Staying late after school can mean a whole bunch of things—some of them not very pleasant, like detention. Kunsmiller Creative Arts Academy sophomore Keelin Jakel looks at it a lot differently. She sees it as fun—and important.

“We all want to have a place in this world, and keep our mark here and just be known,” Jakel said.

The marks she and other Kunsmiller students are making are positive ones. They are painting murals on the walls of the school’s outdoor basketball courts, turning the plain, concrete slabs into works of art.

Kunsmiller Creative Arts students are painting murals on the walls of the school's outdoor basketball courts, turning the plain, concrete slabs into works of art.

“It’s a journey of going into Denver, into the city,” said Jakel, pointing to a more than 30-foot mural, filled with colorful Denver icons like the blue bear and mustang. “Denver kind of represents this place where a lot of immigrants come to.”

Kunsmiller Creative Arts students are painting murals on the walls of the school's outdoor basketball courts, turning the plain, concrete slabs into works of art.

Freshman Anna Jacobs worked on the mural too.

“It’s kind of symbolizing that people come from all over Colorado—and that’s ok,” Jacobs said.

Transforming the basketball courts into an art gallery of sorts was the idea of Abby Harkey, the dean of arts at Kunsmiller, Denver’s only public K-12 school. She said she has been dreaming up a way to make this happen for two years.

“I’m thrilled,” Harkey said. “I did not sleep last night I was so excited, and I’m just running on adrenaline today.”

Students at the school drew out the plans for the murals, which depict issues like immigration rights, acceptance, women’s rights, and school shootings, to name a few. Some prominent Denver muralists helped students put their ideas onto the walls. The professional artists included Thomas ‘Detour’ Evans, Carlos Fresquez, Julie Rose Morgan, DINKC, Ahmed Alwazzan, and Zehb.

“Having professional artists here teaching kids spray painting techniques makes it real rather than all these concepts sketches they’ve been working on paper in the classroom--now all of a sudden making it big on the wall gives them real world experience,” Harkey said.

Julia Rose Morgan, one of the professional artists, helped with spray painting techniques. She said that a mural she worked on in high school got her interested in the art form.

“This is so huge for all the classes that are going to come after this that will be inspired, and see that the classmates before them made this happen,” Morgan said. “I think it’s incredible and inspiring that that this many kids are working in different age groups, and designing pieces like this.”

Kunsmiller Creative Arts students are painting murals on the walls of the school's outdoor basketball courts, turning the plain, concrete slabs into works of art.

The mural installation party was on May 10, and the process finishing up will continue until the end of the school year.

“To be able to make a mark and install something permanently that is meaningful to the students—I think it’s just a moment of pride for them to see it coming to life on a wall large scale,” Harkey said. “These guys will have left their mark forever.”