and other camp organizers hope the murals can serve as a lasting physical legacy for the children who took part in the summer camp this year and who call Port St. Joe home.

“Every kid, third to eighth grade, had a hand in these murals,” she said. 

Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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